1 Kings 15:15 - 1 Kings 19:11
"In response to King Ahab’s great wickedness, the Lord, through the prophet Elijah, sealed the heavens, that neither dew nor rain should fall throughout all the land of Israel. The drought that ensued and the famine that followed affected Elijah himself as well as untold others in the process.
Ravens did bring Elijah bread and meat to eat, but unless ravens carry more than I think they do, this was not a gourmet meal. And ere long the brook Cherith, near which he hid and from which he drank, ran dry. And so it went for three years.
As he entered the city in his weary condition he met his benefactress, who was undoubtedly as weak and wasted as he. Perhaps almost apologetically the thirsty traveler importuned, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” As she turned to meet his request, Elijah added even more strain to the supplication. “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand [also].”
Elijah’s pitiful circumstances were obvious. Furthermore, the widow had been prepared by the Lord for this request. But in her own weakened and dispirited condition, the prophet’s last entreaty was more than this faithful little woman could bear. In her hunger and fatigue and motherly anguish she cried out to the stranger, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks [which tells us how small her fire needed to be], that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
Then this understated expression of faith—as great, under these circumstances, as any I know in the scriptures. The record says simply, “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah.” Perhaps uncertain what the cost of her faith would be not only to herself but to her son as well, she first took her small loaf to Elijah, obviously trusting that if there were not enough bread left over, at least she and her son would have died in an act of pure charity. The story goes on, of course, to a very happy ending for her and for her son.
Unfortunately, the names of [this woman is] not recorded in the scriptures, but if I am ever so privileged in the eternities to meet [her], I would like to fall at [her] feet and say “Thank you.” Thank you for the beauty of your lives, for the wonder of your example, for the godly spirit within you prompting such “charity out of a pure heart.”
I began with a story of diminishing cornmeal. May I conclude with another. Amidst the terrible hostilities in Missouri that would put the Prophet in Liberty Jail and see thousands of Latter-day Saints driven from their homes, Sister Drusilla Hendricks and her invalid husband, James, who had been shot by enemies of the Church in the Battle of Crooked River, arrived with their children at a hastily shaped dugout in Quincy, Illinois, to live out the spring of that harrowing year.
Within two weeks the Hendrickses were on the verge of starvation, having only one spoonful of sugar and a saucerful of cornmeal remaining in their possession. In the great tradition of LDS women, Drusilla made mush out of it for James and the children, thus stretching its contents as far as she could make it go. When that small offering was consumed by her famished family, she washed everything, cleaned their little dugout as thoroughly as she could, and quietly waited to die.
Not long thereafter the sound of a wagon brought Drusilla to her feet. It was their neighbor Reuben Allred. He said he had a feeling they were out of food, so on his way into town he’d had a sack of grain ground into meal for them.
Shortly thereafter Alexander Williams arrived with two bushels of meal on his shoulder. He told Drusilla that he’d been extremely busy but the Spirit had whispered to him that “Brother Hendricks’ family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came [running].”
May God, who has blessed all of us so mercifully and many of us so abundantly, bless us with one thing more. May he bless us to hear the often silent cries of the sorrowing and the afflicted, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the poor. Indeed may he bless us to hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit when any neighbor anywhere “is suffering,” and to “drop everything and come running.”
This thought of charity has filled my heart today.
Particularly because of the great sacrifice involved in this widow's serving.
Life has taught me that often the truest charity comes at the cost of greatest sacrifice.
The Widow of Zarephath is a humble example of this great truth.
Today as I have pondered the cruse of oil which would not fail, I have thought of my husband, and my father, and our home teachers, and my brothers, and my sons, and the men who live in my neighborhood.
Men who, in response to a fervent call day or night, come running, bearing the Priesthood... blessing my family.
A cruse of oil which will not fail.
And when I think of the meal that shall not waste, I can’t help but picture the women in my neighborhood. Often, in the late afternoon, you will see them knocking on the door of a family in need. Their arms are full. They come bearing fruit, bread, dinner, and dessert.
A meal that shall not waste.
True charity that comes at the cost of great sacrifice.
Might we each learn from this humble widow to open our eyes to see the suffering, even in the midst of our own, and may we “go and do” as she “went and did.” (1 Kings 17:13 & 15)
Even if it means that we drop everything and come running.
“And the barrel of meal wasted not,
neither did the cruse of oil fail,
according to the word of the Lord.”
(1 Kings 17:16)