“God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses.”
1, 2. What adversities have many experienced, but what is the desire of God’s servants?
WE LIVE in a time of adversities. The earth has been inundated with disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, volcanoes, tornadoes, typhoons, and hurricanes have wreaked havoc on humankind. In addition, family problems and personal dilemmas have brought fear and sorrow. It is so true that “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all.
2 God’s servants as a whole have coped well with such distressing circumstances. Even so, we would like to be ready to deal with any difficulties that may confront us in the future as this system nears its end. How can we cope with these challenges and not be overwhelmed? What will help us meet today’s adversities with courage?
LEARN FROM THOSE WHO FACED LIFE WITH COURAGE
3. As shown at Romans 15:4, how might we be comforted when facing depressing circumstances?
3 Although difficult circumstances affect more people than ever before, distressing problems are not new to mankind. Let us see what we can learn from some of God’s servants who in the past successfully faced life with courage.
4. What adversities did David endure, and what helped him?
4 Consider David. Among other things, he had to put up with the wrath of a king, enemy attacks, the abduction of his wives, treachery in his own ranks, and emotional distress. (1 Sam. 18:8, 9; 30:1-5; 2 Sam. 17:1-3; 24:15, 17; Ps. 38:4-8) The Bible accounts of David’s life clearly reveal the pain these adversities caused him. However, they did not destroy him spiritually. Full of faith, he said: “Jehovah is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be in dread?”
5. What helped Abraham and Sarah to cope with a hard life?
5 Abraham and Sarah spent most of their life living in tents as aliens in strange lands. Life was not always easy for them. Yet, they resolutely coped with things like a famine and dangers from surrounding nations. (Gen. 12:10; 14:14-16) How were they able to do this? God’s Word tells us that Abraham “was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:8-10) Abraham and Sarah stayed focused on the things ahead, not getting dragged down by the world around them.
6. How can we imitate Job?
6 Job experienced extreme pressures. Imagine how he felt when everything in his life seemed to go wrong. (Job 3:3, 11) Making matters worse, he did not fully understand why all those things happened to him. Still, he never gave up. He maintained his integrity and his faith in God. (Read Job 27:5.) What a fine example for us to imitate!
7. What did Paul experience as he served God, but what realization gave him the courage to continue?
7 Consider, too, the apostle Paul’s example. He experienced ‘dangers in the city, in the wilderness, and at sea.’ He speaks of ‘hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness.’ Paul also mentions spending ‘a night and a day in the deep,’ likely because of one of the shipwrecks that he went through. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) Despite all of that, note the attitude he expressed after he had faced death for serving God: “This was that we might have our trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises up the dead. From such a great thing as death he did rescue us and will rescue us.” (2 Cor. 1:8-10) Not many people have had as many bad experiences as Paul did. Nevertheless, many of us can relate to his feelings and can take comfort from his courageous example.
AVOID BEING OVERWHELMED BY NEGATIVE EVENTS
8. How might today’s problems affect us? Illustrate.
8 In today’s world so full of disasters, challenges, and pressures, many feel overwhelmed. Even some Christians have felt that way. Lani, * who was enjoying the full-time service with her husband in Australia, says that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was devastating and struck like a bolt of lightning. She says, “The treatments made me very ill, and I was left with no self-esteem.” On top of everything else, she had to care for her husband, who had undergone spinal surgery. If we find ourselves in such a situation, what can we do?
9, 10. (a) What must we not allow Satan to do? (b) How can we cope with the reality mentioned at Acts 14:22?
9 We do well to remember that Satan wants to use the tribulations we suffer to undermine our faith. However, we must not allow him to sap our joy in this way. Proverbs 24:10 says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” Meditating on Biblical examples, such as those discussed earlier, will help us to muster up courage in the face of adversities.
10 It is also good to keep in mind that we cannot remove all problems. In fact, we can expect to experience them. (2 Tim. 3:12) Acts 14:22 tells us: “We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.” Rather than becoming dejected, why not view them as opportunities to manifest courage based on your faith in God’s ability to help you?
11. How can we avoid being overwhelmed by life’s adversities?
11 We need to focus on positive things. God’s Word tells us: “A joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance, but because of the pain of the heart there is a stricken spirit.” (Prov. 15:13) Medical researchers have long recognized the curative value of positive thinking. Many patients given sugar pills (placebos) have experienced relief of symptoms simply because they thought they were getting help. The opposite, called the nocebo effect, has also been demonstrated. Patients’ health deteriorated simply because they were told that a drug would have negative effects. Constantly dwelling on situations we cannot change may only tear us down. On the positive side, Jehovah does not give us “sugar pills.” Rather, even in times of disaster, he gives real help through the encouragement found in his Word, our supportive brotherhood, and the strength provided by holy spirit. Focusing on these things will lift us up. Instead of dwelling on negative events, do what is practical to cope with each problem and focus on the positive aspects of your life.
