“Jesus told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.” Luke 18:1
In my nearly five decades on this Earth, there have been many seasons when I felt like when I called out to God all I heard back was crickets. We’ve walked through many valleys that seemed to stretch on for eternity with no light in sight. And, at times darkness becomes the norm, not the exception.
For years, I identified with the plight of the widow in this parable, feeling like God had turned away from my petitioning as a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, aunt, and pastor. I know as we’re walking through dark valleys it might look and feel like there’s no light. You feel forsaken by EVERYONE, God included. But, today I identify with the persistent widow for a different reason.
She’s so dang stubborn and relentless with the judge! She never gives up, never quits, never throws the towel in, even though I’m sure she felt like it. And, the judge in no way represents our Good Father!!!!! The judge actually serves as a contrast to highlight God’s accessibility to His children! Let’s dive into the text to find out what’s actually happening.
In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus is trying to equip his disciples for his imminent crucifixion and departure. He wanted to encourage them to continue "to pray" and "not to lose heart" (grow discouraged).
In Luke 18:2-3 we discover that the protagonist of the story is a widow, who is Israel (and much of the Ancient Near Eastern World) personified dependence, helplessness, and vulnerability. This widow kept asking the judge for protection from those who opposed her, not for their punishment. And, he refused to deliver even basic justice.
Jesus knew this judge was failing to do what the Mosaic Law required of Israel's judges, namely uphold what was right and protect the vulnerable. In a sense, life has failed this poor woman, and by all accounts, her case is hopeless and bereft of justice.
But, Jesus uses the stark contrast between the widow's situation and his disciples' position to encourage his disciples to pray. Everything was stacked against the plaintiff (the widow) including her status.
She was nothing in the eyes of the magistrate. This widow was poor, childless, and friendless. The woman was a nobody and could exert no influence at all. She possessed insufficient money for bribes and therefore had no chance of having her case heard by even an unjust judge.
Consider how different it is for the believer! Christians have status in God's eyes that has NOTHING to do with social, economic, or religious standing. We are royalty, standing before God because He chose us! 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God."
In addition to her status (or lack of), the widow was at another disadvantage: her relationship (or lack of). The widow had no relationship, no connection with the magistrate. She didn't move in the same social circles as him. The unjust judge didn't know her and didn't care to know her. She didn’t even exist on his radar, not even as a blip.
But, this isn’t the case with our God!!! God is our ABBA Father, not just some mass producer of galaxies. The Bible says He’s so involved with our lives that He knows when we lose a hair!!! I consider myself a pretty attentive mom to my only daughter Sophia, but I have no idea how many hairs she lost today. But, God does.
What a difference a good relationship makes. Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball's color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made a mistake. Soon, the fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans heckled and insulted him. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that Pee Wee’s arm around his shoulder saved his career.
We should always pray and not give up because God is our Father and Jesus is our Friend. Paul wrote in Romans 8:15-17, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received a spirit of sonship. And by him, we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Did you catch that??? We’re CO-HEIRS with JESUS!!!!!!!!!!
Another unfavorable thing this poor widow had to contend with was her isolation. The woman was all alone. She had no friends or family rallying by her side. There was no six-degrees-of-separation with the judge; she had no one she could call in a favor with. The widow fought on single-handedly with no allies, no supporters, no village from which she could draw strength and support.
But, that’s NOT US!!! No matter how alone, how isolated we feel, we’re never truly alone. I know this pandemic has definitely highlighted isolation that we’ve felt because EVERYTHING with a social aspect has been disrupted from school, to play dates, to eating out, to how we do church. We’ve all felt it, even if we live in a household full of people. However, the God who knows when we lose a hair (even if our own mothers don’t) is with us, and he dotes over us like an attentive mom.
I love how Isaiah 49:5 paints our Abba Father. It says, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion for the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” I love the comparison here. There are few other scenes that paint a more intimate portrait of the mother-child bond than breastfeeding. (And, this is no dig against those of us who also did formula feeding). As the mother, there is such a sense of connectivity and closeness with your child when breastfeeding (sorry dads) that the rest of the world just melts away. This is on the level of how God the Father sees us. The next time you feel forsaken by God or utterly forgotten, meditate on this verse and let it soak into your soul.
I pray that this article has lifted your spirits. When you feel like tapping out, don’t. Instead, lean in more and double down as this widow did! Even with everything stacked against her, she was persistent and committed. In fact, her character is reflected in the Judge's comments in verse 5, when he throws his hands up and agrees to give her justice because she has worn him out.
The phrase "wear me out" translates into an idiom in Greek that literally means "strike under the eye" (Gr. hypnotize, 1 Cor. 9:27). We could translate this expression as "lest she gives me a black eye." How incredible would it be, give all our despair, our grief, our anxiety, our ___________ (you fill in the blank), a black eye because we persist?
I know life, and particularly life in the last year, has been bleak enough to make the most rooted believer crumble in despair. (And, I’m speaking from personal experience). But, take courage from this parable of contrasts in Luke. What God calls us to, He equips us for, even when it feels like we’re walking through utter darkness. Know that our God makes a way, even “through surging waters” (Isaiah 43:16).
By Pastor Meko Kapchinsky