You Can Cope with Life’s Problems
“LIFE is full of problems,” people say. You may agree.
2 Money troubles plague many—bills, inflation, job insecurity, or finding decent housing. Serious marriage and family problems are common. Sex, alcohol or drugs are problems with many young persons. For the elderly, failing health brings difficulties. All these things give rise to damaging emotional tension or stress.
3 How well are you coping with life’s problems? News reports of widespread depression and of suicides clearly indicate that many persons just cannot cope. But there are millions who do not lose their balance when faced with adversity. Why?
4 These latter ones have learned to rely on the advice of mankind’s Creator as found in the Bible. No psychologist, no marriage counselor, no writer of a newspaper advice column knows more about life than God does. He created the first humans, so he has a thorough knowledge of our physical, mental and emotional makeup. (Psalm 100:3; Genesis 1:27) Better than any short-lived human, Jehovah knows what is going on inside us and why we do the things we do.—1 Samuel 16:7.
5 Furthermore, he is better acquainted with the problems that confront us in this world than any of us are. Not for just a few years, but since the time of the first man, Jehovah has observed the problems of humankind—all of them. The Bible tells us: “From the heavens Jehovah has looked, he has seen all the sons of men. . . . He has gazed at all those dwelling on the earth. . . . He is considering all their works.” (Psalm 33:13-15) That means that he knows what succeeds and what does not succeed in coping with whatever problems we have.
6 Generously, he makes it possible for us to benefit from his knowledge and experience. The Bible contains his counsel, set out in such a way that it fits our needs no matter what our circumstances in life, regardless of where we live. As Psalm 19:7-11 says: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.”
7 Let us consider briefly how those reminders can help a person to cope with two serious personal problems, namely, severe stress and loneliness. After considering the Bible’s practical help on these, we will examine other common problems—involving money, marriage and drugs.
HOW CAN YOU COPE WITH STRESS?
8 Few people would say that they never experience severe stress. The more that our individual troubles grow—over money, the family, sex, crime—the more severe the stress becomes. A recent newspaper report commented that what best characterizes our times is not a way of acting or a style of dress. It is “the terrible feeling of tension.”
9 Did you know that stress can even shorten your life? Note:
“Dubbed the ‘Twentieth Century Killer,’ stress arises mainly from the psychological demands of contemporary life. The physical ills it generates now contribute to a vast number of hospital cases and deaths each year—at least tens of millions.”—To the Point, African news magazine.
“Severe or prolonged stress can make the body more vulnerable to ailments ranging from skin rashes and the common cold to heart attacks and cancer.”—The Wall Street Journal, U.S.A.
Even the unborn are affected. Stress on pregnant women, such as from marital discord or the fear of unemployment, can cause physical, mental and emotional damage to children in the womb.
10 Stress also does damage in that it creates other problems. Because of it many lose work time, increasing their money troubles. It gives rise to violence, even in marriage. One husband wrote:
“Each day I get more uptight and nervous. I feel like lashing out at everybody and my wife usually gets it. I feel like getting stoned, but it doesn’t do any good.”
11 Some stress is normal in life, and not necessarily bad. Getting out of bed in the morning involves stress, as does watching an exciting ball game. It is the severe, prolonged stress (or, distress) that is damaging. Of course, many of the pressures on us may seem unavoidable, involving other people or circumstances in our own life. Is there, nonetheless, something that we can do about harmful stress? If we could better cope with stress, it might lessen other problems, such as those affecting our health.
12 A key to coping with stress was given by a man recognized world wide as one of the greatest teachers who ever lived, Jesus Christ. When asked which was the most vital of all of God’s commands, Jesus replied, ‘You must love Jehovah with all your heart, soul and mind. And you must love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39) Apply that and you will be helped to cope with stress.
13 For example, as you deal in a loving way with your mate or relatives, it is very likely that peace will increase. An atmosphere of warmth and happiness will develop. Tension will diminish. Yes, this Scriptural counsel can be followed with positive results in reducing stress.
14 Nor is it limited to the family. As you apply the Bible’s advice to show love—including the ‘golden rule’ of doing to others as you would like them to do to you—people will like you more. (Luke 6:31) That has proved true on the job, at school, in the community. Oh, there may be some friction, but certainly less. It is easy to see that, as a result, you will face less stress.
15 Even in scientific circles it is being appreciated that what the Bible recommends will help persons to reduce stress and cope with it. Professor Hans Selye (University of Montreal), one of the foremost authorities on the effects of stress, advised:
“Rather than relying on drugs or other techniques, I think there’s another, better way to handle stress, which involves taking a different attitude toward the various events in our lives.”
He emphasized the need for a “philosophy of behavior by which people could live,” which would “do much more for humanity in general than any discovery.” What? After 40 years of studying stress, he said that the solution essentially came down to—love.
16 Why is it that, even in day-to-day life, showing love as the Bible recommends is so practical? Why does it work? Dr. Selye said:
“The two great emotions that cause the absence or presence of stress are love and hate. The Bible makes this point over and over again. The message is that if we don’t somehow modify our built-in selfishness, we arouse fear and hostility in other people. . . . The more we can persuade people to love us rather than hate us, the safer we are, and the less stress we have to endure.”
