Where to Turn in Time of Stress
Why do many prayers fail? How can we find relief in time of stress?
STRESS is one of the great hazards of our time. It well deserves its reputation as a killer. Besides its knack for causing heart attacks it has a way of undermining the normal protective ties of love, human warmth, duty and need, thereby destroying the anguished soul’s will to live. Among its frequent victims are hundreds of single and married women who commit suicide because of emotional problems and despite popularity, loving husbands, doting parents, beauty and wealth. Stress can also cripple the mind and body, filling the hospitals with mental patients and thousands of cases of psychosomatic-induced illnesses.
Against this plague men have attempted many defenses, including the popular tranquilizers and psychiatrists. Besides the Save-a-Life League for preventing suicide, there are relief and welfare agencies, legal aid societies, rescue squads and every branch of medicine. All have varying degrees of success. All are affected by time and circumstance.
SEARCHING FOR GOD
Human remedies failing him in time of stress, man naturally looks to God. In search of a miracle many desperately look for God in church. Why are they disappointed so often? That question is being answered by clergymen in many parts of the world. Last February a Canadian minister wrote in the Winnipeg Tribune: “It can’t be Christianity you find in churches . . . Something has to be said and done. . . . Otherwise the church is doomed as a source of renewal, as a place to find God for this generation.” Said a minister in Norway: “A new revival of ministers is absolutely necessary if we are to expect a revival of the people. We ourselves should be the last to deny that spiritual sleep is a typical trait of us clergymen today.” An Australian bishop expressed his view: “The modern church seems to me to be lacking dangerously in both knowledge and devotion.” Speaking in Dallas, Texas, last May, an Episcopal bishop declared: “A large number of people in the United States don’t think the church is very relevant to life today . . . and their judgment is probably true. It’s not that the Gospel is irrelevant. Only we are irrelevant.” He told his audience there is little about the average church except the Sunday sermon to remind people of God. It is not surprising that when many under stress search for God in church they fail to find him.
But why is it that many who sincerely pray privately in time of stress still find only disappointment? Typical is the housewife who told one of Jehovah’s witnesses that she had given up belief in God after many prayers for a sick brother failed to prevent his untimely death. What is the reason for such disappointments in time of stress?
Part of the answer comes from Professor P. G. Lindhardt of Denmark: “To pray to God has become a kind of mental hygiene. Prayer has become a part of the tendency of the twentieth century toward self-reflection, a means through which to enforce one’s own will. Many Christians are really so naïve as to believe, like the pagans, that they by steady and persevering prayer can wrest from God things He would otherwise not give.”
But what did Jesus mean when he said: “All the things you ask in prayer, having faith, you will receive”? (Matt. 21:22) Note that this was not promised to the world at large, but to his followers, men of faith. John, his beloved companion, explains: “No matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) According to his will? Yes, along with faith there must be good understanding of what we may and may not request in prayer. How many people take the time to learn God’s will through Bible study? How many show by their actions that they believe Jesus’ words: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth’”? (Matt. 4:4) Is it God who fails men, or men who fail God by ignoring his Word? Prayers offered in conflict with God’s will and purpose readily lead to disappointment.
PRAYER AND KNOWLEDGE
The case of an Italian army officer well illustrates that a successful search for God involves prayer and something more. Cornelius, a man who often prayed, was instructed to send for someone to come into his home and teach him God’s will. Peter and other true Christians gladly came to Cornelius’ home. With Cornelius were relatives and close friends, “all present before God to hear all the things [Peter had] been commanded by Jehovah to say.” (Acts 10:1-33) It was Bible discussion that showed Cornelius, his family and friends how to turn to Jehovah and find him. It meant salvation.
No less is accurate Bible knowledge needed today. Upon us now are the critical times hard to deal with that were predicted by God’s Word. (2 Tim. 3:1) Stress is greatly increased, not only by man’s foolishness, but also because the great stress-producer, Satan the Devil, has stepped up his vicious efforts to rule or ruin the human race. (Rev. 12:12) To know how to deal with these critical times man needs wisdom from God. The Bible says it is proper to ask Jehovah God for this wisdom. (Jas. 1:5) But, as in Cornelius’ case, there must be a searching out of true Christians who are willing to come to your home and impart the truth Jehovah has commanded them to speak in all the world for a witness to the nations.—Matt. 24:14.
Through family Bible study, hundreds of thousands of men and women are learning that knowledge of Jehovah’s will makes a difference in time of stress. No longer are their prayers offered for things not in harmony with God’s will. For example, while millions pray for this world’s peace, those gaining accurate knowledge see that Jesus was careful to “make request, not concerning the world,” but only for those persons who desired to do God’s will. (John 17:9) Once fearful that the next war would destroy man and his earthly home, those turning to Jehovah learn that God foreknew man’s suicidal course and has promised to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” His great act of intervention is called “Armageddon.” (Rev. 11:18; 16:16) Will Armageddon leave just one or two survivors on a desolate beach? No, into the post-Armageddon new world of righteousness will go those who have turned to Jehovah in time of stress—survivors “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues”!—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 7:9, 10.
But what of personal stress now, before Armageddon? Death causes perhaps the greatest distress today, whatever its immediate cause. Sickness and old age can also be distressing realities. Does a turning to Jehovah bring practical relief? Yes! Grief over the death of one loved is turned into assured expectation of the resurrection promised by Jesus, who said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) Faith in the early fulfillment of that promise instills a strong will to live. Learning Bible principles and the good news of God’s kingdom brings healthful peace of mind and guides one away from unwise actions that would produce further stress. It becomes possible to bear old age and chronic illness cheerfully when one knows that our generation is on the threshold of the time when sickness, pain, sorrow and death will be removed from mankind.—Rev. 21:3-5.
Not only does turning to Jehovah give one strength to endure physical illness patiently, but in spiritual sickness due to transgression one can ask mature Christians to pray to God for his forgiveness and his healing spirit on behalf of the distressed one. (Jas. 5:13-15) In economic crisis Jehovah’s servants properly request him to make possible their getting sufficient “daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11; Prov. 30:7-9) Under stress of persecution Christians turn to Jehovah for deliverance or strength to endure for righteousness’ sake. (Ps. 143:9; 1 Cor. 10:13) For deliverance from temptation we can also ask with confidence.—Matt. 6:13; 26:41.
AT YOUR DOOR
When the Christian witnesses of Jehovah call at your door with Bible in hand, remember Cornelius’ wise course. Gather your family together to hear the things Jehovah has commanded them to say. They will eagerly teach you how to turn to Jehovah in these times of increasing stress. In fact, take the initiative, as Cornelius did; send word to the nearest Kingdom Hall for one of Jehovah’s witnesses to call at your home. Making known the true God and his wonderful purpose for mankind is their delight. To you and your friends Jehovah’s witnesses enthusiastically say: “Look! This is our God. We have hoped in him, and he will save us. This is Jehovah. We have hoped in him. Let us be joyful and rejoice in the salvation by him.”—Isa. 25:9.
Yes, get to know Jehovah God without delay. He is the one to whom to turn in time of stress.