Do Not Let Loneliness Blight Your Life
LONELINESS can blight the lives of old and young alike. Says writer Judith Viorst in Redbook magazine: “Loneliness lies like a stone on the heart. . . . Loneliness leaves us empty and despairing. Loneliness makes us feel like a motherless child, like a lamb gone astray, so little and lost in a world so vast and uncaring.”—September 1991.
Separation from friends, unfamiliar surroundings, divorce, bereavement, or breakdown in communication—all kinds of things can make you lonely. Even when surrounded by other people, some are intensely lonely.
What Can You Do?
If loneliness does strike, must you be simply a helpless victim? Can you do anything to prevent loneliness from destroying you step-by-step or draining away your will to live? Indeed you can. Much helpful advice is available. And much good counsel is given in God’s inspired Word, the Bible. Such encouragement may be just what you need to fight loneliness.—Matthew 11:28, 29.
You may find it encouraging, for example, to read about Ruth, a young woman who lived in the Middle East some 3,000 years ago. She was a prime candidate for loneliness. When her husband died, she went with her mother-in-law to live in the unfamiliar surroundings of Israel. (Ruth 2:11) Although she was deprived of her family and former friends and was a foreigner in a strange land, there is no indication in the Bible that she let loneliness engulf her. You can read her story in the Bible book of Ruth.
Like Ruth, you need to keep a positive outlook. The way you think about matters and events can foster loneliness. Ann, who for four years nursed her father through a debilitating illness, verifies this. When he died she became extremely lonely. “I felt as if I were in a void, totally worthless—as if nobody needed me anymore,” she says. “But I faced the fact that my life had now changed, and I realized that to combat my loneliness I had to make the best of the circumstances I now had.” Sometimes you cannot change your circumstances, but it is probable that you can change your attitude toward them.
Keeping busy in rewarding activity is not the whole answer to combating loneliness, although it does help. Irene, who was widowed after only six months of marriage, found this was true in her case. “I saw that loneliness struck most when I was least busy,” she says, “so I concentrated on getting involved with others and helping them to cope with their problems.” Helping others brings happiness, and lonely Christians can find plenty to do in the Lord’s work.—Acts 20:35; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Let Friends Help
The New York Times Magazine describes lonely children as having been hurt by “the wounds of friendlessness.” (April 28, 1991) Many lonely people, both young and old, feel friendless. It is a real advantage, therefore, to have the genuine friendship that the caring Christian congregation provides. Work hard to widen your circle of friends within the congregation, and let them help you in whatever ways they can. That is one thing friends are for—to give support in times of trouble.—Proverbs 17:17; 18:24.
Be aware, though, that because of your emotional pain, you may actually make it difficult for friends to help you. How? Writer Jeffrey Young explains: “Some lonely people . . . turn potential friends off, either by monopolizing the discussion or by saying things that are obnoxious or inappropriate. One way or another, chronically lonely people tend to sabotage close relationships.”—U.S.News & World Report, September 17, 1984.
At times, you might make things worse by isolating yourself from other people. Peter, a man in his 50’s, did that. After his wife died, he found himself withdrawing from others, even though deep down he wanted their help. “Some days,” he says, “I just could not face the company of others, and in time I found myself going out of the reach of people.” This can be dangerous. While periods of solitude are beneficial, isolation is damaging. (Proverbs 18:1) Peter realized this. He says: “I got over this eventually, faced up to my situation, and, with the help of my friends, was able to reconstruct my life.”
Do not assume, though, that others are under some kind of obligation to help. Try not to become demanding. Happily accept any kindness shown, and express appreciation for it. But also keep in mind this good advice found at Proverbs 25:17: “Make your foot rare at the house of your fellowman, that he may not have his sufficiency of you and certainly hate you.” Frances, who faced deep loneliness when her husband died after 35 years of marriage, feels that such caution is important. “Be reasonable in what you expect,” she says, “and do not demand too much of others. Do not be forever on someone’s doorstep looking for help.”
Even if human friends fail you at times, you can still have Jehovah God as your Friend. Be assured that he does care for you. Keep your confidence in him strong, and continually seek refuge in his protective care. (Psalm 27:10; 91:1, 2; Proverbs 3:5, 6) The Moabitess Ruth did this and was abundantly blessed. Why, she even became an ancestress of Jesus Christ!—Ruth 2:12; 4:17; Matthew 1:5, 16.