17 Anger is another cause of stress. We all get angry at times, as the Bible acknowledges. Yet it counsels: “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city.” (Proverbs 16:32; Ephesians 4:26) So if we become angry, God’s warning is to avoid flying into a fit of rage or ‘blowing our top.’ Often those who ignore that advice let out a burst of vicious words or get into violent fights. The results sometimes are physical harm or ill will, with lasting stress. Hence, to the extent that you can follow the Bible’s wise and practical advice about anger, you will be helped in coping with stress.
18 As another example, the Bible also helps us to reduce stress by encouraging a varied and balanced life. Some persons are always frantically working, others seldom work. Some persons are always serious, others never. Any such extreme almost invariably causes problems and results in stress. However, read the comments in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, where God says there is a time for every activity. You see, the Bible presents a realistic as well as a more balanced view of life. Work is good, as opposed to laziness. The Bible also urges people to relax some and enjoy the fruits of their labor. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; 10:18; Proverbs 6:9-11) There is benefit to be gotten from some time spent in serious thought about what life means and how we should live it. Yet there is also value in relaxing with one’s family and friends. To the extent that we can apply the Bible’s counsel about balance, we will have less of a problem with stress.
COPING WITH THE AGONY OF LONELINESS
19 “Loneliness is universal,” said Toronto social worker Henry Regehr. “Stop anyone on the street and say ‘tell me about your loneliness’ and you will get story after story after story.” In a poll of 52,000 persons, over 40 percent said that they “often feel lonely.” It was the feeling that most consistently brought discomfort, spoiling happiness. Nor is it a respecter of persons, it strikes old and young, male and female. Though we might think of a single person, such as a widow, as the typical lonely one, some of the most desperately lonely are married persons who cannot communicate.
20 Many persons try to block out loneliness with illicit sex, or to drown it with alcohol or to deaden it by compulsive eating. But the causes remain. One factor is the growth of large cities, where you can be surrounded by people yet feel extremely alone. The breakup of marriages has increased the problem. Even television seems to add to loneliness by cutting down conversation.
21 What can be done to help to cope with loneliness? While not wanting to oversimplify the problem, it may be said that the Bible can help anyone to cope better with loneliness. Why is that? For one thing, loneliness often leads to depression and loss of self-respect. Cultivating a good relationship with one’s Creator can help to restore such a person. He can develop a greater sense of worth, appreciating that God is interested in him, which can lead to a more positive view of life. (Matthew 18:10) Furthermore, the Bible outlines for Christians a way of life that can help to relieve loneliness.
22 Lonely persons are often told to “keep busy.” This has some value. But the Bible offers more realistic and practical advice. It urges Christians to be active in doing good for others, which also produces happiness. (Acts 20:35) We have an example in Dorcas, who spent time making things for other Christians, many of whom were widows. Her efforts helped them materially, and likely also helped them to overcome loneliness. At the same time Dorcas herself was not lonely but loved. You may enjoy reading about her in Acts 9:36-42.
23 A very rewarding activity for many Christians has been that of helping others to learn about God and the Bible. In fact, the apostle Paul said that freedom to do that to a greater extent was an advantage single persons have, which, of course, would also help them to cope with loneliness. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) Paul himself is an example of this. Read in Acts 17:1-14 how, despite unusual opposition, Paul kept occupied, helping many in the city of Thessalonica. Then note the resulting feeling of closeness between them, mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses today can testify how rewarding it is to be busy teaching the Bible to others.
24 Also, Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly meet in groups to study the Scriptures. While learning, they are enjoying warm Christian fellowship. True, just being around other people is not itself the answer to loneliness, as many city people know. But those attending such meetings are among Christians who are striving to apply from the heart the Bible’s encouragement to be genuinely interested in others. (Philippians 2:4) These meetings are stimulating, happy occasions. Those in attendance join in brief prayer to God, something that many have found helps them to realize that they are never alone. (John 16:32) We encourage you to attend a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There you can observe how following Bible advice is helping many persons to cope with loneliness and other problems, such as those involving money or the family.
What reasons have we for optimism as to life’s problems? How is God involved? (1-7)
How severe is the problem of stress? (8-11)
How can Bible counsel help us to cope with stress? (12-14)
Scientists have found what about the Bible’s counsel on love? (15, 16)
How else can the Bible’s counsel help us with stress? (17, 18)
How serious a problem is loneliness? (19, 20)
What Bible counsel can help with loneliness? How? (21-23)
Of what value is Christian association? (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10) (24)
[Box on page 45]
LIFE’S MOST ‘STRESSFUL’ SITUATIONS
RANK LIFE EVENT
1 Death of spouse
3 Marital separation
4 Jail term
5 Death of close family member
6 Personal injury or illness
8 Fired at work
9 Marital reconciliation
11 Change in health of family member
13 Sex difficulties
14 Gain of new family member
15 Business readjustment
Based on research by Drs. T. Holmes and R. H. Rahne—“Modern Maturity.”
[Box on page 50]
“In their own congregational life Witnesses form a genuine community of trust and acceptance. . . . The Jehovah’s Witnesses offer [one] an alternative life strategy that gives its adherents a way to find identity and self-respect, a community of acceptance, and hope for the future.”—“Religious Movements in Contemporary America.”
[Picture on page 41]
[Picture on page 49]
Doing good for others, as Dorcas did, helps to prevent loneliness.