“In my first defense no one came to my side, but they all forsook me—may they not be held accountable.”
~2 Timothy 4:16
Is it normal to feel alone serving God Jehovah?
After all, our worldwide brotherhood and local congregations are supposed to be a haven of love and kindness amidst this wicked world. (Heb. 10:24,25; 1 John 5:19)
But it is unrealistic to assume others will never fail us.
David, who had an army of supporters at different times in his life, wrote:
“Reproach has broken my heart, and the wound is incurable.
“I was hoping for sympathy, but there was none,
“And for comforters, but I found none.” (Ps. 31:12; 69:20; 142:4)
Job’s closest friends also abandoned him during the hardest time of his life. (Job 19:14)
Jesus’ own friends fled from him when he faced death. (Matt. 26:56)
So we should not be too discouraged nor surprised if our support group does not react the way we need them to.
We are all Christians trying to fight the good fight, and part of that is learning to forgive each other. (Col. 3:13)
Such circumstances also teach us to rely on Jehovah’s unfailing love regardless of what happens. (2 Tim. 4:17,18)
“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 surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”
If this is one of the verses I’ve cited most from the Bible, it is because I often need to remind myself of this.
Jehovah does not expect us to never be anxious, but he does expect us to rely on him through our trials. (1 Pet. 5:7)
He promises to be there for us, either by providing strength to endure or by showing us the solution. (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-9; 2 Pet. 2:9)
Jehovah often answers our prayers in ways which we could never have even imagined. (Eph. 3:20)
If we look to him for comfort, his training will make us stronger and ‘firmly ground us’ in the faith. (1 Pet. 5:10)
“I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think, but to think so as to have a sound mind [..].”
The closer we draw to God’s promised kingdom, the harder it is to manage our trials. (1 Pet. 4:7)
How do we protect and improve our mental health?
One proverb advises: “A calm heart gives life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Prov. 14:30)
When we keep emotions in check, such as anger, stress and anxiety, we can train ourselves to remain calm and strong. (Ps. 37:8; Eccl. 7:9)
We can also pray to God for more patience and empathy. (Prov. 14:29)
If we have a tendency to overreact, it will do us good to nurture a forgiving spirit toward minor mistakes, both our own and those of others’. (Ps. 4:4; Col. 3:13)
If we think before we speak, we will end up with fewer regrets and feel better about ourselves. (Prov. 12:18; 15:1)
Sometimes we may need to physically remove ourselves from a situation before we can figure out how to best tackle the problem. (Prov. 17:14)
Wearing a smile on our face and focusing on what we have instead of what we lack can promote cheerfulness. (Prov. 15:15; 17:22; 2 Cor. 8:12)
It is also important to surround ourselves with people who are encouraging. (1 Cor. 15:33)
It helps to remember that God values us and we are not alone. (Is. 41:13)
Personally, I have found that diet and exercise greatly influence my emotional state.
But if we constantly feel our situation in life is hopeless, we could probably benefit from speaking to a psychology professional who understands our personal values. (Luke 5:31)
The following is a good video to share with someone who might show symptoms of depression:
From Sad to Glad
“Again Jesus called out with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”
Jesus struggled to stay alive until all prophecies relating to his earthly life had been fulfilled, including the one in which he would be given vinegar during distress. (Ps. 69:21; John 19:30)
By yielding up his spirit, he willingly let himself expire.
He carried out his commission thoroughly even during the most painful and humiliating moment of his life, until it was time to let go of it.
Sometimes we may want to give up on life when our bodies still have a decent amount of living in them.
Jesus’ example shows me that it’s important to see things through to completion, not losing focus of God’s purpose, even on darker days.
“Every man wishing me peace was watching for my downfall. […]
But Jehovah was with me like a fearsome warrior […].”
Perhaps we have all experienced the sadness of finding out a close friend of ours is a false friend with selfish motivations.
Or perhaps someone has ruined our reputation and we watch alone as most of our acquaintances draw away from us, waiting for our fall.
In the prophet’s case, his emotional anguish was so great, he regretted ever having been born at all. (Jer. 20:14-18)
Ideally, we are surrounded by a loving brotherhood, but as the proverb says, “there are companions ready to crush one another.” (Prov. 18:24)
Jehovah God, on the other hand, ‘sees the innermost thoughts and the heart.’ (Jer. 20:12)
He sincerely wants us to draw close to him. (Ja. 4:8)
We can rely on him, confident that he will bring our case to justice and persecutors will be put to shame.
“I will not die, no, I will live, In order to declare the works of Jah.
Jah disciplined me severely, But he did not hand me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them and praise Jah.”