12, 13. (a) What has helped God’s servants to endure the effects of disasters? Illustrate. (b) During times of disaster, how does it become evident what is most important in one’s life?
12 In recent times, some countries have suffered severe disasters. Notably, many brothers in these lands have shown remarkable resilience. This does not mean that it was easy. In early 2010, a massive earthquake and tsunami in Chile destroyed many of our brothers’ homes and possessions, and in some cases, their livelihood. Despite this, the brothers just kept on going spiritually. Samuel, whose home was completely destroyed, said: “Even during these extreme circumstances, my wife and I never stopped attending meetings and preaching. I believe that these habits helped us not to become desperate.” Along with many others, they put the disaster behind them and moved on in Jehovah’s service.
13 In September 2009, over 80 percent of Manila, Philippines, was flooded by torrential rains. A wealthy man who lost much said, “The flood was a great equalizer, bringing difficulties and sufferings to both the rich and the poor.” This reminds us of Jesus’ prudent advice: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:20) Building one’s life around material things, which can so quickly disappear, often brings disappointment. How much wiser it is to center our life on our relationship with Jehovah, which can remain intact no matter what happens around us!
REASONS FOR DISPLAYING COURAGE
14. What reasons do we have for displaying courage?
14 Jesus acknowledged that there would be problems during the time of his presence, but he said: “Do not be terrified.” (Luke 21:9) With him as our King and with the Creator of the universe backing us up, we have every reason for confidence. Paul encouraged Timothy by saying: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.”
15. Give examples of the conviction of God’s servants, and explain how we can have similar courage.
15 Note some expressions of the strong conviction of God’s servants. David said: “Jehovah is my strength and my shield. In him my heart has trusted, and I have been helped, so that my heart exults.” (Ps. 28:7) Paul expressed his unwavering confidence, saying: “In all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) Likewise, as danger loomed, Jesus left no doubt in his listeners’ minds that he had a strong relationship with God, saying: “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32) What is evident in these expressions? Each reveals unwavering trust in Jehovah. Our developing similar confidence in God can give us the courage to face any of today’s adversities.
BENEFIT FROM PROVISIONS TO MAINTAIN COURAGE
16. Why is the study of God’s Word important for us?
16 Christian courage is not self-reliance. Rather, it is a result of our getting to know God and relying on him. We can do this by studying his written Word, the Bible. A sister suffering from depression explains what helps her, “I read especially comforting passages over and over again.” Have we applied the direction to have a regular time for family worship? Doing these things will help us to have the attitude of the psalmist who said: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”
17. (a) What provision may help us maintain a courageous outlook? (b) Give an example of how a published life story has helped you.
17 We also have Bible-based publications containing information that strengthens our confidence in Jehovah. Many brothers have found life stories in our magazines particularly helpful. One sister in Asia who suffers from bipolar mood disorder was delighted when she read the life story of a former missionary brother who successfully dealt with the same disorder. She wrote, “It helped me to understand my own problem and gave me hope.”
18. Why should we utilize the provision of prayer?
18 Prayer can help in all kinds of situations. The apostle Paul drew attention to the value of this provision, saying: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) Do we take full advantage of this avenue of help to gain strength in the midst of adversities? Alex, a brother in Britain who has long suffered from depression, said: “Talking to Jehovah in prayer and listening to him by reading his Word has been a lifeline for me.”
19. What should be our view of attending Christian meetings?
19 Association at meetings is another vital provision to help us. A psalmist wrote: “My soul has yearned and also pined away for the courtyards of Jehovah.” (Ps. 84:2) Do we feel the same? Lani, mentioned earlier, explains her view of Christian association: “Attending meetings was not optional. I knew that I had to be there if I expected Jehovah to help me cope.”
20. How will sharing in the preaching work help us?
20 We also get courage by keeping active in the Kingdom-preaching work. (1 Tim. 4:16) A sister in Australia who has experienced a multitude of problems says: “Preaching was the last thing I wanted to do, but an elder invited me to go with him. I went. Jehovah must have been helping; each time I shared in the ministry, I felt so happy.” (Prov. 16:20) Many have found that by helping others to build faith in Jehovah, they strengthen their own faith. In so doing, they keep their mind off their own problems and keep focused on the more important things.
21. What assurance do we have regarding the difficulties we face?
21 Jehovah has provided abundant help to meet today’s adversities with courage. By taking advantage of all these provisions and by meditating on and imitating fine examples of courageous servants of God, we have the assurance that we can face difficulties successfully. Although many negative things may yet happen as this system nears its end, we can feel as did Paul, who said: “We are thrown down, but not destroyed. . . . We do not give up.” (2 Cor. 4:9, 16) With Jehovah’s help, we can meet today’s adversities with courage.
^ par. 8 Some names have been changed.