“When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.”—PS. 94:19.
SONG 44 A Prayer of the Lowly One
1. What may cause anxiety, and how can it affect us?
HAVE you ever been plagued by anxiety?b Perhaps you feel anxious because you have been hurt by what others have said or done. Or you may be anxious about what you have said or done. For example, you may have made a mistake, and you worry that Jehovah will never forgive you. To make matters worse, you may believe that because you are overwhelmed by anxiety, you must lack faith—you must be a bad person. But is that true?
2. What Scriptural examples show that being anxious does not mean that we lack faith?
2 Consider a few Scriptural examples. Hannah, who became the mother of the prophet Samuel, was a woman of great faith. Yet, she was overcome by anxiety when a member of her household treated her badly. (1 Sam. 1:7) The apostle Paul had strong faith, but he was overwhelmed with “anxiety for all the congregations.” (2 Cor. 11:28) King David had such strong faith that Jehovah developed a special fondness for him. (Acts 13:22) Even so, David made mistakes that caused him to suffer bouts of crushing anxiety. (Ps. 38:4) Jehovah comforted and soothed each one of them. Let us examine what we can learn from their examples.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM FAITHFUL HANNAH
3. How can the speech of others cause us to feel anxious?
3 When others speak harshly or act unkindly, we may feel anxious. That is especially true if the one who hurt us is a close friend or relative. We may worry that our relationship with that individual is ruined. At times, the person who hurts us may speak thoughtlessly, and we may feel as if we were stabbed with a sword! (Prov. 12:18) Or someone may even deliberately choose to use words as a weapon. A young sister had to deal with this challenge. “A few years ago,” she says, “somebody I thought was a good friend started spreading rumors about me online. I felt hurt and anxious. I just could not understand why she would stab me in the back like that.” If you have been hurt by a close friend or relative, you can learn much from Hannah.
4. What difficult problems did Hannah have to deal with?
4 Hannah had to deal with some difficult problems. For many years she was unable to have children. (1 Sam. 1:2) In Israelite culture, a woman who was barren was believed to be cursed. This left her feeling humiliated. (Gen. 30:1, 2) To make matters worse for Hannah, her husband had another wife, Peninnah, who bore him children. Peninnah viewed Hannah as a rival and “taunted her relentlessly in order to upset her.” (1 Sam. 1:6) At first, Hannah did not cope well with these difficult challenges. She was so upset that “she would weep and not eat.” She became “extremely bitter” at heart. (1 Sam. 1:7, 10) How did Hannah find comfort?
5. How did prayer help Hannah?
5 Hannah poured out her feelings to Jehovah in prayer. After she prayed, she explained her situation to High Priest Eli. He then told her: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition.” What was the result? Hannah “went on her way and ate, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Sam. 1:17, 18) Prayer helped Hannah to regain peace.
6. What lessons about prayer can we learn from Hannah and from Philippians 4:6, 7?
6 We can regain our peace if we persevere in prayer. Hannah spent a long time talking to her heavenly Father. (1 Sam. 1:12) We too can talk at length to Jehovah about our anxieties, our fears, and our shortcomings. Our prayers do not have to be poetic or perfectly structured. We may even find ourselves expressing bitter words that are interrupted by sobs of grief. Even so, Jehovah will never get tired of listening to us. In addition to praying about our problems, we need to remember the advice recorded at Philippians 4:6, 7. (Read.) Paul specifically mentioned that we should offer prayers of thanksgiving, or gratitude. We have so many reasons to thank Jehovah. For example, we can thank him for the gift of life, for his creative works, for his loyal love, and for the wonderful hope that he has given us. What else can we learn from Hannah?
7. What did Hannah and her husband regularly do?
7 Despite her problems, Hannah regularly went with her husband to Jehovah’s place of worship in Shiloh. (1 Sam. 1:1-5) It was while Hannah was at the tabernacle that High Priest Eli encouraged her by saying that he hoped that Jehovah would respond to her prayer.—1 Sam. 1:9, 17.
8. What can meetings do for us? Explain.
8 We can regain our peace if we continue attending congregation meetings. The opening prayer at our meetings often includes a request for God’s spirit to be with us. Peace is part of the fruitage of that spirit. (Gal. 5:22) When we attend our meetings even though we are under stress, we give Jehovah and our brothers and sisters the opportunity to encourage us and to help us regain peace of mind and heart. Prayer and meetings are key ways that Jehovah uses to soothe us. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Note another lesson we can learn from Hannah’s experience.
9. What did not change in Hannah’s situation, but what did?
9 The cause of Hannah’s anxiety did not go away immediately. When Hannah returned home from worshipping at the tabernacle, she still had to live in the same household as Peninnah did. And the Bible does not indicate that Peninnah’s attitude changed. So Hannah likely had to continue enduring her rival’s stabbing words. But Hannah was able to regain and maintain her inner peace. Recall that after leaving the matter in Jehovah’s hands, Hannah was no longer overwhelmed by worry. She allowed Jehovah to comfort and soothe her. Sometime later, Hannah was even blessed with children of her own!—1 Sam. 1:19, 20; 2:21.
10. What do we learn from Hannah’s example?
10 We can regain our peace even if the cause of our anxiety remains. Even though we pray intensely and attend meetings regularly, some problems may persist. But from Hannah’s example, we learn that nothing can stop Jehovah from soothing our troubled heart. Jehovah will never forget us, and sooner or later he will reward our faithfulness.—Heb. 11:6.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE APOSTLE PAUL
11. What reasons did Paul have for feeling anxious?
11 Paul had many reasons for feeling anxious. For instance, because he loved his brothers and sisters, the problems they faced weighed heavily on his mind. (2 Cor. 2:4; 11:28) In his assignment as an apostle, Paul had to deal with opposers who beat him and threw him in prison. He also had to endure hardships that caused anxiety, such as being “low on provisions.” (Phil. 4:12) And considering that he had been shipwrecked at least three times at that point in his life, we can only imagine the anxiety he experienced when traveling by boat. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) How did Paul deal with the anxiety?
