“The woman who is actually a widow and left destitute has put her hope in God and persists in supplications and prayers night and day.”—1 Tim. 5:5.
The apostle Paul, in offering counsel about widows, said that the exemplary widow “has put her hope in God and persists in supplications and prayers night and day.” He indicated that a widow not less than 60 years old could be placed on the list for assistance if, among other things, “she diligently followed every good work.” (1 Tim. 5:5, 9, 10) Here, at least three principles stand out: (1) Trust God now and anticipate the hope of eternal life that he has promised; (2) maintain a close personal relationship with God; (3) keep involved in beneficial work. We shall see how these three principles, if applied, genuinely help not only single parents but all Christians to cope with today’s pressures.
COPING WITH LONELINESS
7. (a) Why is loneliness especially difficult for some single parents? (b) How does the principle suggested at 1 Timothy 5:10 help?
7 One single parent sighed: “When I come home and see those four walls, and especially after the children are in bed, loneliness really comes over me.” Yes, loneliness is often the biggest problem a single parent faces. Though becoming closer to the children helps, many yearn for adult companionship. Keeping involved in “every good work” is one time-tested remedy. First-century Christian widows ‘entertained strangers, washed the feet of the holy ones [through personal acts of service] and relieved those in tribulation.’ (1 Tim. 5:10) Noting this, one 68-year-old modern-day Christian widow took to visiting other nearby widows and rest homes whenever she got lonely. She said: “I find that by making these visits, keeping up my housework and taking care of my spirituality I don’t have time to be lonely.”
8. (a) Why does Kingdom preaching help us fight loneliness and depression? (b) Does it really work?
8 Kingdom preaching is a “good work” commanded by Jesus, a work that can relieve loneliness and depression. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) One lonely and depressed single parent who had become withdrawn was urged by her friends to get started in the house-to-house witnessing. She did. At her first door she was invited in by a badly crippled, yet unusually cheerful, woman. How could she be so happy? “It is because I have my life, my dear. I am alive,” was her jovial reply. This was a turning point for the Witness, who reasoned: “I have my health, the love of the congregation, two fine children and, above all, Jehovah. Why should I be unhappy?” Helping others spiritually can prevent our becoming self-centered and giving in to self-pity. Teaching others keeps our own hope alive and fresh; so we continue to “put [our] hope in God.”—1 Tim. 5:5.
9. Will loneliness always go away with hard work? What also helps?
9 Yet one widower stated realistically: “Loneliness does not go away with just hard work. Often you have to live with it. It must simply be endured with the help and strength from Jehovah.” Such strength comes when one “persists in supplications and prayers night and day.” (1 Tim. 5:5) Prayerfully recounting our activities throughout the day, and knowing that Jehovah is always there listening and that he cares about the details of our life is truly comforting. Pouring out our heart to him “night and day” helps—especially at night when, as many report, the problem of loneliness can become serious.
COPING WITH SEXUAL DESIRES
10. (a) When can sexual desires become a serious problem? (b) How does one ‘go in for sensual gratification,’ and to what can this lead?
10 Many single parents ache for the warm companionship of marriage and the intimacies of the marital bed. Certainly such feelings are not wrong in themselves. The desire to remarry is natural. The problem comes when a person decides to satisfy these “sexual impulses” regardless of the cost. This happened in the apostle Paul’s day. Some younger widows allowed “their sexual impulses [to] come between them and the Christ.” (1 Tim. 5:11, 12) This was serious because, in effect, such an individual was saying: ‘My sexual needs are just too great. I have to do something to give my body relief!’ These bodily or sensual desires gradually became the big thing in life, even bigger than spiritual interests. These desires could build up to the point where one would ‘go in for sensual gratification’ and thus become “dead though she is living.” (1 Tim. 5:6) That person’s interest in spiritual matters would die. The same thing can happen to any Christian (male or female) today. One can commit ‘spiritual suicide’ by ignoring Bible standards of morality, because of being so absorbed in satisfying “sexual impulses.”
11. How can a person ‘deaden his sexual appetite’?
11 Therefore, the Bible urges: ‘Deaden your body members as respects sexual appetite.’ (Col. 3:5) But how? By guarding your mind and heart. If you were trying to diet and control your appetite for food, would you read magazines containing pictures of delicious foods, or would you watch TV shows about cooking? Would you associate with people who constantly talked about food? Hardly! It is the same with “sexual appetite.” One widow frankly stated: “We are in a world that just never stops talking about sex. So I am quite careful about my choices of entertainment and with whom I socialize. A diabetic would surely not want to press his nose to the window of a candy store.”
