[From ws7/17 p. 12 – September 4-10]
“Keep encouraging one another and building one another up.” – 1Th 5:11
(Occurrences: Jehovah=23; Jesus=16)
Having suffered the recent loss of my wife after four decades of happy marriage, I can take great comfort from the Bible texts referenced in this week’s Watchtower study, particularly so because I do not stop at the cited verses, but go on reading to get the fuller sense of how the Father comforts us. For example, paragraph 1 directs us to read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4:
“Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our trials so that we may be able to comfort others in any sort of trial with the comfort that we receive from God.” (2Co 1:3, 4)
There is a vital element missing which will escape you if you confine yourself to only the cited verses. The next verse reads:
“For just as the sufferings for the Christ abound in us, so the comfort we receive through the Christ also abounds.” (2Co 1:5)
The next “read” Scripture is Philippians 4:6, 7 found in paragraph 6. Again, an amplified reading provides additional insight into the means by which we are comforted.
“. . .Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say, Rejoice! 5 Let your reasonableness become known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:4-7)
Clearly, the Lord here referred to is Jesus Christ who is near. We should not take this to mean that the end is near. This was written almost 2,000 years ago. No, the nearness is physical, though not perceived with physical eyes. Jesus assured us that wherever two or three of us are gathered in his name, he is with us. What a comfort that is. (Mt 18:20)
Acts 9:31 is also referenced in paragraph 6. It contains an arbitrary insertion of “Jehovah” into the text of the NWT Bible version, but in the original, the word used was “Lord”. If we read the context (vs. 27, 28) we find that Lord is indeed the correct rendering, because it refers to the Lord Jesus appearing to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and that Saul spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus in that city. So when verse 31 speaks of ‘walking in the fear of the Lord’, we can see that Jesus is being referred to. The Israelites were to walk in the fear of Jehovah, but we are not Israelites. We are Christians. The Father has given all authority and judging to the Son, so we are to walk in fear of him. (Mt 28:18; John 5:22)
Paragraphs 7 thru 10 shows just how empathetic Jesus is toward those of his followers who are suffering pain. The next “read” Scripture is found in paragraph 10: Hebrews 4:15, 16.
If we read a few verses before, we can get some important additional information.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold on to our public declaration of him. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tested in all respects as we have, but without sin. 16 Let us, then, approach the throne of undeserved kindness with freeness of speech, so that we may receive mercy and find undeserved kindness to help us at the right time.” (Heb 4:14-16)
Speaking from personal experience, holding on to my public declaration of Jesus Christ has helped me greatly to endure the pain of loss I’ve experienced. I am enduring twin losses. The loss of a life companion who by marriage became “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” as God intended is a unique kind of pain, lessened, but not done away with entirely by the hope we both share. (Ge 2:23) The other pain is very different, but one shouldn’t take from that, that it is any less traumatic in its own way. A lifetime of belief cannot be discarded as easily as one takes off an old sweater. For many thousands, awakening to the fact that what they believed was the one true faith on earth—the visible organization chosen by Jehovah God himself—has been so disturbing that they have experienced a total shipwreck of their faith in both God and His Christ.
Jesus will not abandon us, even if we abandon him. He will knock on the door, but he will not force his way in. (Re 3:20)
Paragraph 11 gives us some wonderful Scriptures to comfort us in times of immense grief. How sad though that the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which casts the Other Sheep as no more than friends of God, strips away much of the power of those words. For example, it quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17 but ignores the fact that these verses apply to the adopted Children of God.
“However, we are obligated always to thank God for you, brothers loved by Jehovah, because from the beginning God selected you for salvation by sanctifying you with his spirit and by your faith in the truth. 14 He called you to this through the good news we declare, so that you may acquire the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So, then, brothers, stand firm and maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught, whether it was by a spoken message or by a letter from us. 16 Moreover, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, 17 comfort your hearts and make you firm in every good deed and word.” (2Th 2:13-17)
The Congregation—a Source of Great Comfort
A promising subtitle, but alas, I have not found this to be the case. Speaking with others who have suffered loses similar to mine, I realize that I am not alone in this. Even those who remain died-in-the-wool Jehovah’s Witnesses have expressed their disappointment in the congregation due to its lack of real support.
