Comfort and Encouragement—Gems of Many Facets
MOST of us have gone through times when we felt extremely poor—not necessarily low on funds but low in spirits. We were despondent, even deeply depressed. Yet, at such times we may well have had within our reach something precious that could do us a world of good. That “gem” is encouragement.
In the Bible the same Greek word is used for “encourage” and “comfort.” Both words convey the sense of imparting courage, strength, or hope. Clearly, then, when we are feeling weak or low, comfort and encouragement are exactly what we need. Where can they be found?
The Bible assures us that Jehovah is “the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) It also tells us that “he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) So comfort and encouragement are available. Let us consider four general areas through which Jehovah provides encouragement.
Through a Personal Relationship With God
The greatest source of comfort is a personal relationship with Jehovah God. That such a relationship is even possible is encouraging. After all, what world ruler would accept our telephone calls or would express a personal interest in our problems? Jehovah is infinitely mightier than such men are. Yet, he is humble—more than willing to deal with lowly, imperfect humans. (Psalm 18:35) Jehovah has even taken the initiative in showing love to us. First John 4:10 says: “The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” Further, Jehovah lovingly draws us to his Son.—John 6:44.
Have you responded and sought comfort in a friendship with God? (Compare James 2:23.) For instance, if you have a dear, close friend, is it not a pleasure to spend some time alone with that one, talking freely about your anxieties and concerns, your hopes and joys? Jehovah invites you to do the same with him. He puts no limit on how long you may talk with him in prayer—and he really listens. (Psalm 65:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Jesus prayed regularly and fervently. In fact, before choosing his 12 apostles, he spent a whole night in prayer.—Luke 6:12-16; Hebrews 5:7.
From time to time, each one of us can manage to be alone with Jehovah. Just sitting quietly at a window or taking a peaceful walk can provide a good opportunity to open up our heart in prayer to Jehovah. Doing so can be a source of tremendous relief and comfort. If we have some aspect of Jehovah’s creation to look at while meditating—if only a patch of sky, some trees or birds—we may find therein some comforting reminders of Jehovah’s love and concern for us.—Romans 1:20.
Through a Personal Study of God’s Word
It is through a personal study of the Bible, though, that Jehovah’s qualities really unfold for us. The Bible repeatedly reveals Jehovah to be “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.” (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15) The desire to comfort his earthly servants is an intrinsic part of Jehovah’s personality.
Consider, for instance, Jehovah’s words at Isaiah 66:13: “Like a man whom his own mother keeps comforting, so I myself shall keep comforting you people.” Jehovah designed the mother’s love of her children to be self-sacrificing and loyal. If you have ever seen a loving mother comfort her injured child, you know what Jehovah means when he says that he will comfort his people.
Many Bible accounts show such comfort in action. When the prophet Elijah was threatened with death by wicked Queen Jezebel, he lost his courage and ran for his life. He was so despondent that he walked into the wilderness for a full day’s journey, evidently taking no water or supplies with him. In anguish Elijah told Jehovah that he wanted to die. (1 Kings 19:1-4) What did Jehovah do to comfort and encourage his prophet?
Jehovah did not rebuke Elijah for feeling alone, worthless, and afraid. On the contrary, the prophet heard “a calm, low voice.” (1 Kings 19:12) If you read 1 Kings chapter 19, you will notice how Jehovah comforted Elijah, soothed him, and built his faith. This comfort was not superficial. It went right to Elijah’s troubled heart, encouraging the prophet to carry on. (Compare Isaiah 40:1, 2.) Soon, he was back on the job.
Jesus Christ likewise comforts and encourages his loyal followers. In fact, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah . . . has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all the mourning ones.” (Isaiah 61:1-3) During his lifetime, Jesus left no doubt that these words applied to him. (Luke 4:17-21) If you feel in need of comfort, meditate on Jesus’ gentle, loving dealings with people who were hurt and in need. Indeed, careful study of the Bible is a great source of comfort and encouragement.
Through the Congregation
In the Christian congregation, the gems of comfort and encouragement sparkle in their many facets. The apostle Paul was inspired to write: “Keep comforting one another and building one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) How may comfort and encouragement be found at congregation meetings?
Primarily, of course, we attend Christian meetings in order to be “taught by Jehovah,” to receive instruction about him and his ways. (John 6:45) Such instruction is meant to be encouraging and comforting. At Acts 15:32, we read: “Judas and Silas . . . encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them.”
