Americans have been celebrating Labor Day for 124 years, but much has changed since the holiday’s inception. In 1894 the average American laborer was male. Today 47% of the U.S. labor force is female. Although I have no statistics to support my supposition, I would suspect that a good percentage of that number is widowed since the average age of widows is 55. And, believe it or not, 75% of women will be widowed by that age. Amazing!
Our young widows with children especially need a day of rest since they are overworked. She is responsible for being mother and father; caring for all the household and family chores; being the breadwinner and financial planner; and bearing all the family emotional burdens. Add all of this to a 40-hour workweek, and fatigue becomes a daily companion. The young widow certainly needs our help and prayer for strength and endurance.
A positive change since the late 1800s is that widows today have more expendable income. Even 60 years ago, 30% of widows in the United States lived in poverty, as compared to about 10% of married couples. By 1990, that number dropped to 20%. Because of the increase in women’s education and women in the workforce, about 13%-15% of widows live in poverty today. Researchers predict that this number will continue to decrease, as women are less dependent on their husbands’ incomes.
I am grateful to live in the United States and have the privilege of working. About 50% percent of widows live in poverty in other parts of the world. While our lives are not easy, we have much for which to be grateful.
One of my favorite Old Testament stories is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7. A widow tells the prophet Elisha that she has no money and her two sons are about to be sold into slavery. He says, “What do you have in your house?”
“Only a little oil,” she responds.
He instructed her to ask her neighbors for lots of empty jars. “Go in your house, shut the door, and begin pouring the oil into the jars,” he said. The oil did not stop flowing until every jar was full. “Go,” he said. “Sell the oil, pay your bills, and you will have enough left over to live on.”
What a miracle provision! I think of my work as God’s miraculous provision. He is, as the Old Testament says, Jehovah Jireh–my Provider. I believe that what God did for that Old Testament widow in poverty and what He has done for me, He will do for you.