Jehovah Delivers the Afflicted One
“Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.”—PSALM 34:19.
1, 2. What problem did one faithful Christian face, and why may we be subject to similar feelings?
A YOUNG woman named Keiko* has been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for more than 20 years. For a time, she served as a regular pioneer, or full-time Kingdom proclaimer. She deeply cherished that privilege. Not long ago, however, Keiko became overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and isolation. “All I could do was cry,” she says. To combat her negative thinking, Keiko devoted more time to personal study. “Still, I could not turn my condition around,” she says. “It got to the point that I wanted to die.”
2 Have you struggled with similar feelings of despair? As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you have abundant reason to rejoice because godly devotion “holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) Right now you dwell in a spiritual paradise! However, does that mean that you are shielded from all affliction? Hardly! The Bible says: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one.” (Psalm 34:19) This is not surprising, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. (1 John 5:19) To one degree or another, all of us experience the effects of that reality.—Ephesians 6:12.
The Effects of Affliction
3. Give Bible examples of God’s servants who experienced deep distress.
3 Prolonged distress can darken our entire outlook. (Proverbs 15:15) Consider the upright man Job. In the midst of a terrible ordeal, Job said: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Job’s joy had vanished. For a time, he even thought that Jehovah had abandoned him. (Job 29:1-5) Job was not the only servant of God to experience intense anguish. The Bible tells us that Hannah was “bitter of soul” because of her childless state. (1 Samuel 1:9-11) Tormented over a family situation, Rebekah said: “I have come to abhor this life of mine.” (Genesis 27:46) When reflecting on his errors, David said: “All day long I have walked about sad.” (Psalm 38:6) These few examples make it clear that God-fearing men and women of the pre-Christian era endured periods of deep distress.
4. Why is it not surprising that there are “depressed souls” among Christians today?
4 What about Christians? The apostle Paul found it necessary to tell the Thessalonians to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) One reference work notes that the Greek word translated “depressed souls” can refer to those “who are temporarily overwhelmed by the stress of life.” Paul’s words indicate that some spirit-anointed ones in that congregation at Thessalonica were downhearted. There are depressed souls among Christians today too. But why are they despondent? Let us consider three common causes.
Our Sinful Nature Can Distress Us
5, 6. What comfort can be drawn from Romans 7:22-25?
5 Unlike corrupt individuals who are “past all moral sense,” true Christians are pained by their sinful state. (Ephesians 4:19) They may feel as did Paul, who wrote: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” Then Paul exclaimed: “Miserable man that I am!”—Romans 7:22-24.
6 Have you ever felt as Paul did? It is not wrong for you to be keenly aware of your imperfections, for this can impress upon you the gravity of sin and can strengthen your resolve to shun badness. But you do not need to be in a constant state of misery over your shortcomings. To his words of distress just quoted, Paul added: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Yes, Paul had confidence that Jesus’ shed blood could redeem him from inherited sin.—Romans 5:18.
7. What can help a person not to be distressed because of his sinful tendencies?
7 If you feel overwhelmed by your sinful nature, take comfort in the words of the apostle John, who wrote: “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:1, 2) If you are distressed because of your sinful tendencies, always remember that Jesus died for sinners, not for perfect people. Really, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
8, 9. Why should we reject self-condemning thoughts?
8 Suppose, however, that you sinned seriously in the past. No doubt, you have taken the matter to Jehovah in prayer, perhaps quite often. You have received spiritual help from Christian elders. (James 5:14, 15) You were truly repentant and therefore remained a part of the congregation. Or perhaps you left God’s organization for a while, but you later repented and regained a clean standing. In either situation, your past sin may come to mind and distress you. If that happens, remember that Jehovah forgives truly repentant ones “in a large way.” (Isaiah 55:7) Furthermore, he does not want you to feel hopelessly condemned. That would serve Satan’s purpose. (2 Corinthians 2:7, 10, 11) The Devil will be destroyed because that is what he deserves, but he would like to have you feel that you deserve the same judgment. (Revelation 20:10) Do not let Satan succeed in this scheme to destroy your faith. (Ephesians 6:11) Instead, “take your stand against him” in this regard, even as you do in other ways.—1 Peter 5:9.
9 At Revelation 12:10, Satan is called “the accuser of our brothers”—anointed Christians. He “accuses them day and night” before God. Reflecting on that verse may help you to see that Satan, the false accuser, would be pleased if you were to accuse and condemn yourself, although Jehovah does not do so. (1 John 3:19-22) Why keep on agonizing over your failings to such an extent that you feel like giving up? Do not let Satan destroy your relationship with God. Never let the Devil blind you to the fact that Jehovah is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.”—Exodus 34:6.
Our Limitations Can Discourage Us
10. In what ways might our limitations discourage us?
10 Some Christians are discouraged because of the way their limitations affect their service to God. Is that true of you? It may be that a serious illness, advanced years, or other circumstances prevent you from devoting as much time to the ministry as you did in the past. Granted, Christians are encouraged to buy out time for God’s service. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) But what if genuine limitations prevent you from doing more in the ministry and this is a source of discouragement to you?
