Sharing the Comfort That Jehovah Provides
“Our hope for you is unwavering, knowing as we do that, just as you are sharers of the sufferings, in the same way you will also share the comfort.”—2 CORINTHIANS 1:7.
1, 2. What has been the experience of many who have become Christians today?
MANY current readers of The Watchtower grew up without a knowledge of God’s truth. Perhaps that is true of you. If so, recall how you felt as your eyes of understanding began to open. For example, when you first understood that the dead are not suffering but are unconscious, were you not relieved? And when you learned of the hope for the dead, that billions will be resurrected to life in God’s new world, were you not comforted?—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; John 5:28, 29.
2 What about God’s promise to end wickedness and to transform this earth into a paradise? When you learned about this, did it not comfort you and fill you with eager anticipation? How did you feel when you first learned of the possibility of never dying but of surviving into that coming earthly Paradise? No doubt you were thrilled. Yes, you had become a recipient of God’s comforting message now being preached worldwide by Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Psalm 37:9-11, 29; John 11:26; Revelation 21:3-5.
3. Why do those who share God’s comforting message with others also suffer tribulation?
3 However, when you tried to share the Bible’s message with others, you also came to realize that “faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) Perhaps some of your former friends ridiculed you for expressing faith in the Bible’s promises. You might even have suffered persecution for continuing to study the Bible in association with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The opposition may have intensified as you began making changes to bring your life into harmony with Bible principles. You began to experience the tribulation that Satan and his world bring upon all who accept God’s comfort.
4. In what different ways may newly interested ones react to tribulation?
4 Sadly, as Jesus foretold, tribulation causes some to stumble and cease their association with the Christian congregation. (Matthew 13:5, 6, 20, 21) Others endure tribulation by keeping their minds fixed on the comforting promises that they are learning. Eventually they dedicate their lives to Jehovah and get baptized as disciples of his Son, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 8:34) Of course, tribulation does not stop once a Christian gets baptized. For example, keeping chaste can be a hard struggle for a person who has had an immoral background. Others have to contend with constant opposition from unbelieving family members. Whatever the tribulation, all who faithfully pursue a life of dedication to God can be sure of one thing. In a very personal way, they will experience God’s comfort and help.
“The God of All Comfort”
5. Along with the many trials Paul suffered, what did he also experience?
5 One who deeply appreciated the comfort that God supplies was the apostle Paul. After a particularly trialsome time in Asia and Macedonia, he experienced great relief on hearing that the Corinthian congregation had responded well to his letter of reproof. This moved him to write them a second letter, which contains the following expression of praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”—2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
6. What do we learn from Paul’s words found at 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4?
6 These inspired words speak volumes. Let us analyze them. When Paul expresses praise or thanks to God or makes a request of him in his letters, we usually find that he also includes deep appreciation for Jesus, the Head of the Christian congregation. (Romans 1:8; 7:25; Ephesians 1:3; Hebrews 13:20, 21) Hence, Paul addresses this expression of praise to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, for the first time in his writings, he uses a Greek noun translated “tender mercies.” This noun comes from a word used to express sorrow at the suffering of another. Thus Paul describes God’s tender feelings for any of His faithful servants who are suffering tribulation—tender feelings that move God to act mercifully in their behalf. Finally, Paul looked to Jehovah as the source of this desirable quality by calling him “the Father of tender mercies.”
7. Why can it be said that Jehovah is “the God of all comfort”?
7 God’s “tender mercies” result in relief to the one suffering tribulation. So Paul goes on to describe Jehovah as “the God of all comfort.” Thus, whatever comfort we may experience from the kindness of fellow believers, we can look to Jehovah as the source. There is no real, lasting comfort that does not originate with God. Further, it is he who created man in his image, thus enabling us to be comforters. And it is God’s holy spirit that motivates his servants to show tender mercy toward those in need of comfort.
Trained to Be Comforters
8. Though God is not the source of our trials, what beneficial effect can our endurance of tribulation have on us?
8 While Jehovah God permits the various trials that come upon his faithful servants, he is never the source of such trials. (James 1:13) However, the comfort he provides when we endure tribulation can train us to be more sensitive to the needs of others. With what result? “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 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Jehovah trains us to be effective sharers of his comfort with fellow believers and with those whom we meet in our ministry as we imitate Christ and “comfort all the mourning ones.”—Isaiah 61:2; Matthew 5:4.
9. (a) What will help us to endure suffering? (b) How are others comforted when we faithfully endure tribulation?
