“Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are discouraged.”—PS. 34:18, ftn.
SONG 30 My Father, My God and Friend
1-2. What will we consider in this article?
AT TIMES, we might think about the fact that life is short and our days are “filled with trouble.” (Job 14:1) So it is understandable that we occasionally feel discouraged. A number of Jehovah’s servants in ancient times felt that way. Some even wanted to die. (1 Ki. 19:2-4; Job 3:1-3, 11; 7:15, 16) But time and again, Jehovah—the God in whom they trusted—reassured and strengthened them. Their accounts were recorded to comfort and instruct us.—Rom. 15:4.
2 In this article, we will consider some servants of Jehovah who endured discouraging trials, namely Jacob’s son Joseph, the widow Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, the Levite who wrote Psalm 73, and the apostle Peter. How did Jehovah strengthen them? And what lessons can we personally learn from their examples? The answers reassure us that “Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted,” and he “saves those who are discouraged.”—Ps. 34:18, ftn.
JOSEPH ENDURED CRUEL INJUSTICES
3-4. What happened to Joseph when he was a young man?
3 Joseph was about 17 years old when he had two dreams, both of which were from God. These dreams indicated that Joseph would one day hold a position of respect in the family. (Gen. 37:5-10) But soon after Joseph had the dreams, his life changed drastically. Far from showing respect for him, his brothers sold him into slavery. He came to be in the household of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. (Gen. 37:21-28) In short order, Joseph went from being a cherished son of his father to being a lowly slave of a pagan court official in Egypt.—Gen. 39:1.
4 Then Joseph’s troubles were about to get worse. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to rape her. Without investigating the charges, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison, and he was bound in irons. (Gen. 39:14-20; Ps. 105:17, 18) Imagine how the young Joseph must have felt to be falsely accused of attempted rape. And think of the reproach that accusation might have brought on Jehovah’s name. Surely Joseph had reason to feel discouraged!
5. How did Joseph overcome discouragement?
5 While a slave and later in prison, Joseph had limited options and freedom of movement. How did he keep his balance? Instead of focusing on what he was no longer able to do, he diligently applied himself to the work he was assigned to do. Most of all, Joseph kept Jehovah as the most important Person in his life. In turn, Jehovah blessed everything Joseph did.—Gen. 39:21-23.
6. How may Joseph have been comforted by his dreams?
6 Joseph may also have found encouragement by reflecting on the earlier prophetic dreams. They indicated that he would see his family again and that his situation would improve. And this is what happened. When Joseph was about 37 years of age, his prophetic dreams began to be fulfilled in a spectacular way!—Gen. 37:7, 9, 10; 42:6, 9.
7. According to 1 Peter 5:10, what will help us to endure trials?
7 Lessons for us. We are reminded that this world is cruel and that people will treat us unjustly. Even a fellow believer may hurt us. But if we view Jehovah as our Rock, or Refuge, we will not lose heart or stop serving him. (Ps. 62:6, 7; read 1 Peter 5:10.) Recall, too, that Joseph may have been about 17 when Jehovah dealt with him in a special way. Obviously, Jehovah has confidence in young servants of his. Today, many young ones are like Joseph. They too have faith in Jehovah. Some of them have even been unjustly imprisoned because they would not compromise their loyalty to God.—Ps. 110:3.
TWO WOMEN OVERWHELMED WITH GRIEF
8. What happened to Naomi and Ruth?
8 Because of a severe famine, Naomi and her family left their home in Judah and settled as foreigners in Moab. There, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, leaving her with their two sons. In time, both men married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. About ten years later, Naomi’s sons also died, leaving no children behind. (Ruth 1:1-5) Imagine how grief-stricken the three women must have been! Of course, Ruth and Orpah could remarry. Who, though, would care for aging Naomi? Naomi was so depressed that at one point she said: “Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.” Brokenhearted, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and Ruth went with her.—Ruth 1:7, 18-20.
9 The solution to Naomi’s despair was loyal love. For example, Ruth showed loyal love for Naomi by sticking with her. (Read Ruth 1:16, 17, 22.) In Bethlehem, Ruth worked hard gleaning barley for herself and Naomi. As a result, the young woman soon earned a fine reputation.—Ruth 3:11; 4:15.
10. In what ways did Jehovah show love for needy ones like Naomi and Ruth?
10 Jehovah had given the Israelites a compassionate law that made provision for needy ones like Naomi and Ruth. He told his people that when they harvested a crop, they were to leave the edge of the field unharvested for the poor to glean. (Lev. 19:9, 10) So Naomi and Ruth did not have to beg for food. They could obtain it in a dignified way.
11-12. How did Boaz give Naomi and Ruth reason for joy?
11 The owner of the field in which Ruth gathered grain was a wealthy man named Boaz. He was so touched by Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and by the love she was showing her mother-in-law that he repurchased their family inheritance and took Ruth as his wife. (Ruth 4:9-13) The couple had a child whose name was Obed; he became the grandfather of King David.—Ruth 4:17.
12 Imagine Naomi’s joy as she held little Obed and poured out her thankful heart to Jehovah! But the best is yet to come for Naomi and Ruth. In the resurrection, they will learn that Obed was an ancestor of the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ!
