Drawing Comfort from the Scriptures
“I have remembered your judicial decisions from time indefinite, O Jehovah, and I find comfort for myself.”—Ps. 119:52.
1, 2. (a) What effects can music have? (b) How has music been Scripturally linked with Jehovah God?
IN THE ancient Middle East, the solitary shepherd tending his flocks in the open fields often carried some musical instrument, perhaps a pipe. With it he would break the night’s stillness and entertain himself. Though lonely, he could draw comfort from music. It can stir the emotions, or produce a soothing effect, resulting in a feeling of peace and contentment.
2 Appropriately then, the psalmist said of Jehovah God’s just rules: “Melodies your regulations have become to me in the house of my alien residences. In the night I have remembered your name, O Jehovah, that I may keep your law.” (Ps. 119:54, 55) At times beautiful strains would flow from a harp in the hands of a skillful instrumentalist, perhaps during songs of praise to God. “Cry out joyfully, O you righteous ones, because of Jehovah,” exclaimed the psalmist, adding: “On the part of the upright ones praise is fitting. Give thanks to Jehovah on the harp; on an instrument of ten strings make melody to him. Sing to him a new song; do your best at playing on the strings along with joyful shouting. For the word of Jehovah is upright, and all his work is in faithfulness.” (Ps. 33:1-4) David did not forget the melodies and lyrics of such musical compositions, for he said: “I will remember my string music in the night; with my heart I will show concern, and my spirit will carefully search.”—Ps. 77:6.
3. What effect does the Bible have on those turning to it for spiritual aid?
3 As music can soothe a person and produce a feeling of contentment, so too does the Word of Jehovah God, the Bible, have a helpful and comforting effect upon those turning to it for spiritual aid. It is not uncommon for imperfect humans faced with trials to experience depression, grief or fear. Yet words written centuries ago under divine inspiration were penned for the instruction of Christians, so that by enduring and “through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Rom. 15:4.
DEALING WITH DEPRESSION
4. Are feelings of depression on the part of Christians today without ancient Biblical parallels? Prove your answer.
4 “It is hopeless. It seems everything I do goes wrong. I’m a failure!” Words like these are not unusual. Many voice such sentiments. Even faithful Christians are sometimes the victims of depression. However, the Scriptures show that some of Jehovah’s faithful servants of ancient times also had these feelings. For instance, when Esau took Hittite women as wives, “they were a source of bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebekah.” And unhappy Rebekah was moved to say: “I have come to abhor this life of mine because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob ever takes a wife from the daughters of Heth like these from the daughters of the land, of what good is life to me?” (Gen. 26:34, 35; 27:46) During his severe test, Job spoke like a man who felt God had abandoned him. (Job 29:2-5) Nehemiah, concerned about the devastated state of Jerusalem and its walls, was gloomy while before King Artaxerxes. (Neh. 2:1-3) So depressed and distressed was the apostle Peter over his denial of Jesus Christ that he “wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62) The apostle Paul said of his trials and feelings: “We are pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out; we are persecuted, but not left in the lurch; we are thrown down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8, 9) Evidently because depression beleaguered some Christians in Thessalonica, Paul admonished fellow believers there to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thess. 5:14) So, feelings of depression on the part of Christians today are not without ancient parallels. But, what might be done to cope with depression?
5. What view might best be adopted in dealing with problems Illustrate.
5 At times depression develops because a person has several serious problems. Life becomes dismal because these seem to add up to one great plight. But, instead of viewing them as such, why not deal with them individually, as far as possible? Making suitable efforts to resolve one at a time is surely better than linking these problems together in one’s mind and experiencing frustration. For example, a Christian woman may have a marriage mate opposed to her religion. This is one problem and she may be able to cope with it successfully by applying such inspired advice as that found at 1 Peter 3:1-6. However, possibly the children have also been misbehaving at school. This is another problem. Perhaps she needs only to report this to her husband, so that he can take remedial measures. Or, the children may need to have God’s requirements explained to them, such as what is said at Proverbs 6:16-19. Possibly a difference has developed between this woman and another Christian. This is a separate problem and Christians should handle such matters in the manner outlined by Christ. (Matt. 18:15-17) So, then, instead of becoming depressed by looking upon several rather unrelated problems as though they formed one major dilemma, handle these matters separately and effectively by applying the Word of God in life.
