Drawing Close to God Helped Me Cope
I HAD no interest in religion. All organized religion seemed hypocritical to me. I couldn’t see that it did much for people, except make them intolerant of others. It was the late ’60’s. A U.S. president had been assassinated, and thousands were dying in a war in Vietnam. The world was a mess. My own life was falling apart. How could there be a God who cared about me or mankind?
I was 27 years old, married with two small children, and working full-time in a mental institution when a neighbor started talking to me about the Bible. Surprisingly, I found myself listening. She talked about what she called the last days. She sounded different, and I wanted answers. She left with me a book entitled The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. I read it in one night, looked up all the scriptures, and found myself wondering, ‘Have I really found the truth?’
If I had, it presented a problem. I was born into a Jewish family, had a Jewish husband and two small children, and Jewish relatives. I knew they would be upset if I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I didn’t want to hurt my family needlessly; I had to be sure. I began to devour Bible literature. Within a week I became convinced that this was the truth. It was something I had to do. So I began to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Within weeks I was preaching to everyone. I was thrilled to learn that God’s name was Jehovah, that he cared about me and all mankind, and that life everlasting on a paradise earth was possible. I was baptized on June 12, 1970.
As I had suspected, my family as well as my in-laws were very upset, and some rejected me. My husband studied off and on for years but never became a believer. My children, however, did become Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the beginning, I wanted to be a full-time minister, preaching from door to door the good news of God’s Kingdom. But I had a growing family and an unbelieving husband. Even with me working full-time, we lost two homes, and several times had no place to go. Life was very difficult.
One time our house was in foreclosure. We had to be out of that house by noon on a Sunday, and we had no place to go. I did everything I could, and finally Saturday morning, the day before, I decided I would do as Jesus said at Matthew 6:33—seek first the Kingdom and wait for Jehovah to provide the things I needed. I went out in my public ministry. I remember crying because of the stress the situation had produced, but within five minutes I felt better. I have always found that preaching has a very positive effect on me; it elevates me above my problems, and Jehovah’s spirit keeps me happy and productive and gives my life meaning. Anyway, when I came home that day, we still had no place to go, but I felt better.
That evening we got a call from the real-estate agency that was handling our needs. It was 11:30 p.m., and the real-estate agent was so concerned that we had no place to go that he found us a place to live temporarily until the house we were supposed to get was ready. So my fellow Witnesses moved us into that house on Sunday. We lived there, out of boxes, for three weeks and finally moved into our house when it was ready. It wasn’t easy, but Jehovah provided for our needs. This strengthened me very much and built my faith. It was just as King David said at Psalm 37:25: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.”
There were difficulties in the management of family funds. At times I would assume the management of the money and straighten everything out. I tried desperately to keep the marriage together during these years, mostly because of my love for Jehovah and his regard for the marriage arrangement, and deep down I hoped my husband would change and come into the truth.
I constantly prayed about regular pioneering, and enrolled for auxiliary pioneering at every opportunity.* I knew that preaching was the best and most important way I could use my life. I loved Jehovah and wanted to serve him whole-souled. I also loved people and wanted to help them. I came to appreciate from my own difficult life how beneficial Bible principles were and knew that people needed the hope that the Kingdom provided. But I was afraid my family wouldn’t survive if I didn’t work. We were hardly surviving as it was.
I Screamed, the Rapist Fled
Then something happened in my life that gave me the faith that Jehovah would always provide and care for me. Someone broke into my home and attempted to rape me. He attacked me as I slept, and when I awoke, he threatened to kill me if I screamed or moved. Although I was terrified, Jehovah helped me to be calm and have the presence of mind to pray and weigh every alternative. I knew what the Bible said about screaming, but I also felt that he would probably kill me if I screamed, and then my children would wake up, and he would kill them. I saw my name flash in the obituaries and prayed that Jehovah would protect my children if I died. Even so, I did what the Bible alluded to—I screamed. (Deuteronomy 22:26, 27) The rapist fled. I really believed I was going to die that night. I drew ever closer to Jehovah.
I quit my job and began to serve as a regular pioneer in 1975. For six years I pioneered, and my husband paid the bills. Unhappily, I developed diabetes at a young age and was very ill at one point. To cope, I continued to rely on Jehovah even more. In spite of my circumstances, those were the happiest and most productive years I had ever had up to that point. Jehovah blessed me with many Bible students who progressed to baptism. Some went on to become pioneers themselves.
Then, in 1980, our lives fell apart. An estrangement developed between my husband and me. My children were very distraught, so for their sakes I tried to save the marriage, but my husband did not respond to my efforts. At this point, I knew that it was time to get a Scriptural divorce. The effect his leaving had on my children was devastating.
