“Love builds up.”—1 CORINTHIANS 8:1.
1. What important subject did Jesus discuss on his last night with his disciples?
ON HIS last night with his disciples before he died, Jesus mentioned love almost 30 times. He told his disciples they should “love one another.” (John 15:12, 17) Their love would be so remarkable that others would notice it and know that they were true followers of Christ. (John 13:34, 35) The love that Jesus talked about is not mere sentiment; it is a powerful and self-sacrificing quality. Jesus said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:13, 14.
2. (a) What are God’s servants known for today? (b) What questions will we answer in this article?
2 Jehovah’s servants today are known for their genuine, self-sacrificing love and strong unity. (1 John 3:10, 11) It does not matter what nationality or tribe we belong to, what language we speak, where we come from, or how we were raised. All around the world, Jehovah’s servants truly love one another. Why is love so necessary today? How do Jehovah and Jesus build us up with love? And how can we show this love to comfort and strengthen others?—1 Corinthians 8:1.
WHY LOVE IS SO NECESSARY NOW
3. How do these “critical times” affect people?
3 We live in “critical times,” and life is “filled with trouble and sorrow.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Psalm 90:10) Many people are suffering so much that they feel like giving up. More than 800,000 people, one person every 40 seconds, commit suicide every year. Sadly, even some of our brothers have experienced these feelings and have taken their own life.
4. Which Bible characters at one time felt that they wanted to die?
4 In Bible times, some of God’s faithful servants felt so bad because of their problems that they wanted to die. For example, Job was in such pain that he said: “I loathe my life; I do not want to go on living.” (Job 7:16; 14:13) Jonah felt so disappointed that he said: “Now, O Jehovah, please take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3) The prophet Elijah felt so hopeless that he said: “It is enough! Now, O Jehovah, take my life away.” (1 Kings 19:4) But Jehovah loved these loyal servants and wanted them to live. He did not condemn how they felt. Instead, he helped them regain their desire to live so that they could keep serving him faithfully.
5. Why do our brothers and sisters really need our love now?
5 Today, many of our brothers and sisters are dealing with stressful situations and need our love. Some are being mocked or persecuted. Others have to endure bullying or gossip at their workplace. Or they are exhausted because they have to work long hours or have very stressful jobs. Still others have serious family problems. Perhaps they are married to someone who does not serve Jehovah and who constantly criticizes them. Because of these and other pressures, many feel that they have no energy left and may even begin to doubt their own value. Who can help them?
JEHOVAH’S LOVE STRENGTHENS US
6. How does Jehovah’s love strengthen his servants?
6 Jehovah reassures his servants that he loves them now and will love them forever. Imagine how the Israelites felt when Jehovah told them: “You became precious in my eyes, you were honored, and I have loved you,” and “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”! (Isaiah 43:4, 5) We know that each of us is precious to Jehovah.* (See footnote.) The Bible promises: “As a mighty One, he will save. He will exult over you with great joy.”—Zephaniah 3:16, 17.
7. How is Jehovah’s love like that of a nursing mother? (See opening picture.)
7 Jehovah promises to strengthen and comfort his people no matter what problems they have. He said: “You will nurse and be carried on the hip, and you will be bounced on the knees. As a mother comforts her son, so I will keep comforting you.” (Isaiah 66:12, 13) Think how safe a baby feels when his mother carries him or plays with him! Jehovah deeply loves you and wants you to feel safe. Never doubt that you are very precious to Jehovah.—Jeremiah 31:3.
8, 9. How can Jesus’ love strengthen us?
8 Here is another reason why we know that Jehovah loves us: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus’ sacrifice proves that he too loves us, and this love strengthens us. The Bible says that not even “tribulation or distress” can “separate us from the love of the Christ.”—Romans 8:35, 38, 39.
9 At times, we have problems that weaken us physically or emotionally or that take away our joy in serving Jehovah. But remembering how much Christ loves us can give us the strength to endure. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.) Jesus’ love gives us the desire to keep living and serving Jehovah. It can help us not to give up, even if we suffer from disasters, persecution, disappointments, or anxiety.
OUR BROTHERS NEED OUR LOVE
10, 11. Who have the responsibility to build up discouraged brothers? Explain.
