To the outside observer, it made no sense. The thirteen-year intimate friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant, Abdul Karim, flew in the face of all social convention. It caused controversy so deep that all traces of the relationship, in England, were burned at her death. Yet “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) In Queen Victoria’s heart, this warm and spontaneous relationship made perfect sense.
The year was 1888. Great Britain was nearing the height of its empire. Victoria ruled more than eighteen countries. She managed a staff of three thousand at her five estates. Known as “the Grandmother of Europe” her descendants ruled eleven countries. She seemingly wanted for nothing. However, history shows there was something sorely lacking – in her heart. Victoria was profoundly lonely, bored and needed someone who would relate to her as a person rather than a Queen. She had grown up without a father. She was not allowed to associate with childhood peers. She endured six assassination attempts. Her husband died unexpectedly at age 42. Millions of her subjects resented her. She was quite isolated.
Enter Abdul Karim, aged 24, given as a gift to the Queen in honor of her Golden Jubilee. He dared to look her in the eye. He responded to her as a person who needed companionship and kindness. He saw her need for joy and thrilled her with tales and teachings of India. In return, she respected his heritage and treated him as equal to any white man. Ahead of her time, she defended him against the racism of her court and country. She honored him with the highest decorations of her country. All this because he met a need – her need for a confidante.
Still today as scientists have repeatedly shown, everybody needs a confidante. People who have at least one confidante recover more quickly from illness, may enjoy lower blood pressure, outlive loners and sleep better. One of Jesus’s first actions in His ministry was to choose a team of friends to walk His journey with Him and to be trained to continue His work. After the disciples’ failure to stay awake in Gethsemane, with the weight of the world on His shoulders, He pointedly asked His disciples, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) If Jesus did not “go it alone,” why should we?