I was trying desperately to continue to pioneer at this time and was able to hold on for about a year. However, my daughter, unable to cope with the situation, began to rebel against everything, including me and the truth. I stopped pioneering during this time because of her conduct. This crushed me; my lifeline was cut. I felt very alone, as though everything was gone except Jehovah.
It was about this time that Jehovah provided two dear brothers who helped me more than they will ever know. One was a circuit overseer, and another was an elder in another congregation who knew our circumstances, as he had studied with my husband. I can never thank Jehovah enough for these gifts in men. They will always be very dear to me.
Not too long after, at a very young age, my daughter married out of the truth. This shattered the family and completed our despair. My son went out on his own very soon after. I prayed constantly for Jehovah to help my family to survive in the truth. They were so precious to me, and the only thing that I desperately wanted was for them to stay with Jehovah. This had been a constant prayer during my life in the truth. That time was worse for me than the entire 20 years of marriage—and they were bad. However, I knew that somehow Jehovah would help us through it, and whatever the cost, I had to do his will.
One incident I remember very well. I was still pioneering, and we had no money but needed about $70 to get through the week and have carfare for the next week’s work. I had worked two days as a temporary employee. Usually, I had to wait about a week to get the money I earned—about $40. I had no money for food, much less for transportation. The next night I had a Bible study with a woman who was able to assist me with fare for the subway.
The next morning was Friday. I went to get the mail, and there were two letters. One was the check I was expecting the following week. It went to the city and back in less than three days. I was amazed. I still needed $29 or $30 to get by. In the second envelope was a check for $29, just what I needed. The really amazing thing about this was that in February of that year, the government had given me a grant for oil to heat my house. It was now August, and they decided they owed me $29—in August, for heating? Why would they think they owed me anything, and oil in August at that? What a faith-strengthening effect this had on me!
Material Things Not the Answer
I began to work full-time and learn computers on the jobs that I took. The years I didn’t pioneer were very difficult. Even though I had an excellent job and had some financial security and material things, I was not happy. My children were on their own and having very difficult problems. My daughter was coming back to the truth but still had problems. My son was having his problems too. After a period of time, I felt that I was losing that very close relationship with Jehovah that I cherished so much. I sensed that I was drifting away from Jehovah even though no one else could see it. I was at all the meetings, studied, went out in service, but it wasn’t enough. I tried socializing more with the friends, but that didn’t help either.
I started to feel sorry for myself. I began to turn inward and think about myself. Didn’t I deserve to have something more? Obviously, it was just what Satan wanted. For the first time, I felt myself begin to be drawn to my workmates. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll preach to them.’ And I did. But deep down I could sense that my heart was beginning to overlook things it shouldn’t. It was not problems outside of me. It was just me. I could not run away from my Bible-trained conscience. I prayed to Jehovah.
I was working full-time. I needed to let go of the material security I had built up. I was commuting three hours a day from Long Island to Wall Street. Too much time! Also, dealing with a lot of worldly people on the trains didn’t help. I began talking to the elders and going to assemblies on weekends to help me focus. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to be concerned about material things, so why did I now want to struggle again? After a year of prayer, carefully considering whether I should make a move, I did.
I moved to the Brooklyn Heights area. I had visited the congregation and knew that the spirituality there was just what I needed. So many faithful Witnesses, serving full-time for so many years—it gave me a feeling of coming home. Within six months I was ready to give up my career and pioneer. I took a part-time job, and in 1984, I was again appointed as a regular pioneer.
Through the years, Jehovah has provided wonderful blessings for me, as well as many, many valuable lessons. I have tried to remain positive and to find the lesson in every test. It is not shameful to have problems; the sin comes in not using Bible principles to resolve them. Here in Brooklyn, I don’t have the same problems I had in my early years in the truth. Finances are no longer a problem. An unbelieving husband is no longer a problem. My heart has been repaired. I have been blessed with many spiritual children.
But there are always new problems and challenges. In 1987 my son, Marc, had a breakdown and suffered from serious depression, but Jehovah has helped us through that. Marc is now reaching out and is doing very well in the congregation. My daughter, Andrea, came back to the truth and got baptized and is raising her children in the truth. Since we’re fast approaching the great tribulation, I expect the problems to continue and perhaps become even greater, but Jehovah will always be there to help us through whatever obstacles or challenges may come along.
Truly, Jehovah has helped me to have a very happy and productive life. I look forward to spending the rest of it keeping close to him and doing his will.—As told by Marlene Pavlow.
“Pioneering” is a term used to indicate full-time preaching activity.
[Picture on page 23]
Marlene Pavlow, full-time preacher of the Kingdom good news