6. What relation do activity and rest have to depression?
6 Sufficient rest and sleep are needed too. A person may fail to schedule his activities properly. He may stay up late at night, viewing television or engaging in some form of recreation, only to find that the good effects he had hoped to achieve thereby are nullified by the depression that often afflicts one who is fatigued. To avoid or fight against depression, balanced activity and adequate rest are important.
7. If one is depressed because he does not have many material possessions, what Scriptural points can he beneficially consider?
7 Some Christians do not have many material possessions; they are not materially rich. This may give rise to discontent or depression. Yet, think of Jesus Christ. He once said: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Luke 9:58) Despite this, was Jesus happy? Indeed he was, in doing his heavenly Father’s will. (Heb. 10:5-9; Ps. 40:6-8) He did not need many material possessions to be contented. He frankly stated: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” This Jesus proved by means of an illustration showing that one is not preserved alive just because he has “many good things laid up for many years.” Life depends upon being rich toward God. (Luke 12:13-21) Christ advised his disciples not to be anxious about such things as food and clothing and pointed out that God knows of such needs and sees that they are supplied for those who “seek continually his kingdom.”—Luke 12:22-31.
8. (a) What examples do we find in Jesus and his apostles as far as material riches are concerned? (b) Why is this not the time to be depressed over scarcity or lack of material things?
8 During his prehuman existence in heaven, Christ enjoyed spiritual things of far greater value than anything material. (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17) Yet he divested himself to become a human. (Phil. 2:5-8) As a perfect man on earth, Jesus did without material riches and worldly splendor and in him true Christians who may not be wealthy have a superlative example of godly contentment. Peter and other apostles gave up many material things to follow Jesus, Peter himself once saying: “Look! We left all things and have been following you.” (Mark 10:28) But were they not richly rewarded? Once they walked with Jesus Christ and heard him speak as a man on earth. Today they enjoy marvelous blessings with him in heaven, having been resurrected to spirit life in heaven for their faithfulness till death. (Rev. 2:10; 11:18; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 50-52) Of course, not all Christians have a heavenly hope. But Christians with earthly prospects realize that marvelous blessings are in store for faithful ones here on earth and that it will not be long before they realize the complete fulfillment of these words: “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples, in this mountain, a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow, of wine kept on the dregs, filtered.” (Isa. 25:6) Right now Jehovah is supplying rich spiritual fare for those who love him and he will still more abundantly furnish spiritual and material things for those having his favor. Of him, the psalmist truthfully said: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Ps. 145:16) This is not the time to feel great discontent or to yield completely to depression over scarcity or lack of material things. It is the time to draw comfort from Scriptural promises of grand things ahead and to serve Jehovah loyally and joyfully.
9. (a) For what should depressed Christians pray? (b) What did Jesus, Paul and Peter say about anxiety?
9 Christians plagued with depression for various reasons will do well to pray to Jehovah for his holy spirit and for his aid in cultivating and displaying joy, a fruit of the spirit. (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23) Jesus advised: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own evil.” (Matt. 6:34) The apostle Paul recommended prayer, not apprehensive care, when he wrote the Philippians: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) Similarly, Peter said: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) Yes, Jehovah really cares for those trusting in him. Of course, it is not wrong to think about a problem and take practical and suitable steps to solve it, if possible. But, after we have done what we can respecting the matter, worry will achieve nothing more and can never take the place of prayer. Fittingly, David said: “Roll upon Jehovah your way, and rely upon him, and he himself will act.”—Ps. 37:5.
10. Death of a loved one or close friend caused what reaction in the cases of David, Abraham and Jesus?
10 When King David heard of the death of Absalom, he was grief-stricken, gave way to weeping, and exclaimed: “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! O that I might have died, I myself, instead of you, Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 18:33) Centuries earlier, when Abraham lost his beloved wife Sarah through death, he bewailed her and wept over her. (Gen. 23:2) Jesus Christ was also greatly grieved when his friend Lazarus died, for before going to the tomb to raise him from death “Jesus gave way to tears.” (John 11:35) While there are various reasons for grief, death of a relative or close friend is certainly one cause of great, sometimes nearly overwhelming, sorrow.
