Sobbing in the dark

Who dries your tears?

Mary Barrett is president for the South England Association of Ministers' Wives.

It must have been about 3:00 in the morning. Our infant daughter awoke and needed comforting. After soothing Rima and getting her settled, I sat on the floor in her bed room with my knees huddled. I too felt the need of comfort and found the darkness around me calming.

I wasn't aware of the need to cry, but suddenly tears began falling. Gently at first, and then more strongly.

In the next bedroom my husband, Jonathan, slumbered peacefully. He was oblivious to any sound when asleep (especially when it came from our daughter's room!). Meanwhile, I poured out my heart to God.

I was so lonely!

Only a few months previously we had moved to our pastoral district. My husband was brimming over with excitement and enthusiasm. I, on the other hand, had doubts about our new rural location so far from friends and family. I felt isolated, alone, vulnerable, and very scared.

For some ministers' wives, the lack of close relationships is not a problem. Perhaps they find friends while working outside the church, or they are content in the solitude of their own company. But others find loneliness a serious concern. If such is your situation, let me share some ideas that may alleviate your isolation.

Don't be ashamed

Several years ago at a Shepherdess meeting, I admitted my loneliness in the ministry. Later I overheard two older pastors' wives talking. One said: "I don't know what's wrong with these young ministers 'wives. We didn't look for friendship in our day; we just got on with our jobs."

Do not let such comments mold you into something you are not. God made each of us different in character, outlook, and needs. We must not be ashamed of our individuality.

Ask God to deal with your needs

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:19: "And my God will meet all your needs" (NIV). I remember claiming that verse while sobbing in the dark. Even though confident that God would answer, I never expected such a rapid response. The next day a neighbor invited me to a clothes party. That was an effective icebreaker, getting me acquainted with what had been a community of strangers. A few days later Jonathan asked me to visit a contact of his. Sue's interest in the church was slight, but she needed friendship. We immediately "clicked" and became good friends. God was beginning to open doors for me.

Let your children make you friends

Being a young mother with preschoolers at home often intensifies feelings of isolation. Days merge into a mesh of baby talk, diaper changes, and sleepless nights. I've found it helpful to ask church members or neighbors to recommend a mother/toddler group in my area. This is an excellent way to make friends.

Let your hobbies make you friends

Where feasible, you can join some group that focuses on a hobby of yours or something else you enjoy. This brings many benefits, including a break from the demands of motherhood for a few hours and a chance to get involved in something beyond the church. Sometimes we can deal better with the problems and demands of our members after we have had a break.

You might ask your husband to baby-sit (perhaps on his day off), or a good neighbor or church friend. If you cannot go out, you can try to develop some interests at home. Library books or a home correspondence course, for example, will help alleviate your sense of isolation and provide a feeling of accomplishment; something that can elude young mothers.

Let your ministering make you friends

Consider those in your church who have special needs you can minister to. Visit isolated members, young mothers struggling with the demands of mother hood, and single members wanting friendship. There are so many who would enjoy your companionship.

No transportation? Then borrow the car while your husband studies in the morning. Children also benefit from the fun of an outing and meeting another person they can relate to. Perhaps you might even start some kind of club for church members with particular needs.

Can members be special friends?

Personally, I see no problem in making a special friend of a church member if that relationship does not cause you to exclude other members and you avoid discussing congregational politics. God has relieved my loneliness through many friends in our churches.

I think of one who became my closest friend. Even though we are completely opposite in every way, we bonded over a mutual desire to know God and witness for Him. Whenever our conversation trespassed on "church issues," I suggested that she discuss the matter with my husband.

Don't forget God!

While putting into action all or some of these ideas, you can constantly ask God to find new ways of dealing with loneliness. He will delightfully supply your needs.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Mary Barrett is president for the South England Association of Ministers' Wives.

February 1995

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