“The God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our trials.”—2 COR. 1:3, 4.
SONGS: 38, 56
1, 2. How does Jehovah comfort us in our trials, and what assurance does his Word provide?
A YOUNG single brother, whom we will call Eduardo, spoke of his concerns with Stephen, an older married elder. Eduardo had been thinking about what we read at 1 Corinthians 7:28: “Those who [marry] will have tribulation in their flesh.” He asked, “What is this ‘tribulation,’ and how would I deal with it if I marry?” Before addressing that question, Stephen asked Eduardo to consider something else that the apostle Paul wrote, namely, that Jehovah is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials [“tribulation,” ftn.].”—2 Cor. 1:3, 4.
2 Jehovah is indeed a loving Father, and he comforts us when we face difficulties. You may personally have had experiences in which God provided you with support and guidance, often through his Word. We can be sure that he wants the best for us, as he did for his servants in the past.—Read Jeremiah 29:11, 12.
3. What questions will we address?
3 Understandably, we are in a better position to cope if we can identify the causes of our problems or tribulations. And that is true of tribulation related to married life or to family life. What, then, are some of the realities that may bring on the ‘tribulation in the flesh’ that Paul mentioned? What examples from both Bible times and our time can help us to find the comfort we need? Knowing this will help us to cope.
TRIALS—‘TRIBULATION IN THE FLESH’
4, 5. What are some causes of ‘tribulation in the flesh’?
4 We can read what God said near the start of human history: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Jehovah said that when he performed the first human marriage. Yet, under imperfect conditions, getting married and setting up a new household can strain family relationships. (Rom. 3:23) Usually, parental authority is being replaced by the authority of the husband. God authorizes him to exercise headship over his wife. (1 Cor. 11:3) Some new husbands and wives do not find this to be easy. According to God’s Word, a wife is to accept that she will be directed by her husband rather than by her parents. Relationships with in-laws may become strained and cause tribulation for the newlyweds.
5 New anxieties often surface after a wife announces to her husband, “We are going to have a baby.” Usually, a couple’s joy over their prospective child is tinged with some apprehension about medical issues that may arise during the pregnancy or later. And there will be an economic impact to consider, both immediate and long-term. More adjustments become necessary when the baby arrives. The new mother’s time and attention may be focused on caring for her child. Many a husband has felt left out because his wife is occupied with her duties toward their baby. On the other hand, a new father has new responsibilities to shoulder. His duties increase because he has a new family member to care for and provide for.
6-8. How can an unfulfilled desire to have children cause distress?
6 A different sort of tribulation confronts some married couples. They desperately want children but remain childless. When the wife does not become pregnant, she may feel much emotional distress. Neither marriage nor childbearing guarantees freedom from cares, yet an unfulfilled desire for children is in its own way a ‘tribulation in the flesh.’ (Prov. 13:12) In Bible times, barrenness often carried a stigma. Rachel, Jacob’s wife, expressed anguish at seeing her sister have children. (Gen. 30:1, 2) Missionaries serving in lands where it is customary to have large families are often asked why they do not have children. Despite their logical and tactful explanation, the reaction may be, “Oh, we will pray for you!”
7 Or consider the case of a sister in England who very much wanted a child but whose hopes in that regard had not been fulfilled. Then she entered the change of life. She admitted that she felt devastated, for she realized that her desire would not be satisfied in this system of things. She and her husband decided to adopt a child. Nonetheless, she said: “I still went through a sort of grieving process. I knew that adoption would not be exactly the same as giving birth to my own child.”
8 The Bible does mention a Christian woman’s being “kept safe through childbearing.” (1 Tim. 2:15) But this does not mean that giving birth or having children results in gaining everlasting life. Rather, it refers to the fact that a woman’s having children to tend to, along with the other aspects of caring for a household, may keep her from falling into a pattern of gossiping and meddling in others’ affairs. (1 Tim. 5:13) However, she may still face tribulations linked to marriage and family life.
9. How is losing a marriage mate in death a distinct trial?
9 When referring to tribulations associated with marriage, there is one that may not readily come to mind. The death of a loved one. Yes, a distinct trial that many have faced is that of losing a beloved marriage mate in death. This is a trial that the survivor may not have expected to face in this system of things. Christians firmly believe Jesus’ promise of a coming resurrection. (John 5:28, 29) What does that prospect do for the surviving mate? It offers a considerable amount of comfort. This is another way that our loving Father, through his Word, offers support and comfort to those experiencing tribulation. Let us now consider how some servants of God have felt—and benefited from—the comfort that Jehovah provides.
