Dorothy said she married a young, enthusiastic man in her hometown. They were surrounded by friends, family, and other believers. She was sheltered and secure. Bill began a successful career as a minister. First with several hundred then later with a 2,000 member congregation. After their first son was born, she became lonely as she saw less and less of Bill.
Dorothy tells her story:
I felt as if I had to make an appointment to see my own husband. I was discouraged and frustrated. Home was not home without Bill. I desperately wanted time with him, unpressured time that was not cut short by the demands his work. I wanted to know that my needs, and the baby’s, were at least as important to Bill as the needs of others. Most of the time, it didn’t seem that way.
From time to time, my isolation and separation from Bill would become unbearable. Bill would try to comfort me. We’d reassure ourselves that we would take time to be together, tomorrow. The feeling of loneliness would subside for a while, only to return with greater intensity at a later date.
Fortunately, God had a schoolroom prepared, a place where he was going to begin to teach me about overcoming loneliness.
Bill was in his third year in the 2,000 member congregation. He was well on his way to a successful career in the ministry. Yet both of us began to feel another tug in our hearts which grew stronger each day. God was telling us to leave the US and go to a foreign country.
Far away from home, culture, and familiar routine, our family was forced to cling together for support
A second guideline quickly followed. Bill and I discovered that in order to be effective on the field, our work could not come first. It was paradoxical, but true. God and family needed to take priority, otherwise the work was draining and fruitless.and to depend on God like never before. My prayer life and quiet times with the Lord became essential. I began to find a comfort I had never known simply by being in God’s presence. I learned my first guideline: He was always there from me. In His presence, my loneliness was lightened.
This then, was our guideline: God must come first, then family. Our work, as important as it is, must come third. Bill and I knew we had struck upon God’s plan because we actually accomplished more when we kept God and family first than when we rushed to put our work above the rest!
The result was that for the first time since our children were born, Bill and I became family-oriented. The strength of our relationship seemed, at times, to be essential to our very survival. No longer was I lonely for my husband.
Slowly, I realized that much of my loneliness back home had been caused by my own self-centeredness. I had always expected Bill to do something to meet my needs. I’d thought little about what I could do to help him. But as Jesus taught, a grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die or it will abide alone. Abiding alone is a raw state of loneliness, and that’s what I had felt. In Spain, as I focused on how I could serve, not only in the work, but in my family, things began to change.
A real breakthrough came when I consciously released Bill from having to meet all my self-centered wants and needs. As I learned to lean more on God, I saw I had been leaning too much on my husband. Bill was meant to be my companion, not the source of my contentment. By my unrealistic expectations, I had bound my husband and denied God His rightful place in my life as the source of my fulfillment and peace. The day I released Bill, I actually gained him as an attentive husband who was willing to meet my needs when he could. What a difference my new attitude made!
Despite the strides I made in my relationship with Bill, I still had days of overwhelming loneliness. This time, I was not lonely for my husband, I was lonely for friends. Bill could not fill that void, just as the friends I made in our old place had not been able to fill the void left by his absence.
Usually outgoing by nature, I was handicapped in Spain. I couldn’t speak the language. Culturally, I was a fish out of water. I had trouble communicating even when shopping for groceries in the open markets.
Eventually, as I continued to study and work with the Spanish people, the language flowed more easily. But there were still lessons to learn. I took Proverbs 18:24 to heart, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.” I opened up our home to many who were in need. As I became more confident with my Spanish, I reached out to others. Soon, I had one Spanish friend, then two, then several. My loneliness disappeared.Many mornings my heart ached as I looked out the fourth floor window of our apartment to the busy streets below. So many people and not one familiar face! So many conversations, yet no one to talk to!
I still get lonely sometimes. A few years ago, I longed to find a Christian woman my age with whom I could pray and study the Bible. God heard my prayer and brought me such a woman. We met weekly, sometimes more often. We became very close. Soon our little get-togethers grew into much larger gatherings. One day, however, she broke the news to me that her husband was being transferred by his employer to another part of the country. They would be leaving in a matter of days.
I was devastated. In my prayers, I raged against God for taking my friend away. But the Lord spoke to me very clearly one morning, “I am and always will be the best friend you will ever have.”
I smiled, I knew it was true. God had always been there for me, and He always would be. No friend, not even my husband, could be so faithful.
With God at my side, I don’t have to be lonely any more.
This is summarized and excerpted from a chapter by Dorothy Ligon from a lovely book called, Help! I’m a Pastor’s Wife, edited by Michele Buckingham and published by Creation House in Altamonte Springs, Florida, 1986. This book is now out of print, however, a few used copies are available through Amazon.com.