“If a man should live many years, let him enjoy them all.”—ECCL. 11:8.
1. What blessings from Jehovah can help us to be happy?
JEHOVAH wants us to be happy, and he pours out on us many blessings that should lead to happiness. For one thing, we are alive. Hence, we can use our life to praise God, since he has drawn us to true worship. (Ps. 144:15; John 6:44) Jehovah assures us of his love and helps us to endure in our service to him. (Jer. 31:3; 2 Cor. 4:16) We enjoy the spiritual paradise, where we find both abundant spiritual food and a loving brotherhood. Beyond that, we have a precious hope for the future.
2. With what do some faithful servants of God struggle?
2 Despite having these reasons for happiness, some faithful servants of God struggle with negative thoughts about themselves. They may feel that neither they nor their service to Jehovah has much value to him. For those with persistent negative feelings, the idea of enjoying “many years” could seem to be a fantasy. Life might appear to be a series of dark days.—Eccl. 11:8.
3. What may trigger negative feelings?
3 For such brothers or sisters, negative feelings may be triggered by disappointments, illness, or some indication of the limitations of old age. (Ps. 71:9; Prov. 13:12; Eccl. 7:7) Moreover, every Christian must face the reality that the heart is treacherous and may condemn us even though God may be pleased with us. (Jer. 17:9; 1 John 3:20) The Devil falsely accuses God’s servants. And those who have Satan’s thinking may try to infect us with the view that faithless Eliphaz expressed—we are worthless to God. That was a lie in Job’s day as it is today.—Job 4:18, 19.
4. What will we consider in this article?
4 Jehovah makes it clear in the Scriptures that he will be with those who “walk in the valley of deep shadow.” (Ps. 23:4) One way he is with us is by means of his Word. The Bible is “powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things,” including misconceptions and negative ideas. (2 Cor. 10:4, 5) Let us, then, consider how we can use the Bible to help us cultivate and maintain a positive viewpoint. You may gain personal benefit from this, as well as find ways to encourage others.
USE THE BIBLE TO CULTIVATE A POSITIVE VIEWPOINT
5. What test can help us to have a positive viewpoint?
5 The apostle Paul described some things that may help us to cultivate a positive viewpoint. He urged the congregation in Corinth: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith.” (2 Cor. 13:5) “The faith” is the body of Christian beliefs revealed in the Bible. If our words and actions match those beliefs, then we pass the test and show that we are “in the faith.” Of course, we must also compare our lives with the entire scope of Christian teaching. We cannot pick and choose which parts we will follow.—Jas. 2:10, 11.
6. Why should we test ourselves as to ‘whether we are in the faith’? (See opening image.)
6 You might hesitate to take that test, especially if you feel that you might fail. Yet, Jehovah’s view of us is more important than ours, and his thinking is much higher than ours. (Isa. 55:8, 9) He examines his worshippers, not to condemn them, but to find their good qualities and to help them. When you use God’s Word to test yourself to see “whether you are in the faith,” you will be seeing yourself more as God sees you. This can help you to replace any idea that you are worthless to God with a Bible-based assurance: You are precious in Jehovah’s eyes. The result can be like opening the curtains to let the sunshine into a dark room.
7. How can we benefit from Biblical examples of faithfulness?
7 An effective way to conduct this self-examination is to meditate on the example of faithful people referred to in the Bible. Compare their circumstances or feelings with yours, and see how you might have acted in their situation. Let us look at three examples that illustrate how you can use the Bible to verify that you are “in the faith” and thus to cultivate a positive view of yourself.
THE NEEDY WIDOW
8, 9. (a) What were the circumstances of the needy widow? (b) What negative feelings might the widow have had?
8 At the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus watched a needy widow. Her example can help us to maintain a positive viewpoint despite our limitations. (Read Luke 21:1-4.) Consider the widow’s circumstances. She had to endure not only the grief of losing her husband but also a religious climate dominated by leaders who would rather “devour the houses of the widows” than help such vulnerable ones. (Luke 20:47) She was so poor that she could contribute to the temple only what a laborer might earn in a few minutes.
9 Try to imagine how the widow felt as she entered the temple courtyard carrying her two small coins. Would she be thinking about how little she was going to contribute compared with what she may have been able to give when her husband was alive? Would she be embarrassed at seeing the large donations made by those ahead of her, perhaps wondering whether her offering was really worthwhile? Even if she had such feelings, she still did what she could in behalf of true worship.
10. How did Jesus show that the widow was valuable to God?
10 Jesus showed that both the widow and her contribution were valuable to Jehovah. He said that she “put in more than [the rich] all did.” Her donation would be mixed in with what others gave, yet Jesus singled her out for praise. The treasury workers who later came across those two small coins could hardly have known how precious the coins and their donor were to Jehovah. Still, God’s view was the one that really mattered, not what other people thought or even how the widow viewed herself. Can you use this account to test whether you are in the faith?
11. What can you learn from the account of the widow?
11 Your circumstances may directly affect what you can offer to Jehovah. Because of age or infirmity, the amount of time that some are able to preach the good news is very limited. Would they be justified in questioning whether their activity is worth reporting? Even if you are not greatly restricted, you might feel that your efforts represent only a small part of all the hours that God’s people spend each year in worshipping him. Still, we learn from the account of the poor widow that Jehovah notices and treasures each act done for him, especially when done in the face of difficult circumstances. Think back on your worship of Jehovah during the past year. Did one of the hours you devoted to him require a special sacrifice on your part? If so, you can be sure that he values what you did for him during that hour. When, like the needy widow, you are doing all you can in Jehovah’s service, you have solid reason for believing that you are “in the faith.”