I do not think this is due to ill will. Rather, it is the consequence of the routine established by the Organization. I recall being very busy with this routine. I was taught that if I held to the routine, I would be saved. I was supposed to do all the things the Organization told me to do like regularly attend all the meetings, keep my hours up in field service, reach out for greater responsibility as an appointed servant, attend conventions and circuit assemblies, support the circuit overseer during his visits, keep the hall clean and well maintained, etc. These are things that are highly visible and easy to measure. (The amount of field service and placements one logs every month is tracked and recorded.)
However, comforting the grieving is not part of that routine and is not measured. So it garners no kudos from those above. For this reason, it tends to fall by the wayside. To illustrate, a field service car group might be in a remote territory (ours measured hundreds of square miles in size) and near the home of a aged widow. Would they go in for an encouraging visit? Often not, because they could not count their time and mindful of keeping their hours up, they’d forgo the opportunity to show Christian love and practice the form of worship of which the Father approves. (James 1:27)
For those of us who have, or are in the process of, departing from this artificial form of worship, the trauma of having friends and family turn their backs on us is mitigated by the new, truer friends we are encountering. (2 Ti 3:5) As Jesus promised, we will actually end up with more and better friends and family. (Mt 19:29) I have certainly experienced the truth of his words.
Keep Providing Comfort
I appreciate the counsel under this subtitle. It is appropriate. However, I fear it is too little too late. The occasional article like this one—as good as it may be—is not enough to overcome the mindset of Witnesses indoctrinated to put works in first place, to measure faith by the number of hours one devotes to the preaching work.
So while this is a good article for the most part, I doubt that it will change much in the status quo of JW.org.
Hola a todos.Hola meleti! He leído todos los comentarios de ustedes y sus sentimientos tan profundos me motivaron a escribir. Hace 10 años mi esposa quedó embarazada.ya teníamos un hermoso niño de dos años; y esperábamos con anhelo el nacimiento de este bebe; sin embargo, después de 7 meses tuvo un accidente y la criatura murió y mi esposa casi muere. Estábamos destrozados…pero lo peor vino después!! La total indiferencia de todos los hermanos en la congregacion! Era como si no hubiera pasado nada! Era como si pensaran que por ser hombre “fuerte” en la congregacion,no necesitaba consuelo.como si no… Read more »
Siento mucho la tragedia que tu y tu esposa han experimentado, Phelps. Puedo confirmar lo que tu dices acerca de la falta de simpatía Cristiana procedente de los miembros de la congregación. Cuando el cristianismo se reduce a una fórmula y es regulado por los hombres, el espíritu de Dios está restringido . Los hombres dejan de pensar por si mismos, lo cual produce una falta de sentimiento. Hay que pensar y reflexionar sobre el sufrimiento de otros para comprenderlo cabalmente hací como para poder simpatizar con el que sufre. La ilustración del esclavo inicuo que no podía actuar misericordiosamente… Read more »
Do you know of a good English-to-Spanish translation app? I used the free google “Translate” and it is less than stellar. I want to be able to communicate more effectively with Phelps and others here but it has been almost 30 years ago that my wife and I helped a newly established Spanish Congregation. Any good suggestions?
I have used google translate, which seems to work well. Bing also has a translate feature. No translate app is perfect, but google seems better than bing. You will get the best results if you know something about the ‘other’ language, to fill in the gaps when the software lets you down. Don’t totally rely on software since it can make mistakes, but it can help you understand the main point.
Thanks Robert. My knowledge of Spanish seems to be the problem, not the app. You have just confirmed what my wife just told me. Foiled again! I will have to actually re-build some more synapses in my brain.( Not as easy as it once was) Thank you for your response Robert,
My personal sentiments match most of everyone else’s comments. After my mother passed, not a single person from my congregation came to encourage our family. A congregation we associated with for over 30 yrs. In fact my dad’s former church members, (that he had not associated with for over 25 yrs after becoming a JW), came to visit and pray and brought meals for our family. True Christian love in my opinion. As the months went on, my dad stopped responding to the brothers invites to go ‘out in service’ (he was severely depressed after mom’s passing and could barely… Read more »
Hi SOG Your experience echos mine so I can sympathise and also rejoice with you,how’s that for a paradox? I have a son who started having seizures at 18 mths old,he has just not long turned 20. He has been close to death more times than I can remember,and in fact this weekend just gone was in ICU in an induced coma for 3days to stop seizure activity. Ime not saying this to garner sympathy, but when I look back on 18 years of living hell, the one constant is the complete lack of help from the cong,oh yes I… Read more »
Wow, that’s quite a story Wild Olive. Please accept my Christian love and sympathies for all you’ve apparently gone through with your son. Prayers for you and him. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.
