Is There a Way out of Unhappiness?
HOW people can be at odds with themselves! It can happen suddenly, just because of what someone has said or done or due to an unpleasant experience. At such times we can hardly think of anything else. And we find that, seeing no way out of our difficulty, our relationship with God can suffer. We may even think of giving up the fight for the faith. (Jude 3) Our joy wanes and we are engulfed in a spirit of dejection. (Proverbs 18:14) We sincerely desire to remain on the “path of life,” but it seems that the course is becoming too difficult for us.—Psalm 16:11.
What can be done when our circumstances are so distressing? Must we just keep struggling unhappily? Or is there some way out of unhappiness?
Looking at Ourselves
People differ greatly in their response to problems. So when we are facing difficulties, it is good to look at ourselves honestly. There may be something in us that requires adjustment.—Psalm 139:23, 24.
Certain people can experience great suffering in silence, and some seem to get over their difficulties much sooner than others do. This could be due to upbringing, personality or state of health. For instance, if an individual has had lack of love and of good training in his youth, he may have a more difficult time in later life.
Those who were deprived of love in early life often are too quick to think that people do not like them and have therefore treated them badly. On the other hand, those who were spoiled with too much attention often expect everything in life to revolve around them, and for that reason their friendships may not last long. For those who have health problems, any injustice and humiliation can be very trialsome. They often have the feeling that they are unable to bear anything more. So if we are inclined to be very sensitive, it is good to think of these factors, especially when we feel that we have fallen in a stream of insurmountable difficulties.
When we are worrying about something, are we also inclined to be withdrawn from those around us? This is a natural reaction, but it should not be allowed to go on very long. Otherwise, the danger exists that, absorbed as we are with our problems, we will begin to find everyone around us troublesome. We may unwisely isolate ourselves, and, as it were, our house may become full of mirrors in which we continually look to see what a difficult time we are having.—Proverbs 18:1.
The lower our spirits become the more likely we are to place the blame on those around us. If we also make the mistake of attributing wrong motives to them, this can give rise to great tension. How much better not to be unduly suspicious!—Compare 1 Timothy 6:4.
Are we perhaps oversensitive about the faults of those with whom we associate? Life would be much more pleasant if we were to show patience and understanding. Remember that Jesus Christ said: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Instead of brooding over the way people have treated us, we should pray to Jehovah, asking him to help those who have rebuffed us. After all, are they not doing more harm to themselves than to us? Yes, “for whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Matthew 6:14; Galatians 6:7.
When we are hard pressed, perhaps we pray to Jehovah in a somewhat childlike way, asking him to make us happy again. We may do this, of course. But can we expect that he will immediately remove every unpleasant thought and distressing memory? Certain things have happened, but wherein lies the greater potential for unhappiness? Is it in remembering what has taken place or in our wrong reaction to it? Is it not our taking of offense, our anger and our self-pity that mostly rob us of our joy and spiritual balance?
We would, therefore, be wise to quell such exhausting feelings as soon as they bubble up in us. Otherwise, we may so whip up our emotions that we will get into an almost hopeless state. If we then call to Jehovah, he will help us. But we cannot expect miracles, for we may have to retrace a wrong path we have taken. So put things right at once, if necessary. Walking about with a bad conscience and an unhappy spirit is much more distressing than admitting mistakes. Let us honestly ‘explore our ways’ and, with renewed energy, determine that we will work in God’s strength to do better.—Lamentations 3:40-42.
Controlling Our Thoughts
Actually, whether we are truly happy or not depends greatly on us. That is why we need to have our thoughts under control. Otherwise, unpleasant memories, silly fancies or even wicked promptings will soon gain the upper hand. If we find ourselves in an unhappy frame of mind, we might well ask: What was I thinking about just before I suddenly became so downhearted? Of course, we can switch off a bad television program, but wrong thoughts, when there, are not so easily dismissed. However, what a blessing it is that we can pray for God’s help! By means of his holy spirit, or active force, Jehovah will gladly help us to keep our thoughts under control. The psalmist David once said: “When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own [Jehovah’s] consolations began to fondle my soul.”—Psalm 94:19.
If we implore Jehovah for help, for whatever reason, we must listen to him when he speaks to us. His infinite wisdom and love are reflected in the Scriptures, and counsel on every situation that we are likely to experience is clearly set forth in the Bible. Hence, our happiness can be restored or made sure if we apply Jehovah’s counsel in life. Jesus said: “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—Luke 11:28.