COMFORT WHEN WE FACE TRIALS
10. How did Hannah find relief from distress? (See opening picture.)
10 Hannah, a beloved wife of Elkanah, faced a particular trial. She remained barren while Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, produced offspring. (Read 1 Samuel 1:4-7.) Hannah was taunted by Peninnah “year after year.” That caused Hannah great anguish and distress. She sought relief by taking the matter to Jehovah in prayer. Indeed, “she prayed for a long time before Jehovah.” Did she expect Jehovah to grant her request? She must have hoped so. In any event, “her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Sam. 1:12, 17, 18) She trusted that Jehovah would either put an end to her barrenness or fill the lack in some other way.
11. How can prayer provide us with comfort?
11 Trials and tribulations will continue as long as we are imperfect and are in this system under Satan’s control. (1 John 5:19) How good it is to know, though, that Jehovah is “the God of all comfort”! One way that we can receive help to deal with our personal trials or tribulations is through prayer. Hannah poured out her heart to Jehovah. Similarly, in the face of tribulation, we need to do more than simply mention to Jehovah how we feel. We need to supplicate him, yes, to convey our feelings by praying intensely from the heart.—Phil. 4:6, 7.
12. What helped the widow Anna to find joy?
12 Even if we feel a deep void in our life—whether from childlessness or from the death of a loved one—we can still gain comfort. In Jesus’ day, the prophetess Anna lost her husband after only seven years of marriage. The Bible account makes no mention of any children. What was Anna still doing at 84 years of age? Luke 2:37 states: “She was never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fasting and supplications.” Yes, Anna found comfort as well as joy in worshipping Jehovah.
13. Give an example of how true friends can bring comfort even when close relatives fail to do so.
13 When we associate closely with our brothers and sisters, we find true friends and close companions. (Prov. 18:24) Paula recalls how sad she felt at the age of five when her mother fell away from the truth. Overcoming this trial was not easy. But she was greatly encouraged when Ann, a pioneer sister in the congregation, took a keen personal interest in her spiritual welfare. “Even though Ann was not related to me, I found her loving concern to be such a help,” Paula explains. “It helped me to keep serving Jehovah.” Paula continues to serve faithfully. She is also very happy to be once again serving alongside her mother in the congregation. Ann too is happy, for she has been like a spiritual mother to Paula.
14. Those who give comfort can experience what blessings?
14 Interestingly, when we show loving personal interest in others, we may actually let go of some of our own negative feelings. Sisters, married or unmarried, know for a fact that they find great joy in sharing the good news as fellow workers with God. Their goal is to honor God by doing his will. Some even view their participation in the ministry as therapy. Certainly, all of us contribute to a close bond in the congregation when we show concern for others, those in our territory and those in the congregation. (Phil. 2:4) The apostle Paul was a fine example. He became like “a nursing mother” to those in the Thessalonian congregation; he was also like a spiritual father.—Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11, 12.
COMFORT IN THE FAMILY
15. Who are primarily responsible for teaching young ones the truth?
15 One area that merits attention is the comfort and help we offer to families. On occasion, new ones ask mature publishers to help them teach their children the truth, even to conduct a Bible study with the youngsters. Scripturally, the primary responsibility to teach and train young ones lies with the parents. (Prov. 23:22; Eph. 6:1-4) In some cases help from others is needed and much appreciated. Yet, that does not negate the parents’ responsibility. Their regular communication in the family is essential.
16. In helping children, what should be borne in mind?
16 If a parent decides to have someone study with the children, the one who does so should not try to take over the role of the parents. There have been instances when a Witness was asked to study with children whose parents were not interested in the truth. The Witness needs to bear in mind, though, that in providing spiritual help, he or she does not become the children’s parent. And if such a study is conducted, it would be wise to do so either in the children’s home with the parents or another mature Witness around or in a suitable public area. Thus no one would have a basis to misconstrue what is occurring. It is to be hoped that the parents will, in time, fulfill their God-given responsibility to care spiritually for their children.
17. How can children become a source of comfort?
17 Young ones who learn to love the true God and to follow his counsel can become a source of comfort in a family. They can do so by showing respect for their parents and by helping in material ways. They can also make a valuable spiritual contribution. Before the Flood, Seth’s descendant Lamech worshipped Jehovah. That family man said of his son Noah: “[He] will bring us comfort from our labor and from the painful toil of our hands because of the ground that Jehovah has cursed.” That prophecy was fulfilled when the curse on the ground was lifted. (Gen. 5:29; 8:21) On a more personal level, children who pursue true worship can prove to be sources of comfort in their families, helping all to endure present trials and then to survive something greater than the Flood.
18. What can help us to endure courageously despite any tribulations or trials we face?
18 Prayer, meditation on examples found in the Bible, and close association with Jehovah’s people are helping millions right now to gain comfort in all their trials. (Read Psalm 145:18, 19.) Knowing that Jehovah is the Source of lasting comfort will surely help us to endure courageously whatever tribulations we face—now and in the future.