Every year, Judy asks God for a verse to meditate on. In 2011, the year her husband died, God gave her Psalm 94:22.
But the Lord has become my fortress and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. (NIV)
“Before I became a widow, I volunteered to help with an outreach brunch for widows,” Judy says. “A friend who had been widowed a few years before my husband died started the ministry. Little did I know at the time that within a few months, I would also be widowed.”
Judy and her husband, Dick, joined Navigator staff in 1969 ministering to college students, later joining the church initiative of The Navigators, now called Navigator Church Ministries, in 1989 after a ten-year hiatus while Dick finished seminary and pastored. Since her husband’s passing, Judy has been coming alongside other widows as part of her Navigator ministry.
“The biggest joy for me has been to walk with others in the grieving process, and to see how God’s Word and encouragement from others brings the healing needed to move forward,” Judy says. “One of the best ways to heal from losing my husband has been to help others in their loss.”
Sometimes, Judy and the widows team serve other widows through something as simple as brunch. Women from their church, other churches, and their community gather once or twice a year for the kind of fellowship they rarely get elsewhere.
“We make it a relaxing time-around-the-table discussion, so the women can get to know each other and share their stories,” Judy says.
Through these brunches, as well as through a special newsletter sent out to a mailing list of widows in the area, several book studies have developed. The women started out with books on widowhood, looking at the challenges and decisions they had faced or could face, and Scriptures to guide them.
“Some of the ladies went through two of these book studies twice, not only to absorb the material better, but because we love being together,” Judy says.
Ministering in the hardest times of someone’s life is no easy endeavor. Judy says that watching others grieve, hearing their stories, and wanting to help take away the pain of grief can be heart-wrenching. But in the end, it’s worth it.
“There were times when I thought I was the only one,” says one woman. “Even though I had friends and family for support, unless you have been there and lost the love of your life, they really couldn’t understand what I was going through. Sharing with other widows has been a life saver.”
“The widows group keeps me grounded in God’s Word, moving in the right direction,” says another participant.
When faced with another’s deep loss, Judy says some of us have a tendency to not do anything. It’s hard to know what to say.
“A phone call just saying you are sorry for their loss means so much,” Judy says. “We all need others to come around us in our loss.”
Ultimately, God is the strongest refuge and comfort.
“We need to turn to Him through His Word and prayer,” Judy says. “We need to keep an eternal perspective—this isn’t all there is. Life does not end in becoming a widow. It is the beginning of a new chapter. We can trust God to lead us forward.”