“Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.”—JOHN 14:1.
1. Why were Jesus’ words at John 14:1 very timely?
IT WAS Nisan 14 in the year 33 C.E. A small group of men were meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem after sundown. Their Leader was giving them farewell counsel and encouragement. In part he said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1) His words were very timely, for shattering events were soon to occur. That night he was arrested, tried, and condemned to be executed.
2. Why was that day so crucial, and what helped the disciples?
2 You have good reason to view that day as the most crucial in history, affecting the whole future of mankind. The sacrificial death of the Leader, Jesus, fulfilled many ancient prophecies and provided the basis for everlasting life to those believing in him. (Isaiah 53:5-7; John 3:16) But the apostles, stunned and bewildered by the traumatic events of that night, became confused and fearful for a time. Peter even disowned Jesus. (Matthew 26:69-75) However, after the faithful apostles received the promised helper, holy spirit, they became bold and untroubled. (John 14:16, 17) Thus, when Peter and John experienced tough opposition and were put in custody, they prayed to God for help in speaking his word “with all boldness.” Their prayer was answered.—Acts 4:1-3, 29-31.
3. Why are so many people deeply troubled today?
3 Today, we live in a world that is deeply troubled. The end of this old system of things is swiftly approaching. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Millions are personally affected or deeply disturbed by a serious breakdown in family life and moral standards, an alarming increase in strange diseases, political instability, unemployment, food shortages, terrorism, and the threat of nuclear war. Many hearts are troubled with a brooding fear of the future. As Jesus foretold, there is “anguish of nations . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
4. What factors can cause Christians to suffer stress?
4 Even Christians can be seriously affected by such depressing factors. They may also face stress due to religious prejudice or opposition from relatives, neighbors, workmates, schoolmates, and governmental authorities. (Matthew 24:9) So how can we keep calm, untroubled, in these difficult times? How can we maintain peace of mind when the going gets tough? How can we face the future with confidence? What will help us to overcome the deep anxiety that is becoming commonplace? We are in the season when Jesus offered the counsel at John 14:1, so let us look closely at it.
How Can We Overcome Anxiety?
5. What encouraging exhortations do the Scriptures give us?
5 Having given loving encouragement ‘not to let their hearts be troubled,’ Jesus told his apostles: “Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.” (John 14:1) The inspired Scriptures give us many similar exhortations: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” “Roll upon Jehovah your way, and rely upon him, and he himself will act.” (Psalm 55:22; 37:5) Paul gave the Philippians this crucial advice: “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.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
6, 7. (a) What is one way to decrease stress? (b) How can we cultivate a close bond with Jehovah?
6 Anxiety or concern caused by problems and heavy responsibility can sometimes affect our health as well as our spirit. However, a medical expert, in the book Don’t Panic, comments: “If people are able to talk their problems out with somebody they respect . . . , the level of stress is often very greatly decreased.” If that is so regarding an exchange with another human, how much greater the help will be from speaking to God. For whom could we have greater respect than Jehovah?
7 That is why a close personal relationship with him is so vital for Christians today. Mature servants of Jehovah know this well, so they are careful to avoid the sort of association with worldly people or the sort of pastimes that could weaken that relationship. (1 Corinthians 15:33) They also appreciate how important it is to address Jehovah in prayer, not just once or twice a day, but frequently. Young or new Christians especially need to cultivate this close bond with Jehovah by regular study and meditation on his Word and by Christian association and service. We are urged: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
Counsel That Jesus Gave
8, 9. We can apply what positive counsel about economic problems?
8 In many countries, unemployment and economic depression are serious causes of worry. Jesus gave very positive counsel about these concerns: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25) Yes, the soul and body, or the whole person, are vastly more important than food and clothing. God’s servants can be sure that he will help them to obtain their basic needs. Jesus gave this example: “Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?” (Matthew 6:26) It is unthinkable that God would provide for feathered creatures yet neglect his human servants, who are very precious to him and for whom Christ laid down his life.