11. How can Paul’s counsel recorded at Galatians 6:4 benefit us?
11 The Bible urges us not to be sluggish but to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) We can do this only if we examine their fine example and seek to imitate their faith. However, we will not benefit if we compare ourselves unfavorably with others and conclude that nothing we do is good enough. Therefore, we do well to apply Paul’s counsel: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4.
12. Why can we exult in the service we render to Jehovah?
12 Christians have good reason to exult, even when they are limited by severe health problems. The Bible assures us: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) It may be that circumstances beyond your control have made it difficult for you to maintain the level of activity that you once enjoyed. With Jehovah’s help, however, you may be able to engage more fully in certain aspects of the Christian ministry, such as telephone witnessing and letter writing. You can be sure that Jehovah God will bless you for your whole-souled service and the love you show for him and for fellow humans.—Matthew 22:36-40.
“Critical Times” Can Wear Us Down
13, 14. (a) In what ways may these “critical times” cause us affliction? (b) How is a lack of natural affection evident today?
13 Although we look forward to life in God’s righteous new world, right now we live in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) We take comfort in the knowledge that distressing events point to the nearness of our deliverance. Yet, we are affected by the conditions that surround us. For example, what if you are unemployed? Jobs may be scarce, and as the months pass, you could wonder if Jehovah sees your plight or hears your prayers. Or perhaps you have become the victim of discrimination or some other form of injustice. Even scanning newspaper headlines can make you feel as did the righteous man Lot, who was “greatly distressed” (“worn down,” Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) by the loose conduct of those around him.—2 Peter 2:7.
14 There is one particular aspect of the last days that we cannot overlook. The Bible foretold that many would have “no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) Family affection is sorely lacking in many households. Indeed, “evidence suggests that people are more likely to be killed, physically assaulted, or emotionally or sexually abused by other family members than by anyone else,” says the book Family Violence. “The place where people should be loved and feel safe is, for some adults and children, the most dangerous place of all.” Those who have been exposed to an unwholesome home environment may in later years experience bouts of anxiety and despair. What if this is true of you?
15. How is Jehovah’s love superior to that of any human?
15 The psalmist David sang: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) How comforting to know that Jehovah’s love exceeds that of any human parent! As painful as rejection, mistreatment, or abandonment by a parent may be, it has no bearing on how much Jehovah cares for you. (Romans 8:38, 39) Remember that God draws those whom he loves. (John 3:16; 6:44) Regardless of how you have been treated by humans, you are loved by your heavenly Father!
Practical Steps to Relieve Despondency
16, 17. When faced with despondency, what can a person do to preserve his spiritual strength?
16 You can take practical steps to cope with despondency. For instance, follow a healthy program of Christian activity. Meditate on God’s Word, especially when discouragement seems overwhelming. The psalmist sang: “When I said: ‘My foot will certainly move unsteadily,’ your own loving-kindness, O Jehovah, kept sustaining me. When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul.” (Psalm 94:18, 19) Regular Bible reading will help to fill your mind with consoling words and sustaining thoughts.
17 Prayer too is vital. Even if you cannot fully express the depth of your feelings in words, Jehovah knows what you are trying to say. (Romans 8:26, 27) The psalmist gave this assurance: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.
18. What practical steps might a depressed one take?
18 Some experience despair because of clinical depression.* If this is true of you, try to focus some of your attention on God’s new world and the time when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) If your negative feelings seem to be much more than an occasional case of the blues, it might be wise to seek professional help. (Matthew 9:12) It is also important to take care of yourself physically. A healthful diet and some exercise may be helpful. Make sure that you are getting needed rest. Do not stay up late watching television, and avoid forms of recreation that will leave you physically and emotionally depleted. Above all, continue to engage in godly works! Although it is not yet the time when Jehovah will “wipe out every tear,” he will help you to endure.—Revelation 21:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Living “Under the Mighty Hand of God”
19. What does Jehovah promise those who are afflicted?
19 The Bible assures us that although the calamities of the righteous one are many, “out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19) How does God do this? When the apostle Paul repeatedly prayed for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh,” Jehovah told him: “My power is being made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) What did Jehovah promise Paul, and what does he promise you? Not a present-day cure, but the power to endure.
20. Despite our trials, we are assured of what at 1 Peter 5:6, 7?
20 The apostle Peter wrote: “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6, 7) Because Jehovah cares for you, he will not abandon you. He will support you despite the trials you experience. Bear in mind that faithful Christians are “under the mighty hand of God.” As we serve Jehovah, he gives us strength to endure. If we are faithful to him, nothing can do us permanent spiritual harm. May we, therefore, maintain integrity to Jehovah so that we can enjoy everlasting life in his promised new world and see the day when he will indeed have delivered the afflicted one permanently!
Name has been changed.
More than discouragement, clinical depression is a diagnosed condition in which sadness is intense and ongoing. For additional information, see The Watchtower of October 15, 1988, pages 25-9; November 15, 1988, pages 21-4; and September 1, 1996, pages 30-1.
Do You Recall?
• Why does affliction affect even servants of Jehovah?
• What are some factors that can cause some of God’s people to feel despondent?
• How does Jehovah help us to cope with our anxieties?
• In what way are we “under the mighty hand of God”?
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Despite trials, Jehovah’s people have reason to rejoice
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Telephone witnessing is one way to give Jehovah your best