12, 13. (a) To cultivate a personal relationship with Jehovah, what is needed? (b) Why are “supplications” so important, and how can one work in harmony with these?
12 However, to keep overcoming these desires, day after day, an individual must develop a close personal relationship with God. Besides personal study and meditation, this requires persistence in “supplications.” (1 Tim. 5:5) Paul not only mentions prayers in general, but says “supplications.” These are petitions to God conveying an intense need. They are earnest pleas, yes, a begging for help, perhaps with “strong outcries and tears.”—Heb. 5:7.
13 Are your prayers for self-control and strength as intense as that? Do you persist in them? Do you pray at the very moment these desires become strong? Are you specific, perhaps revealing to our Father things that you would not confide to another human? Also, do you work in harmony with your prayers? One Christian woman said: “Don’t ask for Jehovah’s help to overcome sexual desires and then constantly think about sex. True, certain times during the month your sexual urges may be very great. Activate your mind by doing something else. Go visit someone. Go for a walk or do anything that will change the subject. Keep as busy as you can during this part of the month.” Another who also saw the value of keeping busy in “every good work” agreed, saying: “Scrub your windows. Scrub your floor. Dig in the dirt. I’ve done it. It works!” When you see Jehovah helping you with this problem—no, not by performing a miracle, but at least by giving you the strength to cope with it each day—you will be drawn closer to him.
14. (a) What can happen if a person fails to have a close relationship with Jehovah? (b) What can single parents do while waiting for a Christian mate?
14 Without this precious “intimacy with Jehovah” a person could begin seeking a marriage mate regardless of the cost, perhaps even dating worldly persons. (Ps. 25:14) One who did this admitted: “The real problem was my not being close to Jehovah. When I had a chance to get married, it sounded so good. I forgot the moral standards I’d been taught. Then one day I realized that the man was only interested in himself and not marriage. Then I had to live with a guilty conscience.” True, being single can be hard, but as one divorced Christian woman warned: “There is one thing much worse than being single. It’s being married to the wrong person!” There is always the possibility of finding a mate among devoted Christians, someone “in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) Some have waited for many years for such a mate. Meanwhile, they have not become bitter or been overwhelmed by their circumstances. They wisely have used the time to develop the qualities that would make them better mates. As one single parent said: “I ask myself, ‘Am I the spiritual woman someone would choose?’ If I’m miserable while I’m single, then I probably would make someone a miserable mate.”
MANAGING A HOUSEHOLD AND REARING CHILDREN
15. (a) What have some single parents done to manage a household successfully? (b) Do you have any additional suggestions?
15 Though it is a taxing job, many single parents have imitated the capable woman described in Proverbs 31. Although married, she had the general supervision of the household. She saved money by shopping carefully, making her own goods from raw materials and not wasting food, for she prepared a “prescribed portion.” (Pr 31 Vss. 13-15, 19) She started early and worked late. (Pr 31 Vss. 15, 18) She made items and sold them. (Pr 31 Vs. 24) She used “her own hands” to care for chores. (Pr 31 Vss. 17, 19) Today, to learn to use their “own hands” skillfully, some single parents have read how-to-do-it books and have consulted professionals for advice. (Often, after explaining their status, they have received free expert instructions.) Others have told their needs to fellow witnesses of Jehovah who had certain “know-how,” and, when available, these have kindly given assistance. All of this keeps expenses down.
16. Why is it vital to trust in God, and whose example illustrates this need?
16 Yet, despite all that a widow can do, with times becoming harder, she must trust in God for daily provisions. A good example of one who “put her hope in God” was the single parent who lived in the city of Zarephath in the days of God’s prophet Elijah. By Jehovah’s direction, Elijah asked for her last bit of food, promising her that God would provide. What would you have done? She had enough for one last meal. At least that one meal was something she could count on. Yet, because of her faith, she gave up what was certain for the uncertain. God’s word through the prophet came true. She and her son never lacked food. Similarly today, single parents, along with all Christians, must put confidence in God by seeking his kingdom first and by complying with his righteous standards. Then they will see that he will provide.—1 Ki. 17:8-16; Luke 4:25, 26; Matt. 6:31-33.