9 Jesus then reinforced this by referring to the lilies of the field that neither toil nor spin, yet “not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” King Solomon’s reign was noted for its splendor. Jesus then comfortingly asked: “Will [God] not much rather clothe you?”—Matthew 6:28-32; Song of Solomon 3:9, 10.
10. (a) To whom are the comforting words of Jesus addressed? (b) What advice did he give about the future?
10 However, Jesus goes on to show that this is only for those “seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” Worldwide, such true Christians appreciate what God’s Kingdom really is and put it first in their lives. To them, Jesus’ admonition applies: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.” (Matthew 6:33, 34) In other words, handle each problem as it arises, and do not worry unduly about the future.
11, 12. How have some Christians felt that Jehovah helped them in response to their prayers?
11 Most people, though, are inclined to worry about the future, especially when things are going wrong. But Christians can and should turn in faith to Jehovah. Consider the case of Eleanor. Her husband was very ill, and for a year he was unable to work. She had two small children and an aged father to care for, so she could not hold a full-time job besides. They asked Jehovah for help. One morning, shortly after this, they found an envelope under the door. It contained a large sum of money—enough to keep them going until the husband was able to work again. They felt deeply grateful for this timely help. There is no Biblical basis for expecting that a similar thing will happen to each Christian in need, but we can be sure that Jehovah will hear our cries and that he has the ability to assist us in various ways.
12 A Christian widow in southern Africa had to seek work to provide for her two young children. But she strongly desired to work only half a day in order to spend time with them. After she found a job, she was forced to resign from it when the manager decided that he needed a full-time secretary. Out of work again, this sister prayed earnestly to Jehovah for help. Three weeks later, her former manager asked her to come back on a half-day basis. How happy she was! She felt that Jehovah had answered her prayers.
13. (a) What is meant by “supplication”? (b) What Scriptural examples of supplication do we have?
13 Please note that after advising, “Do not be anxious over anything,” Paul adds, “but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Why mention “supplication”? The word means “earnest entreaty,” or ‘beseeching prayer.’ It involves imploring God very earnestly, as in time of great stress or peril. When a prisoner, Paul asked fellow Christians to make supplication for him so that he could fearlessly preach “the good news . . . as an ambassador in chains.” (Ephesians 6:18-20) The Roman army officer Cornelius also “made supplication to God continually.” How thrilled he must have been when an angel said: “Your prayers and gifts of mercy have ascended as a remembrance before God”! And how privileged he was to be among the first Gentiles anointed with holy spirit!—Acts 10:1-4, 24, 44-48.
14. How can we know whether earnest beseeching of Jehovah is to be done only once?
14 It is worthy of note that such earnest beseeching of Jehovah is usually not done just once. Jesus taught in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Many Bible versions render this: “Ask . . . seek . . . knock.” But the original Greek conveys the thought of continuous action.a
15. (a) Why was Nehemiah gloomy while serving wine to King Artaxerxes? (b) How had Nehemiah done more than offer a brief prayer?
15 When Nehemiah was serving the Persian king Artaxerxes as wine steward, the king asked why he was so gloomy. Nehemiah said that it was because he had learned that Jerusalem was in a devastated condition. The king then asked: “What is this that you are seeking to secure?” At once Nehemiah asked Jehovah for help, no doubt briefly, silently. He then requested permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild his beloved home city. His request was granted. (Nehemiah 2:1-6) However, before that crucial interview, Nehemiah had spent days beseeching, supplicating, Jehovah for help. (Nehemiah 1:4-11) Do you see the lesson in this for you?
16. (a) What special privilege did Abraham enjoy? (b) What powerful aids do we have that can be involved in answers to our prayers?
16 On occasion, Abraham enjoyed the privilege of communicating with Jehovah through angels. (Genesis 22:11-18; 18:1-33) Though that does not occur today, we are blessed with powerful aids that Abraham lacked. One is the complete Bible—an inexhaustible source of guidance and comfort. (Psalm 119:105; Romans 15:4) Very often, the Bible can give us the guidance or encouragement that we need, Jehovah helping us to recall the desired passages. Frequently, a concordance or one of the many Bible publications that God has provided through his organization can give us the answer. A detailed and efficient index to these publications is yet another invaluable aid in finding the needed information.