Constantly pray to Jehovah. (Psalm 34:4; 62:7, 8) Margaret found prayer to be a source of great strength in coping with loneliness. She shared in the full-time ministry with her husband until he died when still a young man. “I always found it good to pray aloud and tell Jehovah everything, all my fears and worries,” she says. “That helped me get things in the right perspective when loneliness struck. And seeing Jehovah answer those prayers gave me confidence.” She benefits greatly from following the apostle Peter’s advice: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:6, 7; Psalm 55:22.
A good relationship with Jehovah will help you to retain something often lost by lonely people—self-esteem. When her husband died of cancer, journalist Jeannette Kupfermann wrote of “feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.” She said: “It is this sense of worthlessness that leads so many widows to almost suicidal depression.”
Remember that Jehovah values you greatly. He does not think that you are worthless. (John 3:16) God will support you as he supported his people the Israelites in times past. He said to them: “I have not rejected you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.”—Isaiah 41:9, 10.
Do Not Blame God
Above all, do not blame God for your loneliness. Jehovah is not responsible. His purpose has always been for you, and all humankind, to enjoy good, satisfying companionship. When God created Adam, he said: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.” (Genesis 2:18) And that is what God did when he created Eve, the first woman. If it had not been for satanic rebellion, man and woman and the families they produced would never have experienced loneliness.
Jehovah’s temporary permission of wickedness has, of course, allowed loneliness to grow and other suffering to occur. However, keep clearly in mind that this is temporary. The trials of loneliness seem less difficult to bear when viewed in the light of what God will do for you in his new world. In the meantime he will support and comfort you.—Psalm 18:2; Philippians 4:6, 7.
Knowing this can give you strength. When Frances (mentioned earlier) was widowed, she found great comfort in the words of Psalm 4:8, especially at night: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you yourself alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in security.” Meditate on such sentiments as those found in the book of Psalms. Reflect on how God cares for you, as expressed at Psalm 23:1-3.
How Can the Lonely Be Helped?
A principal way to help the lonely is to show them love. Time and again the Bible encourages God’s people to show love to one another, especially in times of trial. “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Romans 12:10) In fact, God’s inspired Word says: “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) How can you show love to those who are lonely?
Rather than reject or ignore lonely people, concerned individuals can show their tender affection by patiently helping them whenever possible. They can be like the man Job, who said: “I would rescue the afflicted one crying for help, and the fatherless boy and anyone that had no helper. . . . And the heart of the widow I would make glad.” (Job 29:12, 13) Appointed elders in the Christian congregation and compassionate friends can act in the same considerate way by providing the basic human needs of understanding, warmth, and comfort. They can show empathy, and at times they can fill a need for confidential talk.—1 Peter 3:8.
Often, it is the little things that friends do for lonely people that are vitally important. For example, when a fellow believer loses a loved one in death, much good can be accomplished through kind acts of genuine friendship. Do not discount little kindnesses, like an invitation to a meal, a sympathetic ear, or encouraging conversation. These things are very effective in helping a person to combat loneliness.—Hebrews 13:16.
Likely all of us will experience bouts of loneliness from time to time. Yet, loneliness need not become a scourge. Fill your life with meaningful, constructive activities. Let friends help when they can. Have confidence in Jehovah God. Keep close in mind the encouraging promise recorded at Psalm 34:19: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” Turn to Jehovah for help, and do not let loneliness blight your life.
[Box on page 24]
SOME WAYS TO FIGHT LONELINESS
▪ Keep close to Jehovah
▪ Seek comfort by reading the Bible
▪ Maintain a positive Christian outlook
▪ Keep busy in meaningful activity
▪ Widen your circle of friends
▪ Make it easy for friends to help
▪ Do not isolate yourself, but cultivate outgoing love
▪ Have confidence that Jehovah cares for you
[Box on page 24]
HOW YOU MIGHT HELP THE LONELY
▪ Provide understanding, warmth, and comfort
▪ Fill a need for confidential talk
▪ Persevere in doing the little things that help
[Picture on page 23]
Despite her difficult circumstances, there is no indication that Ruth let loneliness blight her life