Maintain Joy in Times of Trouble
“All those taking refuge in [Jehovah] will rejoice; to time indefinite they will cry out joyfully.”—PS. 5:11.
1, 2. (a) What are some things that cause much distress today? (b) Besides the calamities common to all, what must true Christians endure?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES are not immune to the calamities that befall mankind in general. Many of God’s people have been victims of crime, war, and other injustices. Natural disasters, poverty, sickness, and death cause much distress. The apostle Paul aptly wrote: “We know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22) We are also victims of our own imperfection. Like King David of old, we may say: “My own errors have passed over my head; like a heavy load they are too heavy for me.”—Ps. 38:4.
2 Besides the calamities common to all humans, true Christians carry the figurative torture stake. (Luke 14:27) Yes, like Jesus, his disciples are hated and persecuted. (Matt. 10:22, 23; John 15:20; 16:2) Hence, following the Christ requires vigorous exertion and endurance while we await the blessings of the new world.—Matt. 7:13, 14; Luke 13:24.
3. How do we know that Christians need not experience a life of suffering to please God?
3 Does this mean that true Christians pursue a life devoid of joy and happiness? Should our lives be marked only by sadness and grief until the end comes? Clearly, Jehovah wants us to be happy as we await the fulfillment of his promises. Time and again, the Bible describes true worshippers as happy people. (Read Isaiah 65:13, 14.) “All those taking refuge in [Jehovah] will rejoice; to time indefinite they will cry out joyfully,” says Psalm 5:11. Yes, it is possible to experience considerable joy, peace of mind, and contentment even in the midst of calamities. Let us review how the Bible can help us to face our trials and still be joyful.
Jehovah—“The Happy God”
4. How does God feel when his will is ignored?
4 Consider Jehovah, for example. As God Almighty, he has the entire universe under his authority. He lacks nothing and needs no one. Despite his unsurpassed power, however, Jehovah must have felt some disappointment when one of his spirit sons rebelled and became Satan. God must have been affected later when some other angels joined in the rebellion. Think, too, of the pain felt by God when Adam and Eve, the masterpieces of his physical creation, turned their backs on him. Since then, billions of their descendants have rejected Jehovah’s authority.—Rom. 3:23.
5. What has especially distressed Jehovah?
5 Satan’s revolt is still going strong. For some 6,000 years, Jehovah has observed acts of idolatry, violence, murder, and sexual perversion. (Gen. 6:5, 6, 11, 12) Furthermore, he has heard despicable lies and blasphemies. Even God’s own true worshippers have on occasion hurt his feelings. The Bible describes one such situation with the words: “How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness, they would make him feel hurt in the desert! And again and again they would put God to the test, and they pained even the Holy One of Israel.” (Ps. 78:40, 41) The pain that Jehovah feels when his people reject him is certainly great. (Jer. 3:1-10) Clearly, bad things happen, and Jehovah feels deeply distressed when they do.—Read Isaiah 63:9, 10.
6. How does God face distressing situations?
6 Yet, Jehovah is not paralyzed by hurt and disappointment. When complications have arisen, Jehovah has promptly taken steps to minimize the bad consequences of what happened. He has also taken long-term measures so that in the end his purpose will be fulfilled. In view of these positive actions, Jehovah joyfully looks forward to the vindication of his sovereignty and to the resulting blessings for his loyal worshippers. (Ps. 104:31) Yes, despite the reproach that has been heaped on him, Jehovah remains “the happy God.”—1 Tim. 1:11; Ps. 16:11.
7, 8. When things go wrong, how may we imitate Jehovah?
7 Granted, we cannot compare ourselves to Jehovah when it comes to our ability to solve problems. Still, we can imitate Jehovah as we confront our adversities. It is only normal to feel some dejection when things go wrong, but we need not remain in such a state. Because we were created in Jehovah’s image, we have thinking ability and practical wisdom, allowing us to analyze our problems and take positive action whenever possible.
8 One important factor that can help us cope with life’s problems is to recognize that certain things are simply beyond our control. Agonizing over such matters may lead to added frustration and rob us of the many joys associated with true worship. After taking reasonable measures to resolve a problem, it is best to move on and focus on more productive endeavors. The following Bible accounts well illustrate this point.
Reasonableness Is Vital
9. How did Hannah display reasonableness?
9 Consider the example of Hannah, who eventually became the mother of Samuel the prophet. She was disheartened over the fact that she was unable to bear children. She was mocked and taunted on account of her barrenness. At times, Hannah was so discouraged that she would weep and not eat. (1 Sam. 1:2-7) During one of her visits to Jehovah’s sanctuary, Hannah became “bitter of soul, and she began to pray to Jehovah and to weep greatly.” (1 Sam. 1:10) After Hannah poured out her feelings to Jehovah, Eli the high priest approached her and said: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of him.” (1 Sam. 1:17) At this point, Hannah surely realized that she had done all she could. Her infertility was out of her control. Hannah displayed reasonableness. She then “proceeded to go on her way and to eat, and her face became self-concerned no more.”—1 Sam. 1:18.