17. In what other ways may Jehovah answer our prayers, and how can kind, sympathetic Christians help?
17 If we are troubled with a problem or feeling sad or discouraged, answers to our prayers may come in other ways too. For example, a Bible talk at the congregation or at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses may contain just the “medicine” we need. At other times, a chat with another Christian will supply what we require. Many times congregation elders can offer encouragement or advice. Even just unburdening our hearts to a mature, kind, and sympathetic Christian who is a good listener can frequently make us feel much better. That is especially so if this friend helps us to reflect on Biblical thoughts. Such an interchange can take a heavy load off our mind and heart.—Proverbs 12:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
18. What special activity can help Christians to overcome blue periods, and how did this help a young pioneer?
18 Various forms of depressed moods are common during these “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) People become discouraged and dejected for a variety of reasons. This may happen to Christians too, and it can be a most unpleasant experience. Many have found, though, that preaching the good news has helped them to snap out of a temporary bout with the blues.b Have you tried that? When feeling somewhat down, try sharing in a form of Kingdom service. Talking to others about God’s Kingdom will often help you to change your frame of mind from negative to positive. Speaking about Jehovah and using his Word can give you joy—a fruit of his spirit—and make you feel different. (Galatians 5:22) A young pioneer also found that keeping busy in Kingdom work made her realize that “in comparison with others’ problems, [hers] were very small and temporary.”
19. How did a Christian in poor health overcome negative thoughts?
19 At times, a low physical condition, perhaps compounded by worries or problems, can lead to a depressed mood. This may cause one to waken at night troubled, as happened at times to a middle-aged Christian who had poor health. But he found that heartfelt prayer was a real help. Whenever he awoke feeling depressed, he would calmly pray to Jehovah. This soon made him feel better. He also found it soothing to repeat from memory comforting Bible passages, such as Psalm 23. Invariably, Jehovah’s spirit, operating in response to prayer or through his Word, would help to replace the depressed state of mind with a happier one. Later, the man could think about his problems with balance and calmness, seeing how to overcome them or feeling fortified to bear them.
20. Why may response to prayer sometimes seem delayed?
20 This is an example of how prayer can bring a response. But sometimes there seems to be a delay in finding a solution. Why? Perhaps the answer must await God’s due time. It appears that in some cases God allows his petitioners to demonstrate the depth of their concern, the intensity of their desire, the genuineness of their devotion. One of the psalmists had that experience!—Psalm 88:13, 14; compare 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
21. Why is it a great privilege to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, and how can we show appreciation?
21 In any event, to commune with Almighty God in prayer is a faith-strengthening experience that can lift us from despair to confidence. How comforting it is to know that he hears and responds! As Paul wrote to the congregation in Philippi, we should offer our prayers and supplications “along with thanksgiving.” (Philippians 4:6) Yes, daily we should open our hearts in gratitude to Jehovah and “in connection with everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) This will contribute to a close, warm bond and will bring us peace. The next article shows how important this is for Jehovah’s servants in these troubled, dangerous times.
a In agreement with the precision of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Charles B. Williams translates the verse: “Keep on asking . . . keep on seeking . . . keep on knocking, and the door will open to you.”—The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People.
b A temporary sad mood is different from severe, prolonged depression, which is a much more serious and complex emotional or mental condition. See Awake! of October 22, 1987, pages 3-16.
How Would You Reply?
◻ What factors may cause Christians to be troubled?
◻ What can help us to overcome anxiety?
◻ Why can Christians be sure that God will help them with their basic needs?
◻ What does “supplication” mean, and how do past examples illustrate how Jehovah responds?
◻ In what different ways may Jehovah answer our prayers?
[Picture on page 12]
‘Your heavenly Father feeds the birds. Are you not worth more than they are?’