1 Kings 17:17-21
Surely one of the most moving pieces of art in the world is the Pieta housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This statue depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, cradling the body of her crucified son in her lap. She is bending her head over his perfect features in profound grief at his early and unjustified death. The word Pieta means pity or compassion. The sculpture was created by young Michelangelo in 1498-99.
This work of art brings to mind the story of the widow of Zarephath, who also holds the breathless body of her son in her lap. As she looks down at her beloved child, she cries out in distress, blaming herself for his condition. She also blames Elijah, saying, You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son! (v. 18b).
Elijah does not have time for the blame game, though. He does not reply to the widow’s reminder and accusations, focusing instead on saving the life of her son. Carrying the boy up to his own room on the upper level of the house, he performs life-saving procedures and prays for the precious child’s recovery. Meanwhile, the widow remains below, considering her own sins.
Blaming ourselves for another person’s distress seems to be a frequent behavior when tragedy strikes. We think, “Maybe if I had been more attentive, this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I had been a better mother or a better father, my son would be alive. Perhaps… perhaps… perhaps…”. May Elijah remind us of the good that may come when we seek God’s help in our distress.
When can blaming myself for another persons’ distress become counterproductive? In what ways do I need to shift my focus to become part of the solution to a disturbing situation?
God, as I encounter the problems in daily life, give me a right perspective with which to focus. Help me know where to put my energies. Amen.