“I have calmed and quieted my soul.”—PS. 131:2.
1, 2. (a) How might a Christian be affected by unexpected changes in his life? (See opening picture.) (b) According to Psalm 131, what attitude can help us to maintain our inner peace?
WHEN Lloyd and Alexandra learned that they had been reassigned to the field, they at first felt sad. After all, they had been serving at Bethel for over 25 years. Lloyd says: “I felt as if Bethel and my work assignment had become my identity. I mentally appreciated the reasons for the change, but in the weeks and months that followed, I often experienced feelings of rejection. It was an emotional roller coaster. One minute I felt positive; the next I felt dejected.”
2 When our life takes an unexpected turn, the changes that we have to face may cause us apprehension and emotional stress. (Prov. 12:25) We may even find it hard to accept those changes. In such circumstances, how can we ‘calm and quiet’ our soul? (Read Psalm 131:1-3.) Let us consider how some Bible characters and some modern-day servants of Jehovah managed to maintain their inner peace despite changing circumstances.
EXPERIENCING “THE PEACE OF GOD”
3. In what situation did Joseph find himself?
3 Joseph was about 17 years old when his own brothers out of jealousy sold him as a slave. Prior to this, Joseph had been his father’s favorite. (Gen. 37:2-4, 23-28) For about 13 years, Joseph had to endure slavery and imprisonment in Egypt, far away from his beloved father, Jacob. What helped Joseph not to give in to despair and bitterness?
4. (a) While in prison, on what did Joseph focus his mind? (b) How did Jehovah respond to Joseph’s prayers?
4 While suffering in prison, Joseph must have focused his mind on evidence of Jehovah’s blessing. (Gen. 39:21; Ps. 105:17-19) The prophetic dreams that Joseph had when he was younger would also have given him confidence that he had Jehovah’s favor. (Gen. 37:5-11) He likely poured out his anguish to Jehovah on more than one occasion. (Ps. 145:18) In response to Joseph’s heartfelt prayers, Jehovah gave him the inner conviction that He would be “with him” in all his trials.—Acts 7:9, 10.*
5. What effect can “the peace of God” have on our desire to pursue spiritual goals?
5 Despite adverse circumstances, we today can experience firsthand the soothing effect of “the peace of God” that guards our mental powers. (Read Philippians 4:6, 7.) Thus, if we turn to Jehovah when we feel overwhelmed by anxiety, God’s peace can strengthen our determination to reach spiritual goals and guard us against any tendency to give up. Let us consider some modern-day examples that illustrate this.
TURN TO JEHOVAH TO REGAIN INNER PEACE
6, 7. How can being specific in our prayers help us to regain inner peace? Give an example.
6 When Ryan and Juliette were informed that their assignment as temporary special pioneers had come to an end, they felt dejected. “We took this straight to Jehovah in prayer,” Ryan says. “We knew that we had a special opportunity here to display trust in him. Many in our congregation were new in the truth, so we prayed that Jehovah would help us to set an excellent example of faith.”
7 How did Jehovah respond to their prayer? Ryan recalls: “Immediately after the prayer, the negative feelings and worries that we initially experienced disappeared. The peace of God was guarding our hearts and mental powers. We realized that we could continue to be useful to Jehovah if we maintained the right attitude.”
8-10. (a) How can God’s spirit help us to cope with anxiety? (b) In what ways may Jehovah respond to our efforts to maintain a spiritual outlook?
8 In addition to calming us down, God’s spirit can draw our attention to key scriptures that will help us to keep our spiritual priorities. (Read John 14:26, 27.) Consider a married couple, Philip and Mary, who had served at Bethel for nearly 25 years. Within four months, both lost their mothers and another relative in death and began caring for Mary’s father, who has dementia.
9 Philip recalls: “I thought I was coping well to a certain point, but something was missing. I came across Colossians 1:11 in a Watchtower study article. I was enduring, true, but not in the fullest sense. I needed to ‘endure fully with patience and joy.’ This verse reminded me that my joy in life is dependent, not on my circumstances, but on the effect that God’s spirit has in my life.”
10 In response to their efforts to maintain a spiritual outlook on their situation, Jehovah blessed Philip and Mary in many ways. Soon after leaving Bethel, they both found progressive Bible students who wanted to study more than once a week. Looking back, Mary says, “They were our joy and Jehovah’s way of telling us that everything was going to be fine.”
GIVE JEHOVAH SOMETHING TO BLESS
11, 12. (a) How did Joseph give Jehovah something to bless? (b) How was Joseph rewarded for his endurance?
11 When we are faced with sudden changes, we might easily let worries about the future paralyze our life. This could have happened to Joseph. Instead, he evidently decided to make the best of his situation, thus giving Jehovah something to bless. Although in prison, Joseph worked hard to fulfill any task given him by the chief officer, just as he had done when working for Potiphar.—Gen. 39:21-23.