We can give beneficial direction to our thoughts by keeping a particular Bible text in mind for a few hours or even a whole day. Whenever we come across especially comforting or strengthening words in our study of the Bible, we can fix these in mind. Then time after time, when we feel the need, we can repeat these portions of Jehovah’s Word. In this way “the God of all comfort” will aid us, and “the peace of God” will ‘guard our hearts and mental powers.’ Then, despite our problems, we will be able to persevere in his service with joy. Yes, not only should we learn what God thinks about matters but we should also do what he tells us to do.—2 Corinthians 1:3, 4; Philippians 4:6, 7.
Enjoying What God Gives Us
We certainly should listen to God, for he shows us love and gives us “every good gift.” (James 1:17) At times of strain and discouragement, we may forget that there is still much that is enjoyable. Moreover, our heavenly Father desires that we avail ourselves freely of all the good things he provides. And he wants us to be happy, even as the congregator indicated when saying: “The best thing that I myself have seen, which is pretty, is that one should eat and drink and see good for all his hard work . . . For not often will he remember the days of his life, because the true God is preoccupying him with the rejoicing of his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; 9:7-10) We all experience some sorrows, but if we keep our eyes open, we will still see the “sunshine,” even through some “clouds.”
Among our finest gifts from God are our Christian friends. How we long for them when we are going through a difficult time! It is then that we need someone who is willing to listen to us with understanding. We often know what we should do, but we just cannot draw it from our wounded heart. Well, why should we be ashamed to ask a cherished associate in the Christian congregation for a little loving attention? Experienced elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to help us in practical ways and especially by providing aid based on God’s Word.—James 5:13-16.
Wherever we live on earth we also have many ‘small friends’ all around us. We only need to win their confidence, and a variety of animals and birds are sure to seek us out if we provide a little food for them. How enjoyable it is when they become tame enough to eat out of our hand!
What about children in the neighborhood? They will be glad to call on us if we are kind or generous or let them help with some little job. No, we need not be lonely or unhappy if only we reflect on our blessings and enjoy everything that Jehovah gives us.
It is restful and helps put upbuilding ideas in our minds if we go out in the open air. Brains that get too little oxygen are not likely to promote a relaxed spirit. Many a man has regained his spiritual balance after a long walk. And when we are walking past gardens or in the woods, we should try to comprehend what we see. All too often we walk or sit in the open air staring in front of us and are assailed by all sorts of gloomy thoughts. But every tree, every plant, every animal and even the sky can tell us something about the Creator, if only we will let the beauty of the design, the splendor of the colors and everything we discover have an effect on us. As we look at the starry heavens on fine evenings, words such as these of the psalmist can well up in us: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” (Psalm 19:1) At such moments all human cares grow dim, and we sense something of God’s grandeur. Then we shall have no difficulty pushing our concerns into the background and sending up words of thanks and praise to our Grand Creator.
Our sleep is another of God’s gifts. At the end of a busy day we may take our rest, fully trusting in God’s protection. This helps us to start the next day with renewed energy. But if we sleep badly, what can we do? We can pray to our heavenly Father, also remembering our fellow believers in such petitions. We can think about his Word and grand promises. (Psalm 77:6; Ephesians 6:17-20) How much better than thinking only about all our problems! We need to fill our mind with many good things of a spiritual sort. Then we might simply say to ourselves, ‘Well, goodnight.’
We Are Not Alone
Of course, we are not the only people with problems. If we were to ask others about their difficulties, we would probably think: Well, it is better to be silent. In fact, we might prefer our own problems to those that plague many others.
As dedicated Christians, we cannot be free of all hardships at this time, for Jesus said his followers would experience persecution. (John 15:20) We are not alone in undergoing what our archenemy, Satan the Devil, may bring upon us, for “the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of [our] brothers in the world.” Most importantly, however, we and our fellow Christian sufferers have divine aid. So let us trust in “the God of all undeserved kindness,” who is with us. And may we look with confidence to the day so near at hand when our tribulations will exist no longer.—1 Peter 5:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
The difficult time all faithful Christians are now having is soon to end, for we are rapidly approaching a new, happy era. We are on the threshold of “a new heaven and a new earth.” (Revelation 21:1-4) What a cause for happiness!
Jesus Christ taught his followers to ask God prayerfully: “Let your kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) So let us really hope in that Kingdom and look to the future with joy. Jesus was able to endure the great shame and agony of the torture stake because, in all his suffering, he kept in mind “the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:1-3) He was soon to see his heavenly Father again face to face and would be surrounded by all his happy heavenly associates.
In the course of the centuries, Christ’s followers have endured many trials, even facing wild beasts in the Roman arena and the horrors of concentration camps. They have been able to undergo all of this because they have sought to please Jehovah and have kept their eyes on the prize of everlasting life. Jehovah God will not forget them. Neither will he forget us if we are faithful as his worshipers and remain on the “path of life.” So, with our wonderful hope in view, we can cry out joyfully: “You [our God, Jehovah] are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Psalm 145:16.