11. What comfort can Christians glean from the Scriptures when a cherished acquaintance dies?
11 When death claims a cherished acquaintance, it is only natural to experience sadness. However, like the apostle Paul, Christians realize and have confidence in the fact that there will be a “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Hence, they do not “sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) While Jehovah God determines who qualifies for a resurrection, billions of human dead will be raised, and Scriptural assurances of that are comforting. Especially can one draw consolation from the Bible when the deceased loved one was a faithful Christian. If that individual had the hope of an earthly resurrection, for instance, relatively soon, during Christ’s thousand-year reign, he will be awakened from the sleep of death right here on earth. (Rev. 20:11-13) One does not usually experience prolonged sadness when a dear friend goes on a long journey, for he expects to see him again upon his return. Taking a somewhat similar view of the death of such a faithful Christian acquaintance may help to lessen grief.
12. (a) When do the words of Ecclesiastes 7:1 prove true? (b) On what will the bereaved Christian do well to center his thoughts, and from what may fatherless and widowed ones draw consolation?
12 Solomon once observed: “A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born.” (Eccl. 7:1) That is true if a person has a good name with God at death, built up due to godly works, for then he is in line for a resurrection. Often the grief resulting from the death of a Christian loved one is increased by meditating on past experiences one has shared with the deceased. But, how much better it will be to give more consideration to the wonderful prospects of the future, as assured by the Word of God. Prayerfully, the bereaved Christian should look for aid to Jehovah, “the God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:3) He should endeavor to center his thoughts on the wonderful promises Jehovah has made in the Scriptures, drawing comfort from them. There is also consolation in the Biblical assurance that Jehovah will deal tenderly with fatherless and widowed ones who love him. In an inspired song David exclaimed: “Sing you to God, make melody to his name; raise up a song to the One riding through the desert plains as Jah, which is his name; and jubilate before him; a father of fatherless boys and a judge of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God is causing the solitary ones to dwell in a house; he is bringing forth prisoners into full prosperity.”—Ps. 68:4-6.
COPING WITH FEAR
13. What effect can fear have on a person?
13 Today mankind is faced with many perils, and fear stalks the earth. This highly detrimental emotion may sometimes be felt to an extent even by persons dedicated to God. Concerning fear it has been said: “On many persons the influence of fear is far more serious in its effect than the worst form of any dreaded malady. In epidemic diseases the terror they inspire is often as fatal as the infection—paralyzing the system, and robbing the body of the natural elasticity of its nervous stamina, and the mind of the buoyancy of hope, making victims of those who, from age and strength, had the best probability of escaping. Fear is a mental poison, and the most potent of all antagonists to health and medicine; it is often fatally active in the morbid developments which result in various forms of insanity; and as faith has cured more diseases than physicians ever prescribed for, so fear is more destructive than the worst physical malady.”—The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 Edition, Volume XI, page 74.
14. From what can persons with faith in Jehovah draw comfort despite fear-producing conditions throughout the earth?
14 Obviously, there is good reason to avoid or conquer such fear. Persons having faith in Jehovah can face the future without apprehension, for despite worsening and fear-producing conditions throughout the earth, they can draw comfort from the words of Jesus Christ. After disclosing that fearful happenings would mark these “last days,” he said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:25-28) Also, Peter gave inspired admonition to shun worldly fears, saying: “The object of their fear do not you fear, neither become agitated.”—1 Pet. 3:14.
15. Instead of permitting the mind to dwell on matters causing fear, what should one do?
15 If a person permits his mind to dwell upon matters that cause fear, it is unlikely that he will make much progress toward overcoming this emotion. So, efforts should be made to replace such thoughts with those that produce other feelings. Filling the mind with spiritually wholesome things is always wise and beneficial. The apostle Paul wrote: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Phil. 4:8.
16. (a) What fear does the Bible recommend? (b) How are those having this fear benefited?
