“I am . . . under great stress.”—1 SAM. 1:15.
SONG 30 My Father, My God and Friend
1. Why must we listen to Jesus’ warning?
IN HIS prophecy about the last days, Jesus said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with . . . anxieties of life [or “anxieties over livelihood; worries of daily life,” nwtsty ftn.].” (Luke 21:34) We need to listen to that warning. Why? At present, we must deal with the same type of stressful problems that everyone faces.
2. What stressful problems do our brothers and sisters face?
2 Sometimes, we must face a number of stressful problems at the same time. Consider the following examples. A Witness named John,* who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was devastated when his wife abandoned him after 19 years of marriage. Then his two daughters stopped serving Jehovah. A couple named Bob and Linda faced a different set of challenges. They both lost their jobs, and then they lost their home. In addition to those problems, Linda was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart-related illness, and another disease began to damage her immune system.
3. According to Philippians 4:6, 7, of what can we be sure?
3 We can be sure that our Creator and loving Father, Jehovah, understands how stress affects us. And he wants to help us deal with the challenges we face. (Read Philippians 4:6, 7.) God’s Word contains many accounts that describe the challenges his servants endured. It also records how Jehovah helped them deal with those stressful situations. Let us consider a few examples.
ELIJAH—“A MAN WITH FEELINGS LIKE OURS”
4. What challenges did Elijah face, and how did he feel about Jehovah?
4 Elijah served Jehovah during difficult times and faced serious challenges. King Ahab, one of the unfaithful kings in Israel’s history, married Jezebel, an evil worshipper of Baal. The two of them filled the land with Baal worship and murdered many of Jehovah’s prophets. Elijah managed to escape. He also survived a devastating famine by relying on Jehovah. (1 Ki. 17:2-4, 14-16) In addition, Elijah relied on Jehovah when he confronted the prophets and worshippers of Baal. He urged the Israelites to serve Jehovah. (1 Ki. 18:21-24, 36-38) Elijah had plenty of evidence that Jehovah was supporting him during those stressful times.
5-6. According to 1 Kings 19:1-4, how did Elijah feel, and how did Jehovah show that he loved Elijah?
5 Read 1 Kings 19:1-4. Elijah became afraid, however, when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. So he fled to the area of Beer-sheba. He became so discouraged that “he asked that he might die.” What made him feel that way? Elijah was an imperfect man, “a man with feelings like ours.” (Jas. 5:17) Perhaps he felt overwhelmed by stress and physical exhaustion. It seems that Elijah thought that his efforts to promote pure worship had been futile, that nothing in Israel had improved, and that he was the only one still serving Jehovah. (1 Ki. 18:3, 4, 13; 19:10, 14) We may be surprised by the reaction of this faithful prophet. But Jehovah understood Elijah’s feelings.
6 Jehovah did not scold Elijah for expressing his feelings. Instead, he helped Elijah regain strength. (1 Ki. 19:5-7) Later, Jehovah kindly adjusted Elijah’s thinking by demonstrating His awesome power. Jehovah then pointed out that he still had 7,000 in Israel who refused to worship Baal. (1 Ki. 19:11-18) In practical ways, Jehovah showed Elijah that He loved him.
HOW JEHOVAH WILL HELP US
7. What reassurance do we gain from Jehovah’s way of helping Elijah?
7 Are you dealing with a stressful situation? How comforting it is for us to know that Jehovah understood Elijah’s feelings! It reassures us that he also understands our emotional struggles. He knows our limitations, and he even knows what we are thinking and feeling. (Ps. 103:14; 139:3, 4) If we imitate Elijah by relying on Jehovah, he will help us deal with problems that cause us stress.—Ps. 55:22.
8. How will Jehovah help you deal with stress?
8 Stress can cause you to think negatively, making you feel discouraged. If that happens, remember that Jehovah will help you deal with stress. How will he help you? He invites you to share your concerns with him. And he will answer your cries for help. (Ps. 5:3; 1 Pet. 5:7) So pray to Jehovah often about your problems. He will not speak directly to you as he did to Elijah, but he will speak to you through his Word, the Bible, and through his organization. The accounts you read in the Bible can comfort you and give you hope. Also, your brothers and sisters can encourage you.—Rom. 15:4; Heb. 10:24, 25.
9. How might a trusted friend help us?
9 When Jehovah told Elijah to delegate responsibility to Elisha, He provided Elijah with a much-needed companion, who no doubt helped him bear his emotional burdens. Likewise, when we confide in a trusted friend, he or she can help us carry our emotional burdens. (2 Ki. 2:2; Prov. 17:17) If you feel that you do not have anyone to confide in, pray to Jehovah to help you find a mature Christian who can provide you with emotional support.