10. Paul manifested what realistic outlook when faced with a problem he could not solve?
10 The apostle Paul manifested a similar outlook when faced with adversity. He had an affliction that caused him much distress. He called it “a thorn in the flesh.” (2 Cor. 12:7) Whatever its nature, Paul did what he could to remove this affliction, praying to Jehovah for relief. How often did Paul entreat Jehovah about the matter? Three times. After the third time, God revealed to Paul that the “thorn in the flesh” would not be removed miraculously. Paul accepted this fact and concentrated on serving Jehovah fully.—Read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.
11. What role do prayer and supplication play in our coping with calamities?
11 These examples do not mean that we should stop praying to Jehovah about distressing matters. (Ps. 86:7) On the contrary, God’s Word entreats us: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” How will Jehovah respond to such supplications and petitions? The Bible adds: “And the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) Yes, Jehovah may not take away our problem, but he can respond to our prayers by guarding our mental powers. After praying about a matter, we may realize the danger of being consumed by anxieties.
Find Delight in Doing God’s Will
12. Why can prolonged periods of discouragement prove harmful?
12 Proverbs 24:10 acknowledges: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” Another proverb says: “Because of the pain of the heart there is a stricken spirit.” (Prov. 15:13) Some Christians have become disheartened to the point of discontinuing their personal Bible reading and their meditation on God’s Word. Their prayers have become perfunctory, and they may isolate themselves from fellow worshippers. Clearly, remaining in a state of dejection can be harmful.—Prov. 18:1, 14.
13. What are some activities that can help dispel discouragement and give us a measure of joy?
13 On the other hand, a positive perspective will help us to focus on aspects of our lives from which we can derive delight and joy. David wrote: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.” (Ps. 40:8) When matters go wrong in our lives, the last thing we should do is discontinue our healthy routine of worship. In fact, an antidote for sadness is to engage in activities that bring happiness. Jehovah tells us that we can find delight and happiness in reading his Word and in peering into it regularly. (Ps. 1:1, 2; Jas. 1:25) Both from the Holy Scriptures and from Christian meetings, we receive “pleasant sayings” that can buoy us up and make our hearts rejoice.—Prov. 12:25; 16:24.
14. What assurance from Jehovah brings us joy now?
14 God gives us many reasons to be joyful. His promise of salvation is indeed a major source of happiness. (Ps. 13:5) We know that regardless of what is happening to us now, in the end God will reward those who earnestly seek him. (Read Ecclesiastes 8:12.) The prophet Habakkuk expressed such conviction beautifully when he wrote: “Although the fig tree itself may not blossom, and there may be no yield on the vines; the work of the olive tree may actually turn out a failure, and the terraces themselves may actually produce no food; the flock may actually be severed from the pen, and there may be no herd in the enclosures; yet, as for me, I will exult in Jehovah himself; I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.”—Hab. 3:17, 18.
“Happy Is the People Whose God Is Jehovah!”
15, 16. Name some of God’s gifts that we can enjoy while awaiting future blessings.
15 While we wait for the wonderful future in store for us, Jehovah’s will is that we enjoy the good things that he gives us. The Bible says: “I have come to know that there is nothing better for [mankind] than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13) “To do good” includes performing good deeds in behalf of others. Jesus said that there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Acts of kindness toward our mates, children, parents, and other relatives bring deep satisfaction. (Prov. 3:27) Being tender, hospitable, and forgiving toward our spiritual brothers and sisters also results in much joy, and it pleases Jehovah. (Gal. 6:10; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Pet. 4:8, 9) And accomplishing our ministry with a self-sacrificing spirit is truly rewarding.
16 The above-quoted words in Ecclesiastes mention simple pleasures of life, such as eating and drinking. Yes, even while undergoing trials, we can find joy in whatever material gifts we have received from Jehovah. Furthermore, a breathtaking sunset, a majestic landscape, the antics of young animals, and other wonders of nature cost nothing, yet they can fill us with awe and bring us joy. As we reflect on such things, we grow in our love for Jehovah, for he is the Giver of all good things.
17. What will bring us complete relief from adversities, and in the meantime, what gives us comfort?
17 Ultimately, our love for God, obedience to his commandments, and faith in the ransom sacrifice will result in our complete relief from the adversities of imperfect life and lead us to lasting joy. (1 John 5:3) In the meantime, we find comfort in knowing that Jehovah is well-aware of all the things that afflict us. David wrote: “I will be joyful and rejoice in your loving-kindness, in that you have seen my affliction; you have known about the distresses of my soul.” (Ps. 31:7) Moved by his love for us, Jehovah will rescue us from calamity.—Ps. 34:19.
18. Why should joy predominate among God’s people?
18 While we wait for the fulfillment of his promises, may we imitate Jehovah, the happy God. May we avoid becoming spiritually paralyzed by negative feelings. When problems arise, may thinking ability and practical wisdom guide us. Jehovah will help us to control our emotions and to take whatever steps may be possible to minimize the bad effects of calamitous events. Let us find delight in the good things that come from him, both physical and spiritual. By staying close to God, we will be able to rejoice because “happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—Ps. 144:15.
What Have You Learned?
• When coping with adversities, how can we imitate Jehovah?
• How can reasonableness help us to cope with adversities?
• In times of distress, how can we find delight in doing God’s will?
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Jehovah is distressed by the bad things that are happening
© G.M.B. Akash/Panos Pictures
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Jehovah has given us the means to maintain joy