You Can Conquer Loneliness
WHO can claim never to have experienced the pain that loneliness brings? Many factors can make us feel lonely. Particularly acute, though, can be the loneliness of women who have never married or of those who are widowed or divorced.
For example, a young Christian woman named Frances relates: “By the time I reached the age of 23, it seemed that all my friends had got married, and I was left alone.”* The feeling of isolation may increase as the years go by and marriage prospects become more limited. “I never intended to remain single, and I would still like to get married if the opportunity arises,” admits Sandra, now in her late 40’s. Angela, in her 50’s, points out: “I didn’t make a conscious decision to stay single, but that is the way things have worked out. There were very few single brothers in the area to which I was assigned as a special pioneer.”
Commendably, many Christian women choose not to get married because they loyally heed Jehovah’s counsel to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) Some adapt well to singleness, but others find that the desire to marry and have children increases over the years. “An emotional vacuum, caused by not having a marriage mate, is my constant companion,” confesses Sandra.
Other factors, such as caring for aged parents, may accentuate the feeling of loneliness. “Since I am not married, the family expected me to look after our aged parents,” says Sandra. “For 20 years I shouldered the bulk of this responsibility, even though I am one of six siblings. Life would have been much easier with a husband who could have supported my interests.”
Frances mentions another element that heightens her loneliness. She relates: “Sometimes people ask me directly, ‘Why haven’t you got married?’ Such a remark makes me feel that my single state is somehow my fault. At almost every wedding I attend, someone asks me the dreaded question, ‘So when will you be getting married?’ And I begin to think, ‘If spiritually-minded brothers are not interested in me, perhaps I don’t have the necessary Christian qualities or maybe I am just unattractive.’”
How can feelings of isolation and loneliness be overcome? What, if anything, can others do to help?
Rely Upon Jehovah
The psalmist sang: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) The word “burden” in the Hebrew text literally means “lot,” and it refers to the cares and anxieties that we might suffer because of our lot in life. Jehovah is more aware of these burdens than anyone else and can give us the strength to deal with them. Reliance on Jehovah God is what has helped Angela to cope with the feeling of loneliness. Referring to her full-time ministry, she recalls: “When I began pioneering, my partner and I lived a long way from the nearest congregation. We learned to rely completely on Jehovah, and this dependence has helped me all my life. When I have negative thoughts, I talk to Jehovah and he helps me. Psalm 23 has always been a great comfort, and I read it frequently.”
The apostle Paul had a noteworthy burden to bear. On at least three occasions, he ‘entreated the Lord that his thorn in the flesh might depart from him.’ Paul was not helped miraculously, but he did receive a promise that God’s undeserved kindness would sustain him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) Paul also discovered the secret of contentment. He later wrote: “In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:12, 13.
How can one draw on God’s strength when feeling discouraged or lonely? Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Sandra puts this advice into practice. She explains: “Being single, I spend a lot of time alone. This gives me ample opportunity to pray to Jehovah. I feel very close to him and can talk to him freely about my problems and joys.” And Frances says: “Fighting negative thoughts on my own is an uphill battle. But sharing my feelings frankly with Jehovah helps enormously. I am convinced that Jehovah is interested in anything that might affect my spiritual and emotional welfare.”—1 Timothy 5:5.
“Go On Carrying the Burdens of One Another”
Within the Christian brotherhood, burdens do not have to be borne alone. “Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ,” exhorted the apostle Paul. (Galatians 6:2) Through our association with fellow Christians, we can get “the good word” of encouragement that can lighten the load of loneliness.—Proverbs 12:25.
Consider, too, what the Scriptures say about the daughter of Israel’s Judge Jephthah. Before his victory over the enemy forces of Ammon, Jephthah vowed to give to Jehovah the first one of his household who came out to congratulate him. That turned out to be his daughter. (Judges 11:30, 31, 34-36) Even though it meant that she would remain single and forgo her normal intent to have a family, Jephthah’s daughter willingly submitted to this vow and served at the sanctuary in Shiloh for the rest of her life. Did her sacrifice go unnoticed? On the contrary: “From year to year the daughters of Israel would go to give commendation to the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite, four days in the year.” (Judges 11:40) Yes, commendation can encourage those receiving it. Therefore, let us not fail to commend deserving ones.
We do well also to consider Jesus’ example. Although it was not the Jewish custom for men to converse with women, Jesus spent time with Mary and Martha. Likely, they were either widows or women who were not married. Jesus wanted both of them to enjoy the spiritual benefits of his friendship. (Luke 10:38-42) We can imitate Jesus’ example by including our unmarried spiritual sisters in social occasions and by making arrangements to engage in the preaching work with them. (Romans 12:13) Do they appreciate such attention? One sister said: “I know the brothers love and appreciate me, but I am grateful when they take a more personal interest in me.”
“Since we don’t have someone that belongs to us,” explains Sandra, “we have a greater need to be loved, to feel a part of the family of spiritual brothers and sisters.” Obviously, Jehovah cares for such ones, and we cooperate with him when we make them feel wanted and loved. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) Such concern will not go unnoticed, for “he that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He [Jehovah God] will repay to him.”—Proverbs 19:17.
“Each One Will Carry His Own Load”
Although others can help, and their support can be very encouraging, “each one will carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5) In carrying the load of loneliness, though, we need to beware of certain dangers. For instance, loneliness might conquer us if we withdraw into an emotional shell. On the other hand, we can conquer loneliness with love. (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8) Giving and sharing is the best way to find happiness—regardless of our circumstances. (Acts 20:35) “I don’t have too much time to think about being lonely,” says one hardworking pioneer sister. “When I feel useful and occupied, I don’t feel lonely.”
We must also be careful that loneliness does not push us into an unwise relationship. For example, how sad it would be to allow the desire for marriage to blind us to the many problems that stem from marrying an unbeliever and especially to the Scriptural counsel to avoid such a yoke! (2 Corinthians 6:14) A divorced Christian woman said: “There is one thing much worse than being single. It is being married to the wrong person.”
A problem that cannot be resolved may have to be endured, at least for the time being. With God’s help, the feeling of loneliness can be endured. As we continue to serve Jehovah, may we be confident that one day all our needs will be satisfied in the best possible way.—Psalm 145:16.
The names of the women quoted have been changed.
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Loneliness can be conquered by giving and sharing