How I learned to give out of my grief

A sign below the water tap reads: “Let the one who is thirsty come. In loving memory of Rob Moll.” Water flows into a bucket.

In 2010, I ran down the center of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue proudly wearing my orange “26.2 for Africa” shirt. I’d never run a marathon before, but I was thrilled to be here now. Each footfall with Team World Vision would make a difference in the life of someone in need of clean water.

I wasn’t one of the fastest of the 38,000 runners who took to the streets that day, but running with Team World Vision changed my life. Over the years that followed, our family became enthusiastic supporters of World Vision’s work. We sponsored children, ran more distance events, and supported special campaigns. We even moved across the country so that my husband, Rob, could serve with World Vision at its headquarters.

I loved World Vision’s mission and ministry, but I didn’t realize how much until my husband died in a tragic hiking accident in 2019. In their grief, friends and family reached out to help and, under World Vision’s care, we established a fund to provide water for a medical clinic in Malawi. We reached our goal and set another, this time to support World Visions’s THRIVE economic empowerment program in Malawi.

Grief expanded my generosity

As I watched these outpourings of generosity, my own heart expanded with gratitude. I saw how tragedy could become a catalyst for flourishing in unexpected ways. God could take broken hearts and use them to mend broken places in the world. Perhaps He could turn my sorrow into something beautiful too. I’d lost the primary breadwinner for my family, and I knew my finances would change dramatically as I shifted to managing a household alone. In many ways, I’d have less to give than ever before. However, grief had placed the world’s sorrows in sharper focus. As a widow with four young children, I looked at others’ suffering differently now. From what little I had, I knew I wanted to keep giving.

We all must make meaning from the sorrows that befall us, and I’ve chosen to view mine through the eyes of grace. Our global brothers and sisters each carry their own unique sorrows. They endure trials and griefs of various kinds. But our common longing for a better world invites us to transform our pain into purpose.

The fruit of generosity

The young widow in Malawi buys a sewing machine with a World Vision microloan, creating a hopeful future from the ashes of her loss. The Rwandan father who has buried children because of disease plants a field, a gesture of hope that new life can grow from barren places. So I, too, can invite my pain to be shaped into purpose. The loss of my husband has painfully required me to acknowledge that everything I have belongs to God. I could clutch what remains or release my grasp in trust. Generosity has compelled me to open my hands.

Today, I give as generously as I am able, not simply because it’s the right thing to do but because it is a vehicle through which I can share the consolation I’ve received (2 Corinthians 1:4). World Vision’s child sponsorship, signature initiatives, and conferences all invite me to learn the names and faces of others who’ve experienced sorrow. I see loss reflected in mothers’ eyes. I see concerns for the future written across the wrinkled brows of men standing along dusty roads. I don’t know their unique suffering, but I carry my own. Grief binds us to each other, and my heart compels me to act. I’ve received comfort. Through giving, I can extend it as well.

My widow’s offering

Sorrow does not leave us defenseless. In God’s goodness, He has wired us for resilience and offers us His gift of resurrection. Even in the face of unlikely odds, real change is possible. I enthusiastically support World Vision with my “widow’s offering” (Mark 12:41–44) because I believe good things can grow even in the midst of suffering.

I don’t have the kind of budget I did before my husband’s death. I’ve had to tighten the purse strings in many areas of my life. But loss has taught me that generosity is the fruit of love, and I want love to always be my story. Through partnership with World Vision, I’ve seen God work in seemingly forgotten places, transforming them through global generosity into flourishing communities. World Vision’s work has allowed me to channel my pain into purpose, to comfort with the comfort I’ve received, and affect real change in the face of uncontrollable tragedy.

I am convinced that little becomes much in the Master’s hands. Our small gifts given with great love multiply into work that heals and transforms those around us. My husband’s death broke my heart but, even in the midst of grief, I’m grateful that it broke my heart for the things of God.


Clarissa Moll is an award-winning writer, podcaster, and author of Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Living After Grief and Thriving After Loss. Connect with her at instagram.com/mollclarissa.

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