“TAKE MY LIFE AWAY”
12-14. (a) How did negative feelings affect Elijah? (b) Why might Elijah have felt as he did?
12 The prophet Elijah was loyal to Jehovah and had strong faith. Yet, at one point he felt so low that he asked Jehovah to put him to death, saying: “It is enough! Now, O Jehovah, take my life away.” (1 Ki. 19:4) Those who have not experienced such despair might be tempted to dismiss Elijah’s prayer as mere “wild talk.” (Job 6:3) However, his feelings were real. Note, though, that rather than chastise Elijah for wanting to die, Jehovah helped him.
13 How had Elijah come to feel as he did? Shortly before this, he had presided over a decisive test in Israel that proved that Jehovah is the true God, and this led to the execution of 450 prophets of Baal. (1 Ki. 18:37-40) Elijah likely hoped that God’s people would now return to pure worship, but that did not happen. Wicked Queen Jezebel sent a message to Elijah that she was arranging for him to be killed. Fearing for his life, Elijah fled south across neighboring Judah into the wilderness, a barren and wild place.—1 Ki. 19:2-4.
14 Alone with his thoughts, Elijah reflected on the seeming futility of his work as a prophet. He told Jehovah: “I am no better than my forefathers.” His point was that he felt as useless as the dust and bones of his dead ancestors. He had, in effect, tested himself by his own standards and had decided that he was a failure, of no value to Jehovah or anyone else.
15. How did God assure Elijah that He still valued him?
15 But the Almighty saw Elijah differently. Elijah remained valuable in God’s eyes, and Jehovah took steps to assure him of that reality. God sent an angel to strengthen Elijah. Jehovah also provided food and drink that would sustain Elijah during his 40-day trip south to Mount Horeb. Moreover, God kindly corrected Elijah’s mistaken idea that no other Israelites had remained faithful to Jehovah. Significantly, God gave Elijah new assignments, which he accepted. Elijah benefited from Jehovah’s help, and he returned to his work as a prophet with renewed energy.—1 Ki. 19:5-8, 15-19.
16. What are some ways that God has likely sustained you?
16 Elijah’s experience can help you to verify that you are in the faith and can move you toward a positive viewpoint. First, think of the ways that Jehovah has sustained you. Might one of his servants, perhaps an elder or other mature Christian, have helped you at some point when you were in need? (Gal. 6:2) Have you been nourished spiritually by the Bible, our Christian publications, and the congregation meetings? The next time you benefit in one of these ways, consider the true Source of your help and offer a prayer of thanks to Him.—Ps. 121:1, 2.
17. What does Jehovah value in his servants?
17 Second, recognize that a negative viewpoint can be deceptive. God’s evaluation of us is what counts. (Read Romans 14:4.) Jehovah values our devotion and faithfulness to him; he does not measure us by our accomplishments. And it could well be that, just as was true of Elijah, you have accomplished more for Jehovah than you realize. There likely are ones in the congregation whom you have affected for good, as well as those in the territory who have been exposed to the truth through your efforts.
18. What does your assignment from Jehovah prove?
18 Finally, view each assignment from Jehovah as proof that he is with you. (Jer. 20:11) Like Elijah, you might be discouraged because your service seems fruitless or because some spiritual goal seems unattainable. Yet, you still share the greatest privilege that any of us can now have—that of preaching the good news and bearing God’s name. Remain faithful. Then, in a sense, the words in one of Jesus’ parables can be said to you: “Enter into the joy of your master.”—Matt. 25:23.
THE “PRAYER OF THE OPPRESSED ONE”
19. What situation did the writer of Psalm 102 face?
19 The writer of Psalm 102 was desperate. He was “oppressed,” suffering great physical or emotional distress, and he lacked the strength to deal with his problems. (Ps. 102, superscription) We find in his words an indication that he was absorbed in his pain, loneliness, and personal feelings. (Ps. 102:3, 4, 6, 11) He believed that Jehovah wanted to cast him aside.—Ps. 102:10.
20. How can prayer help someone who battles negative thoughts?
20 Yet, the psalmist could still use his life to praise Jehovah. (Read Psalm 102:19-21.) As we see from Psalm 102, even those who are in the faith can be in pain and be struggling to focus on anything else. The psalmist felt “like a solitary bird on a roof,” as if he had only his troubles for company. (Ps. 102:7) If you ever feel that way, pour out your heart to Jehovah as the psalmist did. The prayers of the oppressed one—your prayers—can help you as you battle negative thoughts. Jehovah promises that “he will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their prayer.” (Ps. 102:17) Trust that promise.
21. How might one who is battling negative feelings gain a more positive viewpoint?
21 Psalm 102 also shows how you might gain a more positive viewpoint. The psalmist did so by shifting attention to his relationship with Jehovah. (Ps. 102:12, 27) He found comfort in knowing that Jehovah would always be there to sustain His people through trials. So if negative feelings temporarily keep you from doing as much as you want to in God’s service, pray about it. Ask God to hear your prayer not only so that you may experience some relief from your distress but also “so that the name of Jehovah will be declared.”—Ps. 102:20, 21.
22. How can each of us please Jehovah?
22 Yes, we can use the Bible to prove to ourselves that we are in the faith and are valuable to Jehovah. To be sure, in the present system of things, we may not be able to eliminate all negative feelings or discouragement. Still, each of us can please Jehovah and gain salvation by faithfully enduring in his service.—Matt. 24:13.