“The God of Peace” Cares for the Afflicted
THE Bible makes it clear that David of old was no stranger to affliction. For several years he lived as a fugitive, relentlessly pursued by a wicked and obstinate king, who was bent on killing him. During this period of affliction, David hid himself in isolated places. But he did something more. He earnestly prayed to Jehovah about his adversity. “With my voice, to Jehovah I proceeded to call for aid,” he later wrote regarding his ordeal. “Before him I kept pouring out my concern; before him I continued to tell about my own distress.”—Psalm 142:1, 2.
Today, some would mock David’s reliance on God. They would say that prayer is just a psychological crutch and that in practical terms it is a waste of time. Yet, David’s confidence in God was not misplaced, for his enemies were eventually defeated. Looking back on his experience, David wrote: “This afflicted one called, and Jehovah himself heard. And out of all his distresses He saved him.” (Psalm 34:6) The true God to whom David turned is elsewhere called “the God of peace.” (Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20) Will he bring relief from affliction, resulting in peace for us?
Jehovah Cares for You
Jehovah is not aloof concerning the adversities of his people. (Psalm 34:15) He is attentive to the needs not only of his servants as a group but also of each individual who fears him. When dedicating the temple in ancient Jerusalem, Solomon implored Jehovah to listen to “whatever prayer, whatever request for favor there may occur on the part of any man or of all your people Israel, because they know each one his own plague and his own pain.” (2 Chronicles 6:29) As Solomon acknowledged, each individual has his own unique affliction to endure. For one person it might be physical illness. For another, emotional distress. Some may be afflicted by the death of a loved one. Unemployment, economic hardship, and family problems are also common afflictions in these difficult times.
Think for a moment about ‘your own plague and your own pain.’ At times you have perhaps felt as did the psalmist David, who wrote: “I kept hoping for someone to show sympathy, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” Yet, you can be assured that God cares about your situation, for later in the same psalm, David wrote: “Jehovah is listening to the poor ones, and he will indeed not despise his very own prisoners.”—Psalm 69:20, 33.
Applying David’s words in a broad sense, we can rest assured that the Creator of mankind listens to the prayers of those who are imprisoned, so to speak, by their afflictions. More than that, he reacts to their plight. Consider the following statements that reveal Jehovah’s compassion for the afflicted.
“You people must not afflict any widow or fatherless boy. If you should afflict him at all, then if he cries out to me at all, I shall unfailingly hear his outcry; and my anger will indeed blaze.”—Exodus 22:22-24.
“Shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them?”—Luke 18:7.
“He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Psalm 72:12-14.
“He that is touching you [God’s people on earth] is touching my eyeball.”—Zechariah 2:8.
These few examples illustrate our Creator’s deep interest in the welfare of his people. Hence, we have good reason to follow the apostle Peter’s admonition: “Throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) But how will God help us during times of affliction?
How God Helps the Afflicted
As we have seen, when David suffered affliction, he earnestly prayed to God for guidance. At the same time, he took the initiative to alleviate the situation, using ingenuity to escape his pursuers. Thus, reliance on Jehovah combined with personal effort enabled David to endure his adversity. What can we learn from this?
When we are faced with affliction, it is certainly not wrong for us to take reasonable initiative to solve the problem. For example, if a Christian finds himself unemployed, will he not put forth effort to find work? Or if he is suffering from a physical ailment, will he not seek medical attention? Indeed, even Jesus, who had the power to cure all types of sickness, acknowledged that ‘the ailing need a physician.’ (Matthew 9:12; compare 1 Timothy 5:23.) Of course, some adversities cannot be removed; they simply must be endured. Nevertheless, a true Christian does not view suffering as a virtue in itself, as do some. (Compare 1 Kings 18:28.) Rather, he takes whatever steps he can to cope with his affliction.
At the same time, though, it is reasonable to take the matter to Jehovah in prayer. Why? First, by leaning on our Creator, we are helped to “make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) For instance, when searching for employment, prayerful reliance on God will help us not to accept work that conflicts with Bible principles. We will also avoid being “led astray from the faith” by the love of money. (1 Timothy 6:10) Really, when making weighty decisions—regarding employment or any other facet of life—we need to follow David’s admonition: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.