13. What valuable lessons can we learn from the account about Naomi and Ruth?
13 Lessons for us. When we go through trials, we may feel discouraged, even brokenhearted. Perhaps we see no way out of our problems. At such times, we should trust fully in our heavenly Father and stay close to our fellow worshippers. Of course, Jehovah may not remove the trial. After all, he did not bring back to Naomi her dead husband and sons. But he will help us to cope, perhaps through acts of loyal love expressed by our spiritual family.—Prov. 17:17.
A LEVITE WHO ALMOST STUMBLED
14. Why did one Levite become deeply discouraged?
14 The writer of Psalm 73 was a Levite. As such, he had the remarkable privilege of serving at Jehovah’s place of worship. Still, at one point in his life, even he got discouraged. Why? He began to envy the wicked and arrogant, not because of their badness, but because of their evident prosperity. (Ps. 73:2-9, 11-14) They seemed to have it all—wealth, a good life, and no anxieties. Their apparent success so discouraged the psalmist that he said: “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence.” Clearly, he was in grave spiritual danger.
15 Read Psalm 73:16-19, 22-25. The Levite “entered the grand sanctuary of God.” There, likely among fellow worshippers, he was able to analyze his situation calmly, clearly, and prayerfully. As a result, he began to see that his thinking had become foolish, that he had started on a dangerous path that would separate him from Jehovah. He also discerned that the wicked are “on slippery ground” and will come to “a terrible end.” To be cured of envy and discouragement, the Levite psalmist needed to see things from Jehovah’s standpoint. On doing so, he was at peace once again, and he was happy. He said: “Besides [Jehovah] I desire nothing on earth.”
16. What lessons can we learn from one Levite?
16 Lessons for us. Let us never envy wicked people who seem to prosper. Their happiness is superficial and temporary; they have no lasting future. (Eccl. 8:12, 13) To envy them is to invite discouragement as well as spiritual ruin. So if you find yourself envying the seeming success of the wicked, do what the Levite did. Heed God’s loving advice, and associate with others who do Jehovah’s will. When Jehovah is your greatest delight, you will find true happiness. And you will stay on the path to “the real life.”—1 Tim. 6:19.
PETER’S WEAKNESSES DISCOURAGED HIM
17. What reasons did Peter have for becoming discouraged?
17 The apostle Peter was a dynamic man; but he could also be rather impulsive and, at times, quick to express his feelings. As a result, he on occasion said or did things that he later regretted. For instance, when Jesus told his apostles that he would suffer and die, Peter rebuked him, saying: “You will not have this happen to you at all.” (Matt. 16:21-23) Jesus then corrected Peter. When a mob came to arrest Jesus, Peter acted rashly, cutting off the ear of a slave of the high priest. (John 18:10, 11) Again, Jesus corrected the apostle. In addition, Peter had boasted that while the other apostles might stumble in connection with Christ, he would never do so! (Matt. 26:33) But that overconfidence gave way to fear of man, and Peter denied his Master three times. Deeply discouraged, Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:69-75) He must have wondered if Jesus could ever forgive him.
18. How did Jesus help Peter to overcome discouragement?
18 However, Peter did not allow himself to be overwhelmed by discouragement. After stumbling, he recovered, and we later find him with the other apostles. (John 21:1-3; Acts 1:15, 16) What helped him to recover? For one thing, Jesus had prayed earlier that Peter’s faith might not give out, and Jesus urged Peter to return and strengthen his brothers. Jehovah answered that heartfelt prayer. Later, Jesus personally appeared to Peter, no doubt to encourage him. (Luke 22:32; 24:33, 34; 1 Cor. 15:5) After the apostles had a disappointing night of fishing, Jesus appeared to them. On this occasion, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to reaffirm his love for him. Jesus had forgiven his dear friend and entrusted him with more work.—John 21:15-17.
19. How does Psalm 103:13, 14 help us to see our sins through Jehovah’s eyes?
19 Lessons for us. The way that Jesus dealt with Peter highlights Jesus’ mercy, and Jesus perfectly reflects his Father. So when we make mistakes, we should not judge ourselves as being beyond hope. We should bear in mind that Satan wants us to give in to such feelings. Instead, let us try hard to see ourselves—and those who sin against us—through the compassionate and loving eyes of our heavenly Father.—Read Psalm 103:13, 14.
20. What will we consider in the following article?
20 The examples of Joseph, Naomi and Ruth, the Levite, and Peter assure us that “Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted.” (Ps. 34:18) He allows us to suffer trials and to feel discouraged at times. Nevertheless, when we endure trials successfully with Jehovah’s help, our faith is strengthened. (1 Pet. 1:6, 7) In the following article, we will further see how Jehovah supports his loyal ones who are discouraged, perhaps because of their imperfections or because of difficult circumstances.
SONG 7 Jehovah, Our Strength
^ par. 5 Joseph, Naomi and Ruth, a Levite, and the apostle Peter experienced discouraging trials. In this article, we will see how Jehovah comforted and strengthened them. We will also consider what we can learn from their examples and from the compassionate way that God dealt with them.
^ par. 56 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah were saddened and discouraged by the death of their mates. Later, Ruth and Naomi rejoiced with Boaz over the birth of Obed.