God created you with a sense of spirituality which you need to satisfy by knowing and praising him (Ge. 1:27).
If you are ever denied that God-given right, you are being denied one of the fundamental blocks of happiness (Matt. 5:3).
Knowing that God hands you the privilege of praising him with the congregation is reason enough to evade death.
It gives you a purpose in life, and no one else can praise Jehovah for you.
Verse eighteen clearly states that Jehovah does not discipline his servants to the point of death.
Therefore, to deny a repentant, depressed soul the joy of serving God goes against God’s express will and He will hold those persecutors accountable.
“O Jehovah, do not withhold your mercy from me.
May your loyal love and your truth constantly safeguard me.”
David, our Biblical poet, felt his ‘errors loom over his head; like a heavy burden, they were too much for him to bear,’ (Ps. 38:4).
For this reason, he ‘walked around sad all day long,’ (Ps. 38:6).
He could say nothing in his own defense (Ps. 38:14).
Still, he relied on Jehovah’s forgiveness, and prayed:
“Turn your harsh gaze away from me so that I may cheer up
Before I pass away and I am gone,” (Ps. 39:13).
Although David felt abandoned by his family and friends, burdened by his own mistakes and the weight of Jehovah’s discipline, he waited on Jehovah.
He knew that with Jehovah’s forgiveness, he could overcome his depression and once again experience the joy of serving Him.
Did his patience pay off?
“You answered me, O Jehovah my God,” (Ps. 38:15).
Jehovah answers our pleas for peace of mind when we seek refuge in the truth of His word and by giving us the strength to carry on (Ps. 138:3; John 17:17).
“Though I walk in the valley of deep shadow,
I fear no harm,
For you are with me […]”
There are periods in life which may be likened to dark valleys.
Perhaps we are depressed or experiencing high levels of anxiety.
In another Psalm, David wrote:
“Turn your face to me and show me favor,
For I am alone and helpless.
The distresses of my heart have multiplied;
Free me from my anguish,” (Ps. 25:16, 17).
How, then, does Jehovah God present himself at my side when I feel alone and anxious?
In the next verse, the writer prays: “Pardon all my sins,” making a connection between the sins and his affliction (Ps. 25:18).
One of the ways Jehovah draws close is by forgiving.
But in order to appreciate His pardon I must have the right motives.
“For the sake of your name,
Forgive my error,
though it is great,” (Ps. 25:11).
True repentance involves recognizing that the most important thing at stake is not how I feel, but Jehovah’s name with everything it represents, including mercy.
To have that point of view, I must first cultivate a healthy fear of God and humility to let myself accept His guidance (Ps. 25:12).
At that point, I will no longer fear alone or anxious because God’s “rod and staff” will have reassured me, making the darkness bearable (Ps. 23:4).
“My adversary pierces me with his eyes.”
In his struggle to keep faithful, Job erroneously reasoned that Jehovah was the one testing his faith, and that God had made him a living target (Job 16:12).
The Bible clearly states, however, that “the eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him,” (2 Chron. 16:9).
So if we ever feel like God is ‘piercing us with His eyes’ because of a bitter situation we are living through, let us remember that God actually looks at us through the eyes of love (Rom. 5:8).
Amidst all his anguish, Job continued to put all his faith in his heavenly Father:
Even now, my witness is in the heavens; The one who can testify for me is in the heights, (Job 16:19).
Whatever trial we may be undergoing, let us face it with the confidence that ‘God is not unrighteous so as to forget our work and the love we show for his name,’ (Heb. 6:10; Gal. 6:9).
“[…] You keep counting my every step; You watch only for my sin.”
When Job suffered depression, he thought God would focus on his past mistakes, like humans erroneously do.
While it is true that God does not deceive Himself and ignore our sins entirely, he does not dwell on the past when we are willing to repent (Ps. 130:3; 139:3).
Therefore, we should not assume Jehovah is drawing away from us because of mistakes we have asked him to forgive (Jas. 4:8).
Sometimes people close to us make us feel unwanted, useless and that we are in their way.
They might take advantage of our affection and take out their frustration on us.
People who are depressed are more likely to be victims of this, as they are more vulnerable and less likely to defend themselves.
Job apparently thought Jehovah would victimize him in this way.
He accused Jehovah of holding on to his transgressions, as if He had ‘sealed them up in a bag’ or ‘with glue,’ (Job 14:17).
How wonderful it is to understand that God is not really like that, but his kindness surpasses that we could expect of any human (Ps. 103:8,14; Isa. 55:6-9).
In effect, Jehovah focuses on us to find what is good, appreciating what we have to offer (2 Cor. 8:12).