“God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses.”
1, 2. What bad things have happened to many people? What does each one of us want?
WE LIVE in difficult times. The earth has been affected by one disaster after another. People have suffered terribly because of earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, volcanoes, tornadoes, typhoons, and hurricanes. Also, problems in the family and personal problems have made many sad and afraid. Just as the Bible shows, bad things can happen to any of us at any time.
2 God’s people have continued to serve him joyfully in these difficult situations. But each one of us wants to be ready to endure any difficulties that may come as the end of this system gets closer. How can we continue to serve God joyfully when bad things happen to us? What will help us get the courage we need?
LEARN FROM THOSE WHO SHOWED COURAGE
3. According to Romans 15:4, what can comfort us when we have serious problems?
3 Even though problems affect more people now than ever before, there have always been problems. Let us see what we can learn from some of God’s servants in the past who showed courage in difficult situations.
4. What are some of the things David had to endure? What helped him?
4 Think about some of the things David had to endure. King Saul wanted to kill him. Enemies fought against him and once even took away his wives. Some among his army and some of his own family and friends betrayed him. And at times, he felt depressed. (1 Samuel 18:8, 9; 30:1-5; 2 Samuel 17:1-3; 24:15, 17; Psalm 38:4-8) The Bible shows how much David suffered because of these problems. But these bad things did not weaken his faith in Jehovah. In fact, he said: “Jehovah is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be in dread?”
5. What helped Abraham and Sarah to stay happy, even though they had a hard life?
5 Abraham and Sarah lived in tents most of their life. They were strangers in places they did not know much about. Life was not always easy for them. For example, they suffered because of a famine and because of dangers from nations around them. But they were courageous and endured all of this. (Genesis 12:10; 14:14-16) What helped them endure? God’s Word tells us that Abraham “was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10) Abraham and Sarah did not allow a hard life to make them unhappy. Instead, they always remembered what God had promised them.
6. How can we imitate Job?
6 Job was a man who suffered terribly. Imagine how he felt when everything in his life seemed to go wrong. (Job 3:3, 11) Also, he did not completely understand why all those things were happening to him. But even in this situation, he never gave up. He kept his integrity and his faith in God. (Read Job 27:5.) What a fine example for us to imitate!
7. What are some of the things that Paul suffered in his service to God? What gave him the courage to continue?
7 Think, too, of the apostle Paul’s example. He wrote that he had been in dangerous situations in the city, in the wilderness, and at sea. He spoke of “hunger and thirst” and of “cold and nakedness.” Paul also mentioned that a few times he had been on ships that sank and, as a result, one time he spent a night and a day floating in the sea. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Even when his life was in danger, he kept a good attitude. One time after he had almost been killed, he said: “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 Corinthians 1:8-10) Not many people have been in as many dangerous situations as Paul was. But many of us have at times felt the same way that he did. So his example of courage can comfort us.
DO NOT GIVE UP BECAUSE OF PROBLEMS
8. How might today’s problems affect us? Give an example.
8 Today’s world is so full of disasters and other stressful situations that many feel that their problems are just too big or there are too many of them. Even some of God’s servants have felt that way. Lani * (see footnote) was happily pioneering with her husband in Australia when she found out that she had breast cancer. This was very shocking news. She said that the treatments made her very ill, and she felt worthless. At the same time, she had to care for her husband after he had surgery on his spine. If we are ever in a situation like that, what can we do?
9, 10. (a) What must we not allow Satan to do? (b) What attitude can help us endure the “many tribulations” mentioned at Acts 14:22?
9 When bad things happen to us, we should remember that Satan tries to use these things to weaken our faith and take away our joy. But we must not allow him to do that. Proverbs 24:10 says that if we get discouraged, we will not have the energy to endure our problems. If we meditate on examples from the Bible, such as those we talked about earlier, we can get the courage we need when we have problems.
10 It is also good to remember that we cannot remove all problems. In fact, we can expect them. (2 Timothy 3:12) Acts 14:22 tells us: “We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.” Instead of allowing problems to discourage you, think of them as opportunities to show your faith in God’s ability to help you.
Think of difficult situations as opportunities to show your faith in God’s ability to help you
11. If we do not want bad things in our life to discourage us, what can we do?
11 We need to keep thinking about the good things in our life. God’s Word tells us that “a joyful heart has a good effect” on us, but “the pain of the heart” can make us feel sad. (Proverbs 15:13) Doctors know that one thing that can help a sick person get better is if he thinks that he will get better. Many times, if a person takes pills that are not real medicine but he believes that the pills will help him, he will feel better. But if a sick person thinks that the pills he is taking are causing him to have health problems, he will feel worse. This example shows that if we are always thinking about things we cannot change in our life, we will get discouraged. We are thankful that Jehovah gives us real help. Even in times of disaster, he will give us encouragement from his Word, the support of our brothers and sisters, and strength through his holy spirit. These are the things that we should keep thinking about and that will make us feel happier. Instead of thinking about what is bad in your life, do what you can to endure each problem and think mainly of the good things you have.