9 Paul endured his many sufferings thanks to the abundant comfort he received from God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5) We too can experience an abundance of comfort by meditating on God’s precious promises, by praying for the support of his holy spirit, and by experiencing God’s answers to our prayers. Thus we will be strengthened to continue upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty and proving the Devil to be a liar. (Job 2:4; Proverbs 27:11) When we have faithfully endured any form of tribulation, we should, like Paul, give all the credit to Jehovah, whose comfort enables Christians to remain faithful under trial. The endurance of faithful Christians has a comforting effect on the brotherhood, making others determined to “endure the same sufferings.”—2 Corinthians 1:6.
10, 11. (a) What are some things that caused suffering to the congregation of ancient Corinth? (b) How did Paul comfort the Corinthian congregation, and what hope did he express?
10 The Corinthians had their share of the sufferings that come upon all true Christians. In addition, they needed counsel to disfellowship an unrepentant fornicator. (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 11, 13) Failure to take this action and to bring an end to strife and divisions had brought disgrace upon the congregation. But they finally applied Paul’s counsel and displayed genuine repentance. Hence, he warmly commended them and stated that their fine response to his letter had comforted him. (2 Corinthians 7:8, 10, 11, 13) Apparently, the disfellowshipped one had also repented. So Paul advised them to ‘forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man might not be swallowed up by his being overly sad.’—2 Corinthians 2:7.
11 Paul’s second letter must surely have comforted the Corinthian congregation. And this was one of his intentions. He explained: “Our hope for you is unwavering, knowing as we do that, just as you are sharers of the sufferings, in the same way you will also share the comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:7) At the conclusion of his letter, Paul urged: “Continue . . . to be comforted, . . . and the God of love and of peace will be with you.”—2 Corinthians 13:11.
12. What need do all Christians have?
12 What an important lesson we can learn from this! All members of the Christian congregation need to “share the comfort” that God provides through his Word, his holy spirit, and his earthly organization. Even disfellowshipped ones may be in need of comfort if they have repented and corrected their wrong course. Thus, “the faithful and discreet slave” has instituted a merciful provision to assist them. Once a year two elders may visit certain disfellowshipped ones. These may no longer show a rebellious attitude or be engaged in gross sin and may need help to take the necessary steps to get reinstated.—Matthew 24:45; Ezekiel 34:16.
Paul’s Tribulation in Asia
13, 14. (a) How did Paul describe a time of severe tribulation that he experienced in Asia? (b) What incident may Paul have had in mind?
13 The kind of suffering that the Corinthian congregation had experienced up to this point could not be compared with the many tribulations that Paul had to endure. Thus, he could remind them: “We do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, about the tribulation that happened to us in the district of Asia, that we were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death. This was that we might have our trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises up the dead. From such a great thing as death he did rescue us and will rescue us; and our hope is in him that he will also rescue us further.”—2 Corinthians 1:8-10.
14 Some Bible scholars believe that Paul was referring to the riot in Ephesus, which could have cost Paul as well as his two Macedonian traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, their lives. These two Christians were forcibly taken into a theater that was packed with a mob who “shouted for about two hours: ‘Great is Artemis [the goddess] of the Ephesians!’” Eventually, a city official succeeded in quieting the crowd. This threat to the lives of Gaius and Aristarchus must have greatly distressed Paul. In fact, he wanted to go in and reason with the fanatic mob, but he was prevented from risking his life in this way.—Acts 19:26-41.
15. What extreme situation may be described at 1 Corinthians 15:32?
15 However, Paul may have been describing a situation far more extreme than the foregoing incident. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul asked: “If, like men, I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, of what good is it to me?” (1 Corinthians 15:32) This may mean that Paul’s life was threatened not just by beastly men but by literal wild animals in the stadium of Ephesus. Criminals were sometimes punished by being forced to fight wild beasts while bloodthirsty crowds looked on. If Paul meant that he had faced literal wild beasts, he must at the last moment have been miraculously spared from a cruel death, just as Daniel was saved from the mouth of literal lions.—Daniel 6:22.
16. (a) Why can many of Jehovah’s Witnesses identify with the tribulations suffered by Paul? (b) Of what can we be sure regarding those who died because of their faith? (c) What good effect has come when Christians experience narrow escapes from death?
16 Many present-day Christians can relate to the tribulations suffered by Paul. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Today, too, Christians have been “under extreme pressure beyond [their] strength,” and many have faced situations in which they ‘were very uncertain of their lives.’ (2 Corinthians 1:8) Some have died at the hands of mass murderers and cruel persecutors. We can be sure that God’s comforting power enabled them to endure and that they died with hearts and minds firmly fixed on the fulfillment of their hope, be that a heavenly hope or an earthly one. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13; Revelation 2:10) In other cases, Jehovah has maneuvered matters, and our brothers have been rescued from death. No doubt those who have undergone such a rescue have developed increased trust “in the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) Afterward, they could speak with even greater conviction as they shared God’s comforting message with others.—Matthew 24:14.
