“All of you have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility.”—1 PET. 3:8.
SONG 107 The Divine Pattern of Love
1. How can we imitate our loving Father, Jehovah?
JEHOVAH loves us deeply. (John 3:16) We want to imitate our loving Father. So we try to show “fellow feeling, brotherly affection, [and] tender compassion” to all but especially to those who are “related to us in the faith.” (1 Pet. 3:8; Gal. 6:10) When members of our spiritual family face stressful challenges, we want to help them.
2. What will we discuss in this article?
2 All who want to be part of Jehovah’s family will face stressful situations. (Mark 10:29, 30) We will likely have to cope with more trials as the end of this system draws near. How can we help one another? Let us consider what we can learn from the Bible accounts about Lot, Job, and Naomi. We will also discuss some challenges that our brothers and sisters face today and see how we can help them cope with problems.
3. As evidenced by 2 Peter 2:7, 8, what bad decision did Lot make, and with what results?
3 Lot made a bad decision when he chose to live among the grossly immoral people of Sodom. (Read 2 Peter 2:7, 8.) The region was prosperous, but Lot paid a high price for moving to Sodom. (Gen. 13:8-13; 14:12) His wife apparently became so attached to the city or to some of the people living there that she disobeyed Jehovah. She lost her life when God rained fire and sulfur on the region. And think of Lot’s two daughters. They were engaged to men who died in Sodom. Lot lost his home, his possessions and, most painful of all, his wife. (Gen. 19:12-14, 17, 26) During this stressful period, did Jehovah lose patience with Lot? No.
4. How did Jehovah prove to be patient with Lot? (See cover picture.)
4 Even though Lot chose to live in Sodom, Jehovah compassionately sent angels to rescue him and his family. However, instead of immediately obeying the angels’ urgent command to leave Sodom, Lot “kept lingering.” The angels had to seize hold of his hand and help him and his family flee the city. (Gen. 19:15, 16) The angels then told him to run to the mountainous region. But instead of obeying Jehovah, Lot asked to go to a nearby town. (Gen. 19:17-20) Jehovah patiently listened and allowed Lot to go to that town. Lot later became afraid of living there and moved to the mountainous region, the very area Jehovah had told him to go to in the first place. (Gen. 19:30) What remarkable patience Jehovah showed! How can we imitate him?
5-6. How can we apply 1 Thessalonians 5:14 as we imitate God?
5 Like Lot, a member of our spiritual family may make poor decisions and cause serious problems for himself. If that were to happen, how would we respond? We might be tempted to point out that he is reaping what he has sown, which would be true. (Gal. 6:7) However, we can do better. We can imitate the way that Jehovah helped Lot. How?
6 Jehovah sent the angels not only to warn Lot but also to help him escape the disaster brought on Sodom. Likewise, we may need to warn our brother if we see that he is heading for trouble. But we may also be able to help him. Even if he is slow to apply the Bible-based counsel he receives, we need to be patient. Be like the two angels. Rather than give up and draw away from our brother, we should look for practical ways to assist him. (1 John 3:18) We may need to offer to take him by the hand, figuratively speaking, and help him apply the good advice he is given.—Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
7. How can we imitate the way that Jehovah viewed Lot?
7 Jehovah could have focused on Lot’s imperfections. Instead, he later inspired the apostle Peter to refer to Lot as a righteous man. How happy we are that Jehovah overlooks our mistakes! (Ps. 130:3) Can we imitate the way that Jehovah viewed Lot? If we focus on the good qualities of our brothers and sisters, we will be more patient with them. They, in turn, will be more likely to accept the help we offer.
8. What will compassion move us to do?
8 Unlike Lot, Job did not suffer because of some bad decision he made. Yet, he experienced severe calamities, losing his possessions, his status in the community, and his good health. Even worse, he and his wife lost all their children in death. Job was also accused by three false friends. What is one reason why Job’s three false comforters lacked compassion for him? They saw only the outward appearance of his situation. As a result, they jumped to wrong conclusions and judged Job harshly. How can we avoid making a similar mistake? Realize that only Jehovah knows all the facts about a person’s situation. Listen carefully to what the suffering person says. Do more than hear his words; try also to feel his pain. Only then will you be able to show genuine fellow feeling for your brother or sister.
9. What will compassion hold us back from doing, and why?
9 Compassion will hold us back from spreading harmful gossip about the problems others are facing. A gossiper does not build up the congregation; he tears it down. (Prov. 20:19; Rom. 14:19) He is not kind but thoughtless, and his words can injure a person who is already suffering. (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 4:31, 32) How much better it is when we look for a person’s good qualities and think about how we can help him or her deal with trials!
10. What does the statement at Job 6:2, 3 teach us?
10 Read Job 6:2, 3. Job, at times, engaged in “wild talk.” Still, he later took back some things he had said. (Job 42:6) Like Job, a person today who is enduring a stressful problem may give in to wild talk, saying things that he later regrets. How should we respond? Rather than being critical, we should be compassionate. Remember that Jehovah did not intend for any of us to have the problems and stresses we face today. So it is understandable if a faithful servant of Jehovah speaks thoughtlessly when under great stress. Even if he says inaccurate things about Jehovah or about us, we should not quickly become angry at him or judge him for saying such things.—Prov. 19:11.
