Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Samaritan Woman and Loneliness

On the combox of my post, “Struggle With, Not Victory Over,” Beyond Blue reader Ann asked me to reprint my blog about the Samaritan woman I wrote last March. Since the topic deals with loneliness and toxic relationships, I figured it was worth reposting.


The Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel is what we could safely label a “slow learner.” She’s gone through five husbands (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and the man with whom she presently lives might become number six if she doesn’t wake up to her less-than-healthy patterns of behavior. If we define the term insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results,” then we can call her a little insane, as well.

Like so many of us, she thinks a new person, place, or thing can fill the painful void inside of her that has her feeling inadequate and unhappy. Although husbands number one through five have failed to “complete” her, like that nauseating line from the 1996 flick, “Jerry Maguire,” she tries the same pony trick again and again because that’s really the only thing she knows. Back to the well she walks, figuratively speaking, looking for the thing that will truly sustain her.


She’s horribly unsuccessful until Jesus appears. 

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus tells her. “But whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

She could have easily responded to Jesus, “Yeah, whatever, I don’t believe you can really fill me in the way you say.” Or she could have said, “You know, I sort of like perpetually dating.” But she doesn’t. She acknowledges her loneliness, and makes it available for God’s healing and grace.

She does just as spiritual author Henri Nouwen suggests in his bestseller, The Inner Voice of Love:


It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing. God does not want your loneliness; God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need.

That’s what we are called to do: to face our innate loneliness … the restlessness within that drives us away from God’s peace; the yearning for a better job, house, or roommate; the constant jockeying from yearning to yearning that leaves little room in our days for serenity and gratitude. We are called to be still, and to ask Jesus for a cup of his living water, the only thing that can truly sustain us in the way we so desire.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    That’s why I live with a cat.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Diana

    Thank you for this Therese.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Diana

    Reading this, after reading your posts about both Hell and Happiness, I find both comfort and more fear…Because if happiness is all about the relationships, which is what Joshua’s research and many others say, and you find yourself without a significant other, because of a failed marriage, and you’re an introvert who works at home but are raising a child still so can’t go out much to create new community (and most of the people you know are in families and busy with them), and you’re not good at community anyway because of your conditioning, then you are decidedly battling loneliness. So this is the ‘hell’ to be faced. Yet if the jury says your relationships will bring happiness, but you know you’re like the Samaratan woman, only good at finding bad ones (call it karma?), it’s hard to keep the mind out of it. I try to think of ways to meet new people, either friends or potential ‘mates’ but it doesn’t work, my aloneness seems to want all of me, more and more, it’s all that’s on offer, despite a previously rather social outer life. So I guess the challenge is to ignore the “happiness” research and trust I have a different path that at this point (and one never knows, at my age, being divorced could mean being single for the rest of my life) is without relationships. Even meaningful friendships are seriously on the wane as I am simply not someone others turn to — they have their families, their other friends, their spouses, their communities. Very interesting food for thought here, and I guess the best is to go with the Samaratan and Hell posts and ignore the Happiness one! 😉

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Stephanie

    Diana, your comment is so compelling. It makes me curious if your previous “social outer life” was fulfilling or distracted you from being unfulfilled. I don’t mean it as a leading Q. It’s just an introvert-extrovert kind of Q. I do believe we live out our relationship with God through how we relate to others (and that a s.o. can be a big part of that), so I appreciate that is a big piece to be missing. I look back on my 5 divorced years (also as an introverted single mom working from home) as the most healing and growing in my life. Not that the days were easy to get through (they weren’t) or that failed relationships and waning friendships didn’t hurt (they did), but the solitude afforded this luxurously expansive inner space for healing and growing that wouldn’t have happened with less lonliness. The right introvert -extrovert balance is different for everyone, and I hope you settle into the one that’s right for you. Thanks for re-posting, Therese!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment lovingone

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…..but I STILL love that line from Jerry McGuire, and if you dont take it too seriously, its sweet that he says that he cant be whole and giving without her presense around him….he just thinks hes a better man when she’s around…but since that line was taken…haha peace and blessings…laura

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tam

    Thank you “reader Ann” for requesting the repost, as I was not a subscriber at the time of the original post. Therese, thank you for your uplifting and thoughtful writing. It really speaks to where I am right now.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment RP

    Therese, you know how to write and speak to your readers. Your articles bring me peace. Thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Christina W

    I have recently come to realize that part of what fuels loneliness, for me anyway, is what you write about here – that something else, a new place, job, home, is what is missing when in essense the bouncing around IS what fuels the isolation, anxiety, fear and lonliness because there is, as you say, no stablity which means no security. As as Henri Nouwen points out, it is hard to stay with lonliness, to let it runs its course. I look at how much your write about therapy benefitting you – even when you don’t feel like going – and I, partly because of your honesty, began therapy yesterday. It’s long overdue. Between that meeting and your once again timely posts, I have also decided to “just stay” at a job I recently accepted, haven’t yet started but was already thinking/looking for “something else” that “would be better” because I am desperately seeking stablity and security on a lot of levels. I realize now that unless I stay put for a little while, I will continue to the insanity dance like The Samaritian woman. Once again, Therese, thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Paul Moore

    Thanks, Therese–His Peace be with you and the rest of we readers.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Payje

    Diana, I believe Jesus is referring to a personal relationship with him that fulfills and gives joy. One can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Let God fill the void and give you joy. Then even if you are alone, you will be filled.
    Therese, I hope you are feeling better.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jean

    A terrific reminder for all of us. I am blessedly single with two family members to look after, but lately I’ve been in that ‘if I could just get outta this stinkin’ town’ mode…and am constantly forgetting to be grateful for the blessings I do have. Thank you!

  • Cindy

    How is it that you always seem to print what I need to hear? Thank you so much. You have helped in so many ways.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Martha

    I like what Henri Nouwen has to say, too, so I’m always glad when you include his writing. I get so much out of what you write and am really glad I stumbled on your site last year. It gives me so many good ideas to think about. Thanks.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Carol Reins

    How lovely to read after a day of unbearable lonliness amidst a campus of students in the downtown area of Minneapolis…people everywhere and I could not stop crying for the isolation that I felt. Thanks

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment echo

    Thank you for this post. It spoke to me, also, and I am an atheist! I just replace “God” with “inner spirit” or some other similar idea. It still works. We can’t fill the void of loneliness with others; we must learn to be comfortable with ourselves first. (We cannot truly love others without first knowing and loving ourselves, etc.)

    Diana, I am also in the process of ending my marriage. It is the most lonely experience I have ever been through. Sure, I can talk to my therapist about it, but she’s not here to keep me company when I need it. I can call my (married) friends, the ones that still want to associate with me that is, but what can they do other than grab the occasional cup of coffee or night out for drinks? They have their own families to attend to. I’m not close to my own biological family, so calling my mom or sister and expecting unconditional love and support isn’t an option… The truth is that divorce is lonely, and we need to friendship and love of *ourselves* more than ever right now. I know that once I face my loneliness, become friends with it, become friends with *myself*, I will finally be ready for a true loving and healthy relationship, and that is when it will appear… Best of luck to you.

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