Have you ever had the experience of going to a Christian meeting when you were despondent and coming home feeling much better? Perhaps something said in a talk, in a comment, or in a prayer touched your heart and provided needed comfort and encouragement. So do not stay away from Christian meetings.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Associating with our brothers and sisters in the ministry and on other occasions can have a similar effect. In Hebrew several verbs meaning “to bind together” came to refer also to “strength” or “strengthen”—the apparent idea being that things become stronger when bound together. This principle holds true in the congregation. We are comforted, encouraged, yes, strengthened, by associating together. And we are bound together by love, the strongest of bonds.—Colossians 3:14.
At times it is the faithfulness of our spiritual brothers or sisters that encourages us. (1 Thessalonians 3:7, 8) Sometimes it is the love they show. (Philemon 7) And sometimes it is just working together, shoulder to shoulder, while talking to others about God’s Kingdom. If you feel weak and in need of encouragement when it comes to the ministry, why not make arrangements to work with an older or more experienced Kingdom publisher? You will likely find much comfort in doing so.—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Philippians 1:27.
Through “the Faithful and Discreet Slave”
Who organizes the comforting features of our worship? Jesus appointed a class whom he designated as “the faithful and discreet slave” to dispense spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) In the first century C.E., this body of spirit-anointed Christians was already at work. The governing body of elders in Jerusalem sent out letters of instruction and guidance to the congregations. With what result? The Bible records how the congregations reacted to one such letter: “After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement.”—Acts 15:23-31.
Likewise, in these critical last days, the faithful and discreet slave is dispensing spiritual food that provides great comfort and encouragement for Jehovah’s people. Do you partake of that food? It is readily available in the printed literature the slave class makes available all over the world. The Watchtower and Awake! magazines as well as the books, brochures, and tracts that the Watch Tower Society publishes have brought comfort to countless readers.
One traveling overseer wrote: “Most of our brothers and sisters want to do what is right, but they often struggle with frustrations, fears, and the feeling that they are powerless to help themselves. Articles in our journals are helping many to regain control of their lives and emotions. The articles also give elders something more to offer than superficial encouragement.”
Make full use of the literature from the faithful slave class. The timely magazines, books, and other publications can help us find comfort when times are hard. On the other hand, if you are in a position to offer encouragement to one who is depressed, use the Scriptural information in these journals. The articles are written very carefully, often after many weeks or months of painstaking research, study, and prayer. The counsel is Bible-based, tried and true. Some have found it very helpful to read an appropriate article or two with one who is feeling low. This can result in much comfort and encouragement.
If you found precious gems, would you hoard them, or would you generously share some of the wealth with others? Make it a goal to be a source of comfort and encouragement to your brothers and sisters in the congregation. If you build up rather than tear down, commend rather than criticize, speak with “the tongue of the taught ones” rather than with the ‘thoughtless stabs of a sword,’ you may make a difference in the lives of others. (Isaiah 50:4; Proverbs 12:18) Indeed, you are likely to be viewed as a gem yourself—a source of genuine comfort and encouragement!
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Comfort for Those in Need
MANY have commented on how certain Watchtower or Awake! articles have deepened their personal relationship with Jehovah. Said one: “After reading this article, I felt that Jehovah with all his mightiness and grandeur was right there with me. I felt that he is a real person.” Another letter stated: “Our hearts and minds have been changed so dramatically in our view of Jehovah that we are not the same persons. It is as if someone wiped our eyeglasses clean, and now we can see everything very clearly.”
Some write to say how the magazines help them address specific problems or challenges, thereby assuring them of Jehovah’s personal interest in them. One reader put it this way: “Thank you so much for once again letting us see how much Jehovah cares for and loves his people.” A woman in Japan who lost a child in death said this about Awake! articles on that subject: “The depth of God’s mercy poured from the pages, and I cried and cried and cried. I have put these articles in a place where I can immediately read them whenever I feel miserable and lonely.” Another mourning woman wrote: “The Watchtower and Awake! articles and the brochure “When Someone You Love Dies” have given me the strength I needed to endure my times of sorrow.”
The Holy Scriptures are the primary source of comfort. (Romans 15:4) The Watchtower adheres to the Bible as its authority, and so does its companion magazine, Awake! Because of this, these journals have proved to be of comfort and encouragement to their readers.
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The God of all comfort is also the Hearer of prayer