12, 13. (a) What has helped God’s servants to endure the effects of disasters? Give an example. (b) How can disasters make us realize what the most important thing in life is?
12 In recent times, serious disasters have happened in some countries. We can learn from how our brothers endured in those situations, even though it was not easy for them to do so. In early 2010, a powerful earthquake and tsunami in Chile destroyed many of our brothers’ homes and possessions. Some lost their job. But even in this situation, the brothers stayed active in Jehovah’s service. 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.” They and many other brothers and sisters did not allow the disaster to discourage them but continued serving Jehovah zealously.
13 In September 2009, heavy rains flooded most of the city of Manila, in the Philippines. A rich man who lost many things said that the flood affected everyone and caused “difficulties and sufferings to both the rich and the poor.” This reminds us of Jesus’ wise advice: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) Money and things can quickly disappear, so people who put them first in their life are often disappointed. It is much wiser to put Jehovah first in our life because we can continue to be Jehovah’s friends no matter what happens around us.
REASONS WE HAVE TO SHOW COURAGE
14. What reasons do we have to show courage?
14 Jesus told his disciples that there would be problems during the time of his presence, but he said: “Do not be terrified.” (Luke 21:9) We have excellent reasons to show courage because our King Jesus Christ and Jehovah, the Creator of the universe, are helping us. 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. What have some of God’s servants said about their trust in him? How can we have similar courage?
15 The Bible tells us what some of God’s servants have said about their trust in him. For example, 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.” (Psalm 28:7) Paul said: “In all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37) When Jesus knew that he would soon be arrested and killed, he said something that clearly showed that he had a strong relationship with God. He told his apostles: “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32) What do these servants of God show by their words? That they all trusted in Jehovah completely. If we learn to trust in God in the same way, we can have the courage we need in any difficult situation.
BENEFIT FROM THE HELP GOD GIVES YOU
16. Why is it important for us to study God’s Word?
16 The courage we need comes, not from trusting in ourselves, but from trusting in God. We can have courage if we study his Word, the Bible, regularly. When we do this, we get to know God and we learn to trust in him. A sister who suffers from depression explains that when she reads comforting verses in the Bible over and over again, she feels better. Do we have our family worship each week, as the faithful and discreet slave class has directed us? Our study of God’s Word can 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 is another way Jehovah helps us to have courage? (b) How has a life story in our publications helped you?
17 Another way Jehovah helps us to have courage is through publications that teach us about his Word and help us to trust in him more. For example, the life stories in our magazines have helped many. One sister in Asia who suffers from a kind of depression called bipolar mood disorder was encouraged by a life story she read. It was about a brother who used to be a missionary and who had the same illness. Even so, the brother continued serving God faithfully. She wrote about this life story, “It helped me to understand my own problem and gave me hope.”
18. Why should we pray as often as possible?
18 Jehovah also helps us through prayer. Prayer can help us in any situation. The apostle Paul emphasized how important prayer is when he said: “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.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Do we pray as often as possible for help to endure difficult situations? Alex, a brother in Britain who has been suffering from depression for a long time, says that what helps him the most is “talking to Jehovah in prayer and listening to him by reading his Word.”
19. How important is it to attend Christian meetings?
19 Meetings are another way Jehovah helps us. A psalmist wrote that he longed to be in Jehovah’s temple. (Psalm 84:2) Do we feel the same? Lani, mentioned earlier, explains that it is very important for her to attend all the meetings and to be with the brothers and sisters. She says, “I knew that I had to be there if I expected Jehovah to help me.”
20. How does being busy in the preaching work help us?
20 We also get courage by being busy in the preaching work. (1 Timothy 4:16) A sister in Australia who has had many problems in her life 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.” (Proverbs 16:20) Many have found that by helping others to have faith in Jehovah, they strengthen their own faith. When they are helping others, they are able to stop thinking about their own problems and to keep thinking about “the more important things.”
21. What can we be sure of even when we have problems?
21 Jehovah has given us many things that can help us endure our problems. If we allow him to help us, we can be happy even when we have problems. Also, we can learn to be courageous by meditating on the excellent examples of servants of God and by imitating them. Although we may have more problems as the end of this system gets closer, we can feel like Paul, who said: “We are thrown down, but not destroyed” and, “We do not give up.” (2 Corinthians 4:9, 16) With Jehovah’s help, we can have the courage needed to endure our problems.
^ par. 8 Some names have been changed.