Jehovah, Our ‘Fortress in Times of Distress’

“The salvation of the righteous ones is from Jehovah; he is their fortress in the time of distress.”​—PSALM 37:39.

1, 2. (a) What did Jesus pray for in behalf of his disciples? (b) What is God’s will regarding his people?

JEHOVAH is almighty. He has the power to protect his faithful worshipers in any manner he wishes. He could even separate his people physically from the rest of the world and place them in a safe and peaceful environment. However, regarding his disciples, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.”​—John 17:15.

2 Jehovah has chosen not to take us “out of the world.” Rather, it is his will that we live among the general population of this world in order to proclaim his message of hope and comfort to others. (Romans 10:13-15) But, as Jesus implied in his prayer, by living in this world, we are exposed to “the wicked one.” Disobedient mankind and wicked spirit forces cause much pain and anguish, and Christians are not immune to distress.​—1 Peter 5:9.

3. Even faithful worshipers of Jehovah must face what reality, but what comfort do we find in God’s Word?

3 Under such trials, it is natural to go through periods of discouragement. (Proverbs 24:10) The Bible record contains numerous accounts of faithful ones who experienced distress. “Many are the calamities of the righteous one,” says the psalmist, “but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19) Yes, bad things happen even to “the righteous one.” Like the psalmist David, at times we may even grow “numb and become crushed to an extreme degree.” (Psalm 38:8) Yet, it is comforting to know that “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”​—Psalm 34:18; 94:19.

4, 5. (a) In harmony with Proverbs 18:10, what must we do in order to avail ourselves of God’s protection? (b) What are some specific steps we can take to receive God’s help?

4 In harmony with Jesus’ prayer, Jehovah is indeed watching over us. He is our “fortress  in the time of distress.” (Psalm 37:39) The book of Proverbs uses similar language when it says: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.” (Proverbs 18:10) This scripture reveals a basic truth about Jehovah’s tender concern for his creatures. God offers protection especially to righteous ones who actively seek him, as if we were running into a strong tower for shelter.

5 When faced with distressing problems, how can we run to Jehovah for protection? Let us consider three vital steps that we can take in order to receive Jehovah’s help. First, we must turn to our heavenly Father in prayer. Second, we should work in harmony with his holy spirit. And third, we must submit to Jehovah’s arrangement by seeking association with fellow Christians who can allay our distress.

The Power of Prayer

6. How do true Christians view prayer?

6 Some health experts recommend prayer as treatment for depression and stress. While it may be true that a quiet moment of prayerlike reflection may relieve stress, much the same could be said about certain sounds of nature or even a back rub. True Christians do not trivialize prayer by viewing it as just a feel-good therapy. We view prayer as reverential communication with the Creator. Prayer involves our devotion to and confidence in God. Yes, prayer is part of our worship.

7. What does it mean to pray with confidence, and how do such prayers help us to cope with distress?

7 Our prayers must be accompanied by a sense of confidence, or trust, in Jehovah. The apostle John wrote: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Jehovah, the Supreme Being, the only true and almighty God, actually gives special attention to the earnest prayers of his worshipers. Just knowing that our loving God hears us when we share our anxieties and problems with him is comforting.​—Philippians 4:6.

8. Why should faithful Christians never feel shy or unworthy when approaching Jehovah in prayer?

8 Faithful Christians should never feel shy, unworthy, or lacking in confidence when approaching Jehovah in prayer. True, when we are disappointed in ourselves or are overwhelmed with problems, we might not always be inclined to approach Jehovah in prayer. On such occasions we do well to remember that Jehovah “shows pity upon his own afflicted ones” and that he “comforts those laid low.” (Isaiah 49:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6) It is especially in times of anguish and  distress that we need to turn confidently to our heavenly Father as our fortress.

9. What role does faith play in our prayerful approach to God?

9 To benefit fully from the privilege of prayer, we must have real faith. The Bible says that “he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is more than just believing that God exists, that “he is.” True faith involves a strong belief in God’s ability and desire to reward our life course of obedience to him. “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication.” (1 Peter 3:12) A constant awareness of Jehovah’s loving concern for us gives special meaning to our prayers.

10. What must be true of our prayers if we are to receive spiritual sustenance from Jehovah?

10 Jehovah listens to our prayers when they are offered with a complete heart. The psalmist wrote: “I have called with my whole heart. Answer me, O Jehovah.” (Psalm 119:145) Unlike the ritualistic prayers in many religions, our prayers are not perfunctory or halfhearted. When we pray to Jehovah with our “whole heart,” our words are charged with meaning and purpose. After such earnest prayers, we begin to experience the relief that comes from throwing our “burden upon Jehovah himself.” As the Bible promises, “he himself will sustain” us.​—Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:6, 7.

God’s Spirit Is Our Helper

11. What is one way that Jehovah answers us when we “keep on asking” for his help?

11 Jehovah is not just the Hearer of prayer but also the Answerer. (Psalm 65:2) David wrote: “In the day of my distress I will call upon you, for you will answer me.” (Psalm 86:7) Accordingly, Jesus encouraged his disciples to “keep on asking” for Jehovah’s help because “the Father in heaven” will “give holy spirit to those asking him.” (Luke 11:9-13) Yes, God’s active force acts as a helper, or comforter, to his people.​—John 14:16.