17-19. What experiences show that our brothers in Rwanda have been sharers in God’s comfort?
17 Recently our dear brothers in Rwanda went through an experience similar to that of Paul and his companions. Many lost their lives, but Satan’s efforts failed to destroy their faith. Rather, our brothers in this land have experienced God’s comfort in many personal ways. During the genocide of Tutsi and Hutu living in Rwanda, there were Hutu who risked their lives to protect Tutsi and Tutsi who protected Hutu. Some were killed by extremists for protecting their fellow believers. For example, a Hutu Witness named Gahizi was killed after hiding a Tutsi sister named Chantal. Chantal’s Tutsi husband, Jean, was hidden in another location by a Hutu sister named Charlotte. For 40 days Jean and another Tutsi brother remained hidden in a large chimney, only coming out for brief periods during the night. All this time, Charlotte provided them with food and protection, although living close to a Hutu army camp. On this page, you can see a picture of a reunited Jean and Chantal, who are thankful that their Hutu fellow worshipers ‘risked their necks’ for them, just as Prisca and Aquila did for the apostle Paul.—Romans 16:3, 4.
18 Another Hutu Witness, Rwakabubu, was praised by the newspaper Intaremara for protecting Tutsi fellow believers.* It stated: “There is also Rwakabubu, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who continued to hide people here and there among his brothers (that’s how fellow believers call one another). He used to spend the whole day long carrying food and drinking water for them though he is an asthmatic. But God made him extraordinarily strong.”
19 Consider, too, an interested Hutu couple named Nicodeme and Athanasie. Before the outbreak of genocide, this married couple had been studying the Bible with a Tutsi Witness named Alphonse. At the risk of their lives, they hid Alphonse in their home. Later they realized that the house was not a safe place because their Hutu neighbors knew about their Tutsi friend. Therefore, Nicodeme and Athanasie hid Alphonse in a hole in their yard. This was a good move because the neighbors began to come searching for Alphonse almost every day. While lying in this hole for 28 days, Alphonse meditated on Bible accounts such as the one about Rahab, who hid two Israelites on the roof of her house in Jericho. (Joshua 6:17) Today Alphonse continues his service in Rwanda as a preacher of the good news, thankful that his Hutu Bible students risked their lives for him. And what about Nicodeme and Athanasie? They are now baptized Witnesses of Jehovah and conduct over 20 Bible studies with interested persons.
20. In what way has Jehovah comforted our brothers in Rwanda, but what continued need do many of them have?
20 At the time the genocide in Rwanda started, there were 2,500 proclaimers of the good news in the country. Although hundreds lost their lives or were compelled to flee the country, the number of Witnesses has increased to over 3,000. That is proof that God indeed comforted our brothers. What about the many orphans and widows among Jehovah’s Witnesses? Naturally, these still suffer tribulation and need continued comfort. (James 1:27) Their tears will be completely wiped away only when the resurrection takes place in God’s new world. Nevertheless, thanks to the ministrations of their brothers and because they are worshipers of “the God of all comfort,” they are able to cope with life.
21. (a) Where else have our brothers been in dire need of God’s comfort, and what is one way in which all of us can help? (See box “Comfort During Four Years of War.”) (b) When will our need for comfort be completely satisfied?
21 In many other places, such as Eritrea, Singapore, and the former Yugoslavia, our brothers continue to serve Jehovah faithfully despite tribulation. May we help such brothers by making regular supplications that they may receive comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:11) And may we endure faithfully until the time when God through Jesus Christ “will wipe out every tear from [our] eyes” in the fullest sense. Then we will experience to a complete degree the comfort Jehovah will supply in his new world of righteousness.—Revelation 7:17; 21:4; 2 Peter 3:13.
The Watchtower, January 1, 1995, page 26, related the experience of Rwakabubu’s daughter, Deborah, whose prayer touched a band of Hutu soldiers and saved the family from being murdered.
Do You Know?
□ Why is Jehovah called “the God of all comfort”?
□ How should we view tribulations?
□ With whom can we share comfort?
□ How will our need for comfort be completely satisfied?
[Picture on page 17]
Jean and Chantal, though being Tutsi Witnesses, were hidden in separate locations by Hutu Witnesses during the genocide in Rwanda
[Picture on page 17]
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to share God’s comforting message with their neighbors in Rwanda