A Valentine for grieving husbands

February 14, 2018

During the last few weeks before she died, my wife asked me to leave the bedside lamp on at night. She didn't want to wake up in the dark, even with me close beside her.

So I left the light on. It eased her anxiety a bit, and helped us both focus on Jesus, "the light [that] shines in the darkness" (John 1:5). Sometimes when I walked my neighborhood's streets at night for air, I searched for that light in the corner window as I neared home. 

Hwa Chong Bridges — my beloved wife, best friend, inspiration, sister in Christ and mother of our children — found a lump in her left breast in 2014. It was aggressive "triple negative" breast cancer, and already had spread to lymph nodes in her arm. 

She did well through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, resuming a relatively normal life for a year or so. But the cancer returned in 2016, first in her colon (another surgery) and later raging through her abdomen. No effective treatment remained. Hwa was tired, and ready to behold the Lord face to face. She began home hospice care in early January 2017. 

She died a little more than a month later, on Feb. 12, nearly 33 years after our wedding — and two days before Valentine's Day.

Church folks, friends and family members surrounded us during and after the final days, helping care for Hwa, cooking meals, comforting me and my adult son and daughter. Their love, and the blessing of numbness, salved the pain for a while. 

But real "grief work," as the counselors call it, begins after the initial shock subsides — when the house grows quiet and friends go on with their lives. 

The knives of darkness carved up what was left of my wounded heart: despair, depression, self-pity, guilt for the ways I failed as a husband, regret for things I didn't say or do. Most of all, aching emptiness. Nights were bad; mornings were worse.

I walked from room to silent room, like a ghost. I drifted alone through the places we had once enjoyed together. Did I even exist anymore?

Pastor-author Jim Conway confessed that after his wife died, "it was as if someone took a giant samurai sword and cut me right down the middle. I kept asking myself and God, 'How am I supposed to go on with one leg, with one arm, with half a brain?'"

Long-married couples become one person in many ways. When one dies, the other must rebuild identity from scratch. I soon discovered I wasn't the only one struggling.

"Who am I?" was the first question Bob McEachern asked me when we had lunch a few weeks after Hwa died. 

Bob's wife of 53 years, Judy, had died three days before Hwa. Bob and Judy met in high school, married after graduation, served as missionaries in South Korea, worked together in ministry, parented together, suffered together during Judy's years of illness. Then she was gone. 

Bob and I have become "grief buddies." We are members of what our fellow widower, retired IMB President Tom Elliff, called the fraternity no one wants to join, for which the dues are too high — and payable hourly. But at least we can encourage each other. We meet weekly.

In addition to Bob, other grief buddies appeared. Bill and Frank, whose wives died a few years ago, took me under their wing. They told me what to expect and how to endure it. I joined a local "GriefShare" support group[1] and learned from others coping with loss. Too many men try to do it alone.

I now understood the meaning of "weep with those who weep." The Lord has begun to bring others experiencing loss across my path. I try to comfort them as I have been comforted.

The first birthdays, anniversaries and holidays without Hwa have come and gone. The one-year mark falls just before Valentine's Day. Counselors say the second year of grief is sometimes harder than the first. I hope not, but God is with me either way.

I have learned how weak my faith was, how much I depended on Hwa for things only God can provide. I have learned anew how strong His love and grace are. His Spirit sustains me. His Word is life itself; I couldn't go on without it. He is the Shepherd who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Hwa entered His eternal presence in that valley. But He is still walking with me, day by day, until He leads me home.

One Sunday last summer, I listened to my friend James Hering preach about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus quietly changed the water to wine (John 2). The wedding guests thought the bridegroom had saved the best wine for last, not realizing the Kingdom of God had come upon them. I felt tears on my cheeks, and imagined the heavenly wedding feast in heaven, where Hwa glorifies the Lord even now.

I look forward to joining her there one day for the celebration.

This was originally published by Baptist Press


  1. ^ GriefShare (www.griefshare.org) is a Christian support network that connects grieving people to others who care. GriefShare groups meet throughout the United States and internationally.

Erich Bridges

Erich Bridges earned his B.A. from Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a writer based in Richmond, Va., with over 30 years experience in Baptist journalism. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24