12 One day, Joseph was entrusted with the care of two men who had formerly served in prominent positions in Pharaoh’s court. Reassured by Joseph’s kind manner, both men disclosed their troubles and the puzzling dreams they had the night before. (Gen. 40:5-8) Joseph did not realize it, but that conversation would lead to a happy outcome for him. Although he had to endure two more years in jail, he was eventually released and, the same day, appointed as ruler second only to Pharaoh.—Gen. 41:1, 14-16, 39-41.
13. How can we give Jehovah something to bless regardless of our circumstances?
13 Like Joseph, we may find ourselves in a situation over which we have little or no control. However, if we remain patient and work hard at making the best of our circumstances, we will give Jehovah something to bless. (Ps. 37:5) True, we may at times feel “perplexed,” but we will never, as the apostle Paul put it, be “left in despair.” (2 Cor. 4:8; ftn.) These words of Paul will come true in our case, especially if we stay focused on our ministry.
STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR MINISTRY
14-16. How did Philip the evangelizer stay focused on his ministry despite changing circumstances?
14 Philip the evangelizer provides a fine example of one who stayed focused on his ministry despite changing circumstances. In Jerusalem, a wave of persecution arose following the martyrdom of Stephen.* At the time, Philip was enjoying a new privilege of service. (Acts 6:1-6) But when Christ’s followers were scattered, Philip could not just watch and do nothing. He went to preach in Samaria, a city that was largely untouched by the good news at that time.—Matt. 10:5; Acts 8:1, 5.
15 Philip was willing to go wherever God’s spirit would lead him, so Jehovah used him to open up new territories. His impartial approach was likely refreshing to the Samaritans, who were used to being treated with disdain by the Jews. Little wonder that crowds listened to him “with one accord”!—Acts 8:6-8.
16 Philip was then led by God’s spirit to Ashdod and Caesarea, two cities that had large Gentile populations. (Acts 8:39, 40) Some 20 years after his initial preaching in Samaria, Philip’s circumstances had evidently changed again. Now a family man, he was settled in his preaching territory. Despite his changing circumstances, Philip stayed focused on his ministry, and as a result, he and his family were richly blessed by Jehovah.—Acts 21:8, 9.
17, 18. How can being focused on the ministry help us to maintain our balance in times of change?
17 Many full-time servants can testify that focusing on the ministry helped them to maintain their balance despite changing circumstances. When Osborne and Polite, a South African couple, left Bethel, they thought they would soon have part-time work and a place to live. “Unfortunately,” recounts Osborne, “secular work did not come as soon as we had hoped.” His wife, Polite, recalls: “We did not find work for three months, and we had no savings. It was a real challenge.”
18 What helped them to cope with their stressful situation? Osborne sums it up this way: “Preaching along with the congregation helped us a lot to keep our minds focused and positive. We decided to be absorbed in the preaching work rather than to sit and worry, and that brought us great joy. We searched all over for jobs, and eventually we found work.”
WAIT PATIENTLY ON JEHOVAH
19-21. (a) What will help us to maintain inner peace? (b) What personal benefits may we derive from adjusting to a new set of circumstances?
19 As these examples show, if we make the best of our circumstances and wait confidently on Jehovah, we will maintain our inner peace. (Read Micah 7:7.) We may even realize that we have derived much spiritual benefit from adjusting to a new set of circumstances. Drawing on her experience, Polite, quoted earlier, says: “Being reassigned has taught me what it really means to depend on Jehovah even when the odds seem to be against me. My relationship with him has deepened.”
20 Mary, quoted earlier, is still looking after her aging father while pioneering. She admits: “I have learned that when I feel anxious, I need to stop, pray, and then relax. To leave things in Jehovah’s hands has probably been the biggest lesson that I have learned, and it will be ever so needed in the future.”
21 Lloyd and Alexandra, mentioned at the outset, admit that their change of circumstances tested their faith in ways they had not anticipated. But they say: “Tests of faith reveal whether our faith is genuine and has the strength to support and comfort us in times of difficulty. We come out better people.”
22. If we seek to make the best of our current circumstances, of what can we be assured?
22 If life takes an unexpected turn—whether as a result of a change in our theocratic assignments, health problems, or new family responsibilities—be assured that Jehovah cares for you and will help you at the right time. (Heb. 4:16; 1 Pet. 5:6, 7) In the meantime, try to make the best of your situation. Draw close to your heavenly Father through prayer, and learn to leave yourself in his caring hands. In this way, you too will maintain inner peace despite changing circumstances.
Sometime after his release from prison, Joseph acknowledged that Jehovah had soothed his painful memories by giving him a son. He named his firstborn Manasseh because, he said: “God has made me forget all my trouble.”—Gen. 41:51, ftn.
See the article “Did You Know?” in this issue.