11. How can elders imitate Elihu when giving counsel?
11 At times, a person who is coping with a stressful problem also needs to receive some form of counsel or helpful discipline. (Gal. 6:1) How can elders handle this challenge? They do well to imitate Elihu, who listened to Job with great empathy. (Job 33:6, 7) Elihu offered his counsel only after he understood Job’s thinking. Elders who follow Elihu’s example will listen carefully and try to understand the person’s situation. Then, when they offer counsel, they are more likely to reach the heart of their listener.
12. What effect did the death of her husband and two sons have on Naomi?
12 Naomi was a loyal woman who loved Jehovah. But after the death of her husband and two sons, she wanted to change her name from Naomi to “Mara,” meaning “Bitter.” (Ruth 1:3, 5, 20, ftn., 21) Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth stuck with her through her trials. Ruth not only provided practical help but also spoke consolingly to Naomi. Ruth expressed her love and support for Naomi in simple, sincere words.—Ruth 1:16, 17.
13. Why do those who lose a marriage mate in death need our support?
13 When a member of our spiritual family loses a marriage mate in death, he or she needs our support. A married couple can be likened to two trees that have grown up next to each other. Over the years, the roots of the trees intertwine. When one tree is uprooted and dies, the other tree can seriously be affected. Similarly, when someone loses a spouse to the enemy death, he or she may feel strong emotions for a long time. Paula,* whose husband died suddenly, says: “My life was turned upside down, and I felt powerless. I lost my best friend. I talked to my husband about everything. He shared my joys and supported me through difficult times. He provided a shoulder to cry on. I really felt as if I had been cut in half.”
14-15. How can we console someone whose marriage mate has died?
14 How can we console someone whose marriage mate has died? An important first step is to speak to him or her, even though you may feel awkward or unsure of what to say. Paula, quoted earlier, says: “I understand that death makes people uncomfortable. They worry that what they say might come out wrong. But worse than hearing something awkward is hearing nothing at all.” A grieving person probably does not expect us to say something profound. Paula says: “I appreciated it when friends would simply say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’”
15 William, whose wife died some years ago, relates: “I appreciate it when others recount experiences about my wife; it reassures me that she was loved and respected. This form of support is a tremendous help to me. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction, because my wife was so precious to me and had been a big part of my life.” A widow named Bianca explains: “I find comfort when others pray with me and share a scripture or two with me. It helps when they talk about my husband and when they listen to me talk about him.”
16. (a) What should we provide for someone who has lost a loved one in death? (b) According to James 1:27, what responsibility do we have?
16 Just as Ruth stuck with the widowed Naomi, we need to provide ongoing support for those who lose a loved one in death. Paula, mentioned earlier, says: “Right after my husband died, I got a lot of support. As time passed, people’s lives seemed to go back to normal. However, my life had changed completely. It is a huge help when others realize that a grieving person needs support in the months—even years—following the death.” Of course, each person is different. Some seem to adjust to their new circumstances relatively quickly. For others, however, every activity they once shared with their loved one is a painful reminder of their loss. The ways people grieve vary from person to person. Let us remember that Jehovah gives us the honor and responsibility to care for those who have lost their mate in death.—Read James 1:27.
17. Why do those whose mates have abandoned them need our support?
17 Some spouses must deal with the severe anguish and stress that result when their mate abandons them. Joyce, whose husband left her for another woman, says: “The pain of the divorce felt almost worse than if my husband had died. If he had died in an accident or from a sickness, he would have had little choice in the matter. But in this case, my husband chose to abandon me. I felt humiliated and degraded.”
18. What can we do to help those who no longer have a marriage mate?
18 When we do small acts of kindness to those who no longer have a marriage mate, we reassure them of our love. More than ever, they need good friends. (Prov. 17:17) How can you prove that you are their friend? You could invite them over for a simple meal. And you might offer to spend some time with them in recreation or in the field ministry. Another option would be to ask them occasionally to join you for family worship. If you do, you will make Jehovah happy, for he is “close to the brokenhearted” and is “a protector of widows.”—Ps. 34:18; 68:5.
19. Keeping 1 Peter 3:8 in mind, what are you determined to do?
19 Soon, when God’s Kingdom rules the earth, all “distresses will be forgotten.” How we look forward to the time when “the former things will not be called to mind, nor will they come up into the heart.” (Isa. 65:16, 17) Until that day, let us support one another and prove by both our speech and our actions that we love all in our spiritual family.—Read 1 Peter 3:8.
SONG 111 Our Reasons for Joy
Lot, Job, and Naomi served Jehovah loyally, but they still had to endure stressful times in their lives. This article considers what we can learn from their experiences. It also discusses why it is important for us to be patient and compassionate and to speak consolingly to our brothers and sisters when they are facing challenges.
Names in this article have been changed.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother is very upset and engages in “wild talk” while an elder listens patiently. Later, after the angry brother has calmed down, the elder provides kind counsel.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A young married couple spend time with a brother whose wife has recently died. They share pleasant memories of her.