Thank you D_a_v
If there is one thing I would ask ,it’s that truly righteous people ask a prayer in faith that what is happening to my son finishes. What would happen if he was healed ?
And if it did what would it prove ? After all that’s what 1st century Christians used to do .
Ifionlyhadabrain, You are so right. I remember an Elder asked if he could do a shepherding call on me when the CO was visiting our Cong and we were out in service. However, he asked because the return visit he was supposed to take the CO on cancelled and so I was just a time filler. Another time the Elders wanted to do a shepherding call was when I came off the pioneer list. They waited 4 months to ask, why because the CO was coming. I told them no, I didn’t want a shepherding call. They were shocked! So… Read more »
Would have to agree that the failing of the cong to support is not due to ill will but to adhearance to procedure and policy passed off as gods will. I am right now in contact with a sister who has deliberately committed adultery to break her marriage to a drug addicted abusive husband,who Lo and behold was himself a victim of child abuse in the org and is more than likely one of the 1008 that were not reported,as came out in the ARC. For 10 years this sister was told by elders to stick with her marriage ,then… Read more »
I too know the feeling of being broken, discouraged and the sense of feeling alone and disconnected, especially after finding out so many things about the Organization and leaving it. I lost many so called friends lost my wife my home almost everything all for the sake of listening too the voice of my master. But as our Master said My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. it has not been an easy journey in my neck of the woods, but I take comfort on the words of my beloved brother Paul..who said Indeed,… Read more »
I was married for 34 years, and my wife became a JW in 1995. Five years ago she died. Her funeral was attended by many from my old KH. Some years prior to that, we started distancing ourselves from the KH, mostly for personal reasons rather than because of the kind of doctrinal disputes that appear on this forum. In the few times since that JWs have crossed my path, usually at local restaurants, the reaction of these people is almost always the same. They try to tell me to come back to the KH, come to the Memorial, come… Read more »
Meliti, this must have been a hard article for you to write . You make good points, and we were always too “hour conscious” to get a balance. We also barely knew what to say to those in need. While we showed sympathy, we also regurgitated the party line, without the slightest idea as to whether it would work. Everything seems to be geared to an imminent end to this system, and pressing on the accelerator. I agree with your point that the overall attitude of the Society can end up shipwrecking all of our faith. I am trying to… Read more »
You reminded me of something, Leonardo. I worked for years side by side with our then Presiding Overseer, a “Bethel elder” before the did away with that arbitrary and unscriptural distinction. All in all, he was a good man, but one who did things by the book. When calling on weak ones, or those undergoing a particular trial, he would make copies of Watchtower articles that dealt with whatever the brother or sister was facing and leave them with the individual by way of “encouragement”. I never spoke to him about it because I knew he was just doing what… Read more »
I can relate to that experience Meleti. Over the years, I have been on many shepherding calls with brothers who did the same thing. Print a copy of an article, give it to the friends- all better! Providing a caring, listening ear is far more effective. Definitely more Christ-like
I have been the person struggling with major issues – death in the family, propensity to drink too much as a result – that has been the recipient of a photocopy of a Watchtower article as the solution to my problems at the time. It felt woefully underpowered, and frankly apathetic. I’ve since gotten a qualified councilor, and it’s actually been a game changer for me, personally. Magazines are not magic beans.
I remembering being out in service and we came up to the door of someone who was an ex-witness that had been sexually abused. The sister with me said here just take this magazine and it will help. Before I know it I said” that is not going to help him”. It was like she wasn’t even listening to him. When we got back with the rest of the group I had to argue my point of why just giving someone a magazine is not the answer. As for counting time, it was so sad when I was pioneering there… Read more »
There is definitely a connection between counting time and being tired…..