12. How can God’s spirit help us when problems seem overwhelming?

12 Even when we face trials, God’s spirit can infuse us with “the power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) The apostle Paul, who endured many stressful situations, confidently said: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Philippians 4:13) Likewise, many Christians today have felt a renewal of spiritual and emotional strength in answer to their supplications. Often, distressing problems do not seem so overwhelming after we receive the help of God’s spirit. Because of this God-given strength, we can say, as did the apostle: “We are pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out; we are persecuted, but not left in the lurch; we are thrown down, but not destroyed.”​—2 Corinthians 4:8, 9.

13, 14. (a) How has Jehovah proved to be our fortress through his written Word? (b) How has applying Bible principles helped you personally?

13 The holy spirit has also inspired and preserved God’s written Word for our benefit. How has Jehovah proved to be our fortress in times of distress through the pages of his Word? One way is by providing us with practical wisdom and thinking ability. (Proverbs 3:21-24) The Bible trains our mental faculties and improves our power of reason. (Romans 12:1) Through regular reading and study of God’s Word, along with putting it to use, we can have our “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) You may personally have experienced how Bible principles helped you to make wise decisions when you faced difficulties. The Bible gives us  shrewdness that can help us find practical solutions to distressing problems.​—Proverbs 1:4.

14 The Word of God provides us with another source of strength​—the hope of salvation. (Romans 15:4) The Bible tells us that bad things will not continue to happen indefinitely. Whatever tribulations we suffer are temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) We have the “hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting.” (Titus 1:2) If we rejoice in that hope, with a constant awareness of the bright future that Jehovah promises, we can endure under tribulation.​—Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

The Congregation​—An Expression of God’s Love

15. How can Christians be a blessing to one another?

15 Another provision from Jehovah that can help us in times of distress is the companionship we enjoy in the Christian congregation. The Bible says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) God’s Word encourages all in the congregation to honor and love one another. (Romans 12:10) “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person,” wrote the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 10:24) Having such a frame of mind can help us to focus on the needs of others rather than on our own trials. When we give of ourselves to others, not only do we help them but we also enjoy a measure of happiness and satisfaction that make our own burdens more bearable.​—Acts 20:35.

16. How can each Christian be encouraging?

16 Spiritually mature men and women can play an important role in strengthening others. In order to do so, they make themselves approachable and available. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13) The congregation is truly blessed when all make the time to commend young ones, to build up new believers, and to encourage those who are depressed. (Romans 15:7) Brotherly love will also help us to avoid a spirit of suspicion toward one another. We should be slow to conclude that personal difficulties are a sign of spiritual weakness. Paul appropriately urges Christians to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) The Bible shows that even faithful Christians experience distress.​—Acts 14:15.

17. What opportunities do we have to strengthen the bond of Christian brotherhood?

17 Christian meetings provide an excellent  opportunity for us to comfort and encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) This loving interaction is not limited to congregation meetings. Rather, God’s people also look for opportunities to engage in wholesome association in casual settings. When distressing situations arise, we will readily assist one another because strong bonds of friendship have already been established. The apostle Paul wrote: “There should be no division in the body, but . . . its members should . . . care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it; or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.”​—1 Corinthians 12:25, 26.

18. What tendency should we avoid when feeling downhearted?

18 At times, we may feel too downhearted to enjoy association with fellow Christians. We should fight such feelings so that we do not deprive ourselves of the comfort and assistance that fellow believers can offer. The Bible warns us: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) Our brothers and sisters are an expression of God’s care for us. If we recognize that loving provision, we will find relief in times of distress.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

19, 20. How do the Scriptures help us reject negative thoughts?

19 When discouragement and sadness set in, it is easy to entertain negative thoughts. For instance, when experiencing adversity, some may begin to question their own spirituality, concluding that their hardship is a sign of God’s disapproval. Remember, though, Jehovah does not try anyone with “evil things.” (James 1:13) “Not out of his own heart has [God] afflicted or does he grieve the sons of men,” says the Bible. (Lamentations 3:33) On the contrary, Jehovah is deeply saddened when his servants suffer.​—Isaiah 63:8, 9; Zechariah 2:8.

20 Jehovah is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) He cares for us, and he will exalt us in due time. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) A constant awareness of God’s affection for us will help us to maintain a positive attitude, even to rejoice. James wrote: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” (James 1:2) Why? He answers: “Because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.”​—James 1:12.

21. Regardless of difficulties we face, what guarantee does God give to those who prove faithful to him?

21 As Jesus warned us, in the world we will have tribulation. (John 16:33) But the Bible promises that no “tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger” will separate us from Jehovah’s love and the love of his Son. (Romans 8:35, 39) How comforting it is to know that any distress we face is temporary! In the meantime, while we await the end of human suffering, our loving Father, Jehovah, watches over us. If we run to him for protection, he will prove to be “a secure height for anyone crushed, a secure height in times of distress.”​—Psalm 9:9.

What Did We Learn?

• What should Christians expect while living in this wicked world?

• How can our fervent prayers prove strengthening when we face trials?

• How is God’s spirit a helper?

• What can we do to help one another?

[Study Questions]

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We must seek Jehovah as though we were running into a strong tower

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Spiritually mature ones use every opportunity to commend and encourage others