10 Jehovah also uses the congregation to build us up with his love. When we love our brothers and sisters, we prove our love for Jehovah. We do everything we can to help our brothers know that they are valuable and that Jehovah loves them. (1 John 4:19-21) The apostle Paul wrote: “Keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) It is not only the elders who can do this. Each one of us can imitate Jehovah and Jesus by giving comfort to our brothers and sisters.—Read Romans 15:1, 2.
11 Some in the congregation who suffer because of severe depression or anxiety may need professional help and medication. (Luke 5:31) Elders and others in the congregation realize that although they are not trained doctors, the help and comfort they can offer are very important. All in the congregation can “speak consolingly to those who are depressed, support the weak, be patient toward all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) We want to try to understand how our brothers feel. We need to be patient with them and speak in a way that will comfort them when they are discouraged. Do you try to strengthen others? What can you do to be even more comforting and encouraging?
12. Give an example of someone who was encouraged by the love in her congregation.
12 A sister in Europe says: “At times I have suicidal thoughts, but I have a good support system. The congregation I belong to has saved my life. The brothers and sisters are always very encouraging and loving. Although only a few know that I suffer from depression, the congregation is always there for me. One married couple are like my spiritual parents. They take good care of me, and they are there for me literally 24 hours a day.” Of course, not everyone can help to the same extent. But we can all do much to support our brothers and sisters.* (See footnote.)
HOW TO BUILD OTHERS UP WITH LOVE
13. What do we need to do to comfort others?
13 Be a good listener. (James 1:19) We show love when we listen with empathy. Ask kind questions that can help you to understand how your brother feels. He will know that you really care, even from the expression on your face. While he is talking, be patient and allow him to express himself without interrupting him. By being a good listener, you can understand him better and can help him to trust you. Then it will be easier for him to listen to what you say as you try to help him. When you really care for others, you can be very comforting to them.
14. Why must we not be critical?
14 Do not be critical. A depressed person will only feel worse if he thinks we are criticizing him. Then it can be very difficult for us to help him. “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) Even though we would never intentionally harm a depressed person with our words, we can still cause much pain when we speak without thinking. To reassure our brother, we must make him feel convinced that we are really trying to understand his situation.—Matthew 7:12.
15. What valuable tool can we use to comfort others?
15 Use God’s Word to comfort others. (Read Romans 15:4, 5.) The Bible comes from “the God who supplies endurance and comfort,” so it is no surprise that we find much comfort in its words. We also have the Watch Tower Publications Index and the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Using these tools, we can find scriptures and publications that we can use to comfort and encourage our brothers and sisters.
16. What qualities will help us encourage someone who is depressed?
16 Be tender and gentle. Jehovah is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort,” and he has “tender compassion” for his servants. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; Luke 1:78; Romans 15:13) Paul set a good example in this because he imitated Jehovah. He wrote: “We became gentle in your midst, as when a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. So having tender affection for you, we were determined to impart to you, not only the good news of God but also our very selves, because you became so beloved to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) When we are tender like Jehovah, we may provide the comfort our brother is praying for!
17. What realistic view of our brothers will help us to encourage them?
17 Do not expect your brothers to be perfect. Be realistic. If you expect your brothers to be perfect, you will be disappointed. (Ecclesiastes 7:21, 22) Remember that Jehovah is realistic in what he expects of us. So we need to be patient with one another. (Ephesians 4:2, 32) We never want to make our brothers feel that they are not doing enough or to compare them with others. Instead, we encourage them and point out the good things they are doing. This can help them to be happy as they serve Jehovah.—Galatians 6:4.
18. Why do we want to build others up with love?
18 Every one of Jehovah’s servants is precious to him and to Jesus. (Galatians 2:20) We love our brothers and sisters deeply, so we must treat them tenderly. We “pursue the things making for peace and the things that build one another up.” (Romans 14:19) How we look forward to life in Paradise, when no one will have any reason to be discouraged! There will be no more sickness and no more war. People will no longer die of inherited sin, and there will be no more persecution, family problems, or disappointments in life. At the end of the thousand years, all humans will be perfect. Those who stay faithful in the final test will be adopted by Jehovah as his sons on earth and will have “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) So may we all show love that builds up and help one another to survive into God’s wonderful new world.