How to Find Hope Amid Despair
IMAGINE that you were to have the following experiences: All your material possessions are wiped out, leaving you destitute. Your children—the joy of your life—are no more. Your spouse is not giving you moral support. Your health has literally collapsed. Every day is an agonizing ordeal.
If that came to be your lot in life, could you find a reason to keep on living? Or would you succumb to despair?
The sad plight just described was the true-life experience of Job, a man who lived in Bible times. (Job, chapters 1, 2) At a very low point, Job lamented: “My soul certainly feels a loathing toward my life.” He would have welcomed death as a relief. (Job 10:1; 14:13) In spite of his monumental suffering, however, Job maintained his integrity to God. Jehovah therefore “blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” He thus died in peace, “old and satisfied with days.”—Job 42:12, 17.
Job set an example in endurance that is acclaimed down to this day. His trials refined his personality and motivated others to good works. (James 5:10, 11) Most important of all, Job’s flawless integrity made Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) So it was that a nightmare of agony eventually became a tremendous triumph of godliness, faith, and integrity that brought blessings to Job and to all those who have been moved by his example.
Hope Despite Various Trials
You may suffer trials similar to those experienced by Job. The loss of a loved one may have left you emotionally devastated. Severe illness may have made your existence a painful ordeal. Your whole way of life may seem to have disintegrated in a heartbreaking divorce. Economic reverses may have left you destitute. You may be the object of vicious persecution by hateful opposers of true worship. The struggle to cope with your trials may have left you feeling that your future is hopeless.—1 Peter 1:6.
Rather than give way to despair, ask yourself, ‘Why am I suffering?’ You are suffering because you are living in a world that is “lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. (1 John 5:19) As a result, everybody suffers. In some way all of us are affected by the Devil-inspired hatred for the Kingdom message, the unloving words of others, or the horrendous acts of ungodly conduct that are so common in these “critical times.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
If something tragic has occurred in your life, you may have been a victim of “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) On the other hand, things sometimes go wrong in life because of our own inherited sinfulness. (Romans 5:12) Even if you have erred seriously but have repented and sought spiritual help, do not feel that you have been abandoned by God. (Psalm 103:10-14; James 5:13-15) More than anyone else, he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) You can be confident that “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:18) No matter how tragic or severe your trial may be, Jehovah can give you the wisdom to deal with it. (James 1:5-8) Always remember that Jehovah can heal all wounds. When you have his favor, nothing can prevent you from gaining the prize of life.—Romans 8:38, 39.
Can Anything Good Come From Trials?
There is an old saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” That is a simple way of saying that no matter how bad things get, you can always find a reason for hope. The purpose behind everything written in God’s Word is that “we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) No matter how severe your plight, the promises and principles in the Bible can bring you renewed joy and hope.
The Scriptures show that “tribulation is momentary and light” when compared to the eternal blessings set before those who love God. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) The Bible also indicates that godly qualities developed amid trials are of far greater value than fame or material wealth. (1 John 2:15-17) Thus, even suffering can serve a good purpose. (Hebrews 5:8) In fact, applying what is learned during trials can bring you unexpected blessings.
A difficult trial may make you more mellow. You may admit that in the past you had a personality trait that caused irritation to others and even hindered your spiritual progress. Perhaps it was overconfidence. After being laid low by some calamity, you may suddenly realize how frail you are and how much you need others. If your trial has taught you that lesson and you have made needed changes, it has benefited you.
What if, in the past, others found it hard to deal with you because you had difficulty controlling your spirit? This may even have caused you some distress in connection with your health. (Proverbs 14:29, 30) Now, however, the situation may be much better because you are relying on God’s spirit to help you exercise self-control.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Like others, you possibly at one time lacked the compassion to be merciful toward those who err. But if you yourself fell into a situation where you felt a great need for mercy, likely you are now more inclined to be merciful toward others. The heartwarming sympathy, concern, and mercy you were shown have made you realize that you should display similar qualities toward repentant wrongdoers. If your pain has moved you to correct these weaknesses in your personality, this is one benefit you have drawn from your experience. You have learned that “mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.”—James 2:13; Matthew 5:7.
What if discipline by the Christian congregation has cost you cherished privileges and the respect of others? Do not succumb to despair. Disciplinary action helps to keep the congregation clean, but its objectives include the spiritual restoration of the wrongdoer. Admittedly, “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) Though discipline can be a devastating blow, it does not leave the humbly repentant person without hope. Ancient Israel’s King David was severely disciplined for wrongdoing, but he was repentant and eventually received special commendation as a man of outstanding faith.—2 Samuel 12:7-12; Psalm 32:5; Hebrews 11:32-34.
A trial could have a profound effect on your outlook. In the past, your attention may have centered on materialistic goals and achievements that brought you recognition and social status in this world. Perhaps a trial associated with a financial reverse or material losses has focused your thoughts on more important things. (Compare Philippians 1:10.) Now you realize that spiritual values and goals in sacred service are the only things that bring true joy and lasting satisfaction.
Trust in Jehovah
Rendering sacred service to Jehovah may result in persecution and suffering at the hands of those who oppose your Christian beliefs. You may feel downtrodden because of this trial, but good can come from it. This test may strengthen your faith. Moreover, others suffering persecution may be encouraged and strengthened by observing your perseverance. Eyewitnesses of your fine conduct may be motivated to glorify God. Even your opposers may get ashamed and acknowledge your good works!—1 Peter 2:12; 3:16.
To avoid despair when persecuted, you need to trust in Jehovah. His Word shows that relief from a trial is sure to come, but it may not arrive as soon as you would like. In the meantime, “do not give up in doing right.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13) Keep searching for ways to cope with trials and to endure. Even when things look hopeless, “throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) Rather than immersing yourself in self-pity, think about how blessed you are to know Jehovah, to have a place among his people, and to possess the hope of endless life.—John 3:16, 36.
Keep your mind focused on the essentials. Go to Jehovah every day in prayer, asking for strength to endure. (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) Dismiss any thought of retaliating against those causing your suffering. Leave matters in Jehovah’s hands. (Romans 12:19) Keep looking for ways to refine your personality, cultivating Christian qualities. (2 Peter 1:5-8) Appreciate everything done for you by others, including the elders who lovingly care for your spiritual needs. (Hebrews 13:7, 17) Be faithful to God, and keep your eye on the prize of life, confident that not even death can rob you of it.—John 5:28, 29; 17:3.
If you are now experiencing great sadness or severe trials, “trust in Jehovah with all your heart,” and abundant joy will eventually replace your grief and hardship. (Proverbs 3:5, 6; John 16:20) Misery will give way to happiness when God blesses you as he did Job. Present-day sufferings do not amount to anything when compared with your reward. (Compare Romans 8:18.) Your faithful endurance can encourage others and help you to cultivate the beautiful Christian qualities that come with “the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:23, 24; Colossians 3:10, 12-14) So, then, draw courage from the apostle Peter’s wise advice: “Let those who are suffering in harmony with the will of God keep on commending their souls to a faithful Creator while they are doing good.”—1 Peter 4:19.
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Be like Job. Never lose hope
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Trust in Jehovah with all your heart