Prayer also helps us to keep our mental balance, so that our affliction does not overwhelm us. The apostle Paul wrote: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” With what result? “The peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Yes, peace, the peace of God. That peace “excels all thought,” so it can stabilize us when we are burdened with distressing emotions. It will ‘guard our hearts and mental powers,’ thus helping us to avoid reacting rashly and unwisely, which could add to our affliction.—Ecclesiastes 7:7.
Prayer can do still more. It can make a difference in how a situation works out. Consider a Bible example. When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he encouraged fellow Christians to pray in his behalf. Why? “I exhort you more especially to do this,” he wrote to them, “that I may be restored to you the sooner.” (Hebrews 13:19) Paul knew that the persistent prayers of his fellow believers could make a difference as to when he would be released.—Philemon 22.
Will prayer change the outcome of your affliction? It may. We should realize, though, that Jehovah does not always answer our prayers in the manner that we may expect. Paul, for example, prayed repeatedly regarding his “thorn in the flesh”—perhaps a physical problem related to his eyesight. Instead of removing the affliction, God told Paul: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you; for my power is being made perfect in weakness.”—2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
So at times our adversities will not be removed. Rather, we will have opportunity to prove our reliance on our Creator. (Acts 14:22) Furthermore, we can be assured that even if Jehovah does not remove the affliction, he will “make the way out in order for [us] to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Yes, it is for good reason that Jehovah is called “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) He gives us what we need to endure with considerable peace.
Soon—A World Without Affliction!
The Creator promises that by means of his Kingdom, he will soon do away with mankind’s afflictions. How will he accomplish this? By removing Satan the Devil, the chief instigator of affliction and the foremost enemy of peace, whom the Bible identifies as “the god of this system of things.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) But soon his control over mankind will end. His being eliminated will open the way for countless blessings to come to those who fear God. The Bible promises that Jehovah will “wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:1-4.
Does a world without affliction sound too good to be true? We are so accustomed to living with adversity that we are hard-pressed to imagine its absence. But freedom from fear, anxiety, and calamity is just what God purposed for mankind at creation, and his purpose will succeed.—Isaiah 55:10, 11.
This is the hope that Sonia, Fabiana, and Ana, mentioned in the opening article, found. Sonia, whose two sons died of AIDS, gained much peace from the hope that the Bible holds out—a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 24:15) “One thing is certain,” she says, “our hope surpasses any pain whatsoever.”
While still living in the orphanage, Ana was visited by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “She showed me Jehovah’s name in the Bible,” says Ana, “and I cried for joy. I needed help badly, and I learned that there is a God who cares for us.” After leaving the orphanage, Ana accepted a Bible study and learned more about Jehovah’s promises. Then she dedicated her life to Jehovah and symbolized it by baptism. “Since then I have continued to rely on Jehovah through prayer, and I am comforted by the assurance that he will help me.”
Fabiana too has found much comfort and peace of mind in her affliction by learning about God’s promises for the future. “Learning the truth from the Bible is like leaving a very dark and gloomy place and entering a clear, bright, and pleasant room.”—Compare Psalm 118:5.
But how and when will literal peace all around the globe come about? Let us see in the following articles.
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The Many Faces of Affliction
▪ Approximately a quarter of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, and millions more live in subhuman conditions that threaten their survival.
▪ More than 200 million children are undernourished.
▪ Each year diarrhea kills about three million children under five years of age.
▪ Infectious diseases killed some 16.5 million people in 1993 alone. Since some countries categorize illnesses differently, the true number may be much higher.
▪ An estimated 500 million people are affected by some type of mental problem.
▪ Suicide rates are increasing more rapidly among youths than in any other age bracket.
▪ “Hunger and unemployment have become blots on the world,” states The Unesco Courier. “There are 35 million unemployed in the world’s seven wealthiest nations, and in Brazil alone there are 20 million workers for whom having a job does not even mean that they will be able to eat their fill.”
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Prayer can help us focus on God’s promise of a world without affliction