Y creo que es porque siempre deseamos hacer un servicio más práctico a favor de los demás sin tanto protocolo …cansa y aburre mentalmente
Thanks Meleti and your team about your meditations gems… about giving WT article and not be a listening ear, apart for a few exception,for what i saw, to them an article is like a magic spell, a lucky charm, like a pill of encapsulated God spirit, no need to ear the victim and had empathy, just put under under their pillow (figuratively speaking) and the job is done. Until they really knows Jehovah and Jesus will to put us in their family, they prefer to stay in the comfort zone and use wt article with sanctified words instead of hearing… Read more »
Creo que a todos nos ha tocado trabajar con “hermanos” en el pastoreo así?. Siempre legalistas, siempre regidos a lo que está escrito y no a su propia voluntad de ayudar. Hace un año casi dos años, me visitó el superintendente de circuito con un anciano. Éste hermano ya tenia preparado lo que me iba a decir, no me preguntó que me pasaba ni porque estaba tan alejado de la “organización” ,sólo dio su discurso en mi casa (rápido porque tenia que irse a comer) y se fue. Habría valorado más su esfuerzo si me hubiera escuchado ?
Leonardo, This ‘breaking free” that you mention is something that is a new process to me right now. It is admittedly difficult to do after being in the Org for close to forty years. I am gradually starting to discern that not all “worldly” people are bad people. With that said, I still tend to be very reserved about who I really want to associate with. Thankfully, at this point, I still have some close friends who are still active witnesses as well as family that are “still in”. I am trying to slowly make new friends (like you and… Read more »
Lovely article & so true. I remember thinking when on the ministry that there often wasn’t time to stop in on elderly or sick or inactive brothers and sisters because of counting our time. I used to feel that we were putting so much effort into finding ‘one sheep’ but not looking after the 100 we had! On one CO visit /Pioneer meeting it was mentioned that we could take a packed lunch to the one we are visiting and eat it there to ‘kill two birds with one stone’. So we tried this – well apart from being organised… Read more »
Sad but true. I agree that there is no ill will on the part of most. The reality is that you are on a constant treadmill to do more and more for the Org. It leaves little time or energy to be a source of true comfort to those we should be like family to. You correctly point to the best source of comfort- the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hi Warp Speed(is that a description of how fast your getting away from falsehoods??) It’s when you start analysing the “treadmill ” that some things reveal themselves . Basically JWs approach salvation the same way that rehab cleans up substance abusers. The individual is given rules and motivation to follow those rules,the way motivation is exerted is by creating an environment that is totally controlled,this is done by the org by cutting people off from any contact that’s “worldly”, and with drug addicts they are isolated to prevent them getting hold of anything that caters to their addiction,including like minded… Read more »
Thanks for shout out. I never really thought about my online name meaning to leave falsehoods in a hurry. Now that you bring it up, I would have to say it makes sense. A Freudian slip maybe?
You sure described the “treadmill” in depth. Pretty dead-on! Something I really appreciate about this site is that people here are thinkers. Not taking things at face value anymore just because somebody tells you to and out of blind obedience, obeying.
Enjoy all your comments and look forward to conversing again,
Thanks WS Likewise enjoy your input, isn’t it refreshing to be allowed to ask questions about your beliefs instead of having it shoved at you with the expectation of believe it or else. I went to the Dont Give Up convention and decided I won’t be going to another one ,it’s just too easy to see through the manipulation,misapplication and sundry falsehoods that make up the framework of JW beliefs. This site has helped me to deprogram myself,others have sought out therapy to do so and that has aided them, non of this would be necessary if what we had… Read more »
Bueno ,creo que todos estamos aquí porque teníamos el monstruo de “nuestro pensamiento crítico” demasiado amarrado y encadenado. Aunque no todos vamos tan rápido como tú querido amigo “Hi Warp Speed”?
Please forgive me, but my Spanish is very rusty. I do understand the gist of what you said though. Indeed, our critical thinking skills are are being refined by this site. Now I need to further refine my Spanish language skills! Thank you for taking the time to communicate,