16 Yet there is a fear that the Scriptures recommend. It is not morbid dread, but the proper and beneficial fear of displeasing Jehovah God. Thus, we are told in the final words of the book of Ecclesiastes: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man. For the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Eccl. 12:13, 14) Jehovah has always supported those having proper fear of him. The patriarch Abraham was one such man, and regarding him Genesis 15:1 states: “After these things the word of Jehovah came to Abram in a vision, saying: ‘Do not fear, Abram. I am a shield for you. Your reward will be very great.’” David said: “Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are the things that comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4) Those fearing Jehovah will be able to stand though fearful occurrences surround them and they can share the sentiments of Psalm 46:1-3: “God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses. That is why we shall not fear, though the earth undergo change and though the mountains totter into the heart of the vast sea; though its waters be boisterous, foam over, though the mountains rock at its uproar.”
17. Why not fear man or the demons?
17 Some persons fear man, but Jesus said: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 10:28) At most, man can only take away one’s present life. However, God can destroy a person in Gehenna, from which there is no resurrection and thus no future life as a human soul. Even the demons cannot block a person’s resurrection. So Christians should not fear them. Furthermore, these wicked spirit creatures cannot gain control of the servant of God as long as he takes full advantage of Jehovah’s spiritual provisions by studying the Bible and Christian publications, attending Christian meetings, praying to God and engaging in the Christian ministry faithfully. An individual doing these things is equipped with the protective suit of spiritual armor from God. (Eph. 6:11-18) Nonetheless, should a Christian be beset by fears, let him pray to Jehovah for aid, as did David, who said: “I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, and out of all my frights he delivered me.”—Ps. 34:4.
18. If one experiences depression, grief or fear, what activity may help him?
18 If you sometimes experience depression, grief or fear to some degree, you may then find it highly beneficial to increase your effort to aid others, as through expanded ministerial activity. This will probably take your mind off of matters of great personal concern. Jehovah comforts us so that “we may be able to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4) Aiding others is in itself a rewarding work.—Acts 20:35.
19. (a) What significant factor has doubtless helped to sustain God’s servants under the most trying circumstances? (b) What is sure to remove highly detrimental emotions for members of Christ’s spiritual body and for the “great crowd”?
19 Remember, too, that present trials and tribulations will be short-lived, especially since we now stand at the very portals of Jehovah’s promised new order. (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 2 Pet. 3:11-13) A significant factor that has undoubtedly helped to sustain God’s servants under the most trying circumstances, as while suffering brutal persecution or incarceration, is keeping in mind the marvelous hope ahead. Paul admonished: “Rejoice in the hope ahead.” (Rom. 12:12) “For the joy that was set before him [Christ] endured a torture stake, despising shame.” Following his example will enable Christians to avoid getting tired and giving out in their souls. (Heb. 12:2, 3) Jehovah helps the faithful in time of distress or hardship, as Psalm 37:39, 40 shows in stating: “The salvation of the righteous ones is from Jehovah; he is their fortress in the time of distress. And Jehovah will help them and provide them with escape. He will provide them with escape from wicked people and save them, because they have taken refuge in him.” Those of the spiritual body of Christ who have died in faithfulness have had a resurrection to heavenly life and this has already done away with the imperfect human emotions they once had and that may have caused them distress. For the “great crowd” of faithful Christians with earthly hopes today there is the prospect of eventual human perfection, which certainly will not be accompanied by highly detrimental emotions.—Rev. 7:9, 10.
20. How can you find comfort for yourself?
20 Always remember Jehovah’s judicial decisions and find comfort for yourself. (Ps. 119:52) Draw consolation and aid from the Scriptures. Let them lift your spirits, just like beautiful, soothing music. Make certain that you are regularly among those throughout the earth who maintain happiness by singing praises to Jehovah. “Praise Jah, you people, for it is good to make melody to our God; for it is pleasant—praise is fitting.”—Ps. 147:1.
“Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by well-watered resting places he conducts me. My soul he refreshes. . . . Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are the things that comfort me. . . . My cup is well filled.”—Ps 23:1-5.