12. What helped to reduce Paul’s anxiety?
12 Paul felt anxious for his brothers and sisters when they faced challenges, but he did not try to fix all their problems by himself. Paul was modest. He arranged for others to help in caring for the congregation. For example, he delegated authority to such trustworthy men as Timothy and Titus. The work those brothers did no doubt helped to reduce Paul’s anxiety.—Phil. 2:19, 20; Titus 1:1, 4, 5.
13. How can elders imitate Paul?
13 Ask others to help you. Like Paul, many empathetic elders today feel anxious for those in the congregation who are facing trials. But an elder can only do so much. Modesty will move him to share the load with other qualified men and to train young men to help him care for God’s flock.—2 Tim. 2:2.
14. What did Paul not worry about, and what can we learn from his example?
14 Acknowledge your need to be comforted. Paul was humble, so he sought and received encouragement from his friends. He obviously did not worry about being viewed as a weak person if he acknowledged that he had been comforted by others. In writing to Philemon, Paul said: “I received much joy and comfort on hearing of your love.” (Philem. 7) Paul mentioned several other fellow workers who had greatly encouraged him during times of distress. (Col. 4:7-11) When we humbly acknowledge that we need encouragement, our brothers and sisters will gladly give us the support we need.
15. How did Paul find relief when confronted with distressing circumstances?
15 Rely on God’s Word. Paul knew that the Scriptures would comfort him. (Rom. 15:4) They would also give him wisdom to face any trial. (2 Tim. 3:15, 16) When imprisoned in Rome for the second time, Paul felt that his death was near. In the face of that distressing situation, what did Paul do? He asked Timothy to come to him quickly and bring “the scrolls.” (2 Tim. 4:6, 7, 9, 13) Why? Because those scrolls were likely portions of the Hebrew Scriptures that Paul could use in his personal Bible study. When we imitate Paul by regularly studying God’s Word, Jehovah will use the Scriptures to soothe us—no matter what trials we face.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM KING DAVID
16. What anxiety did David bring on himself?
16 David had reason to be troubled by a guilty conscience. He had committed adultery with Bath-sheba, arranged for the murder of her husband, and for a time tried to cover up the crimes. (2 Sam. 12:9) At first, David ignored his conscience. As a result, he suffered not only spiritually but also mentally and physically. (Ps. 32:3, 4) What helped David to deal with the anxiety he had brought on himself, and what can help us if we make a serious mistake?
17. How is David’s heartfelt repentance revealed in the words found at Psalm 51:1-4?
17 Pray for forgiveness. David eventually turned to Jehovah in prayer. With heartfelt repentance, he confessed his sins. (Read Psalm 51:1-4.) And what relief that finally brought him! (Ps. 32:1, 2, 4, 5) If you commit a serious sin, do not try to cover the error. Instead, openly confess your sin to Jehovah in prayer. You will then begin to feel some relief from the anxiety caused by a guilty conscience. But if you want to restore your friendship with Jehovah, you need to do more than pray.
18. How did David respond to discipline?
18 Accept discipline. When Jehovah sent the prophet Nathan to expose David’s sin, David did not justify himself or try to minimize the sin. He immediately acknowledged that he had sinned not only against Bath-sheba’s husband but, above all, against Jehovah. David accepted the discipline from Jehovah, and Jehovah forgave him. (2 Sam. 12:10-14) If we have committed a serious sin, we need to talk to those whom Jehovah has appointed to shepherd us. (Jas. 5:14, 15) And we must avoid the urge to justify ourselves. The sooner we accept and apply whatever discipline we receive, the sooner we will regain our peace and joy.
19. What should we be determined to do?
19 Be determined to avoid repeating the same mistakes. King David knew that if he was going to avoid repeating the same sins, he needed Jehovah’s help. (Ps. 51:7, 10, 12) After receiving Jehovah’s forgiveness, David was determined to avoid harmful thinking. As a result, he regained his inner peace.
20. How can we show that we appreciate Jehovah’s forgiveness?
20 We show that we appreciate Jehovah’s forgiveness when we pray for it, accept discipline, and work hard to avoid repeating our mistakes. When we take these steps, we will regain our inner peace. James, a brother who committed a serious sin, found this to be true. He says: “When I confessed my sin to the elders, I felt that a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I began to regain my peace of mind.” How encouraging it is to know that “Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit”!—Ps. 34:18.
21. How can we let Jehovah soothe us?
21 As these last days come to a close, the causes of anxiety are likely to increase. When you have anxious thoughts, do not delay in seeking Jehovah’s help. Study the Bible diligently. Learn from the examples set by Hannah, Paul, and David. Ask your heavenly Father to help you identify the cause of your anxiety. (Ps. 139:23) Let him carry your burdens, especially those over which you have little or no control. If you do, you can be like the psalmist who sang to Jehovah: “When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.”—Ps. 94:19.
SONG 4 “Jehovah Is My Shepherd”
a At times, all of us feel anxious about the problems we face. This article considers the examples of three servants of Jehovah in Bible times who struggled with anxiety. It also discusses how Jehovah comforted and soothed each one of them.
b EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness or worry. This can be caused by financial concerns, health issues, family problems, or personal difficulties. We may also feel anxiety about our past mistakes or about future challenges we think we may experience.