10. How does Elijah’s experience give us hope, and how can the promise recorded at Isaiah 40:28, 29 help us?
10 Jehovah helped Elijah to cope with stress and to serve faithfully for many years. Elijah’s experience gives us hope. We may go through periods of severe stress that drain us physically and emotionally. Yet, if we rely on Jehovah, he will give us the power we need to keep serving him.—Read Isaiah 40:28, 29.
HANNAH, DAVID, AND “ASAPH” RELIED ON JEHOVAH
11-13. How did stress affect three of God’s ancient servants?
11 Other Bible characters also faced great stress. For example, Hannah endured the stigma of being childless as well as the cruel taunting from her rival wife. (1 Sam. 1:2, 6) Hannah’s extreme stress made her so bitter that she wept and lost her appetite.—1 Sam. 1:7, 10.
12 At times, King David was overwhelmed by stress. Think of the challenges he faced. He was weighed down with guilt for the many mistakes he had made. (Ps. 40:12) His beloved son Absalom rebelled against him, leading to Absalom’s death. (2 Sam. 15:13, 14; 18:33) And one of David’s closest friends betrayed him. (2 Sam. 16:23–17:2; Ps. 55:12-14) Many of the psalms David wrote convey his feelings of discouragement as well as his unshakable trust in Jehovah.—Ps. 38:5-10; 94:17-19.
13 Later a psalmist began to envy the lifestyle of wicked people. He may have been a descendant of the Levite Asaph, and he served at “the grand sanctuary of God.” This psalmist suffered emotional stress, causing him to become unhappy and discontented. He even started to doubt the blessings that come from serving God.—Ps. 73:2-5, 7, 12-14, 16, 17, 21.
14-15. What do we learn from the three Bible examples about turning to Jehovah for help?
14 The three true worshippers just mentioned all relied on Jehovah for help. They shared their anxiety with him through fervent prayer. They spoke freely to him about the reasons why they were so stressed. And they continued to go to Jehovah’s place of worship.—1 Sam. 1:9, 10; Ps. 55:22; 73:17; 122:1.
15 Jehovah compassionately responded to each one of them. Hannah gained peace of mind. (1 Sam. 1:18) David wrote: “Many are the hardships of the righteous one, but Jehovah rescues him from them all.” (Ps. 34:19) And the psalmist later felt that Jehovah had “taken hold of [his] right hand,” guiding him with loving advice. He sang: “As for me, drawing near to God is good for me. I have made the Sovereign Lord Jehovah my refuge.” (Ps. 73:23, 24, 28) What do we learn from these examples? At times, we will be burdened with problems that cause us stress. But we can cope if we meditate on how Jehovah has helped others, rely on him in prayer, and obey him by doing what he asks us to do.—Ps. 143:1, 4-8.
RELY ON JEHOVAH AND SUCCEED
16-17. (a) Why should we not isolate ourselves? (b) How can we regain strength?
16 Those three examples teach us another important lesson—we should not isolate ourselves from Jehovah and his people. (Prov. 18:1) Nancy, who experienced extreme stress when her husband left her, says: “There were many days when I just did not want to see or talk to anybody. Yet, the more I isolated myself, the sadder I became.” Things changed when Nancy looked for ways to help others who were experiencing problems. She says: “I listened as others explained their struggles. I noticed that when I felt more empathy for them, I felt less pity for myself.”
17 We can regain strength by attending congregation meetings. When we are at the meetings, we give Jehovah additional opportunities to be our “helper and comforter.” (Ps. 86:17) There he strengthens us by means of his holy spirit, his Word, and his people. Meetings provide us with an opportunity to enjoy “an interchange of encouragement.” (Rom. 1:11, 12) A sister named Sophia said: “Jehovah and our brotherhood kept me going. Most important for me were our congregation meetings. I have found that the more involved I am in the ministry and my congregation, the better I am able to deal with stress and worry.”
18. If we feel discouraged, what can Jehovah give us?
18 When we feel discouraged, let us remember that Jehovah not only promises permanent relief in the future but also offers to help us deal with stress now. He gives us “the desire and the power” to overcome feelings of discouragement and hopelessness.—Phil. 2:13.
19. What assurance does Romans 8:37-39 give us?
19 Read Romans 8:37-39. The apostle Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. How can we help our brothers and sisters who are trying to cope with stress? The next article will analyze how we can imitate Jehovah by showing compassion and by supporting our brothers and sisters when they are stressed.
SONG 44 A Prayer of the Lowly One
Excessive or prolonged stress can harm us physically and emotionally. How can Jehovah help us? We will consider how Jehovah helped Elijah deal with stress. Other Bible examples will show us how to turn to Jehovah when we are under stress.
Names in this article have been changed.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jehovah’s angel gently wakes Elijah from sleep and gives him bread and water.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A psalmist who may have been a descendant of Asaph enjoys writing psalms and singing with his fellow Levites.