The peace of God . . . will guard your hearts.
Having a grateful heart can help us to cope with grievous trials. We may feel overwhelmed if we are suddenly confronted with life-altering circumstances, such as the unfaithfulness of a marriage mate, a life-threatening illness, the death of a loved one, or the devastating effects of a natural disaster. At such times, we will be comforted and strengthened by reflecting on our blessings. Irina, a regular pioneer in North America, was married to an elder who proved unfaithful and abandoned her and their children. What helped Irina to go on serving Jehovah faithfully? She says: “I am grateful for Jehovah’s personal care for me as an individual. By choosing to count my blessings each day, I can see what a privilege it is to be known and loved by our protective heavenly Father. I know that he will never abandon me.” Her joyful spirit continues to sustain her, and she is a source of encouragement to others.
Although not as unequivocal or overtly calamitous as a life-threatening illness or natural disaster, nonetheless one of the most disturbing and potentially faith-shattering things Jehovah’s Witnesses can experience is being confronted with the Watchtower’s hypocrisy and error.
Or we may personally suffer evil and unloving treatment at the hands of fellow congregants or even bear the brunt of harsh, pharisaic elders. Our firsthand experience or even witnessing the unfaithfulness of others or the hypocrisy of the Governing Body can be as devastating as the unfaithfulness of a mate.
Those who experience such stumbling blocks need the peace of God to guard their hearts, so as not to lose faith and allow our hope to dim.
One thing that may help is our knowing that the unfaithfulness of others, even on the part of the most prominent men, does not nullify the faithfulness of God. Nor does it diminish the truth. There are numerous examples in the Bible of unfaithful individuals —kings, priests and prophets —who were eventually judged by Jehovah and removed.
Consider the account of an elder in a Christian congregation in the first century; a fellow named Diotrephes, who liked to have the first place in the congregation; who slandered the apostles and refused to receive anyone sent from them with respect. Not only that, John went on to say of him: “Not being content with this, he refuses to welcome the brothers with respect; and those who want to welcome them, he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.”
Imagine being thrown out of a congregation by the presiding elder simply because you were hospitable to a visiting brother! How outrageous! Yet, apparently that is exactly what some suffered. No doubt persons aware of the distressing situation may have been disturbed over the fact that it was allowed to even happen. How could this be Christ’s congregation if this sort of thing goes on? —some may have reasoned.
The same thing goes on now in various forms. And sadly those who experience such badness may come to the conclusion that it is not the truth. But in his same letter to the congregation John contrasted the bad behavior of Diotrephes with the faithfulness of another brother, writing: “Beloved one, do not imitate what is bad, but imitate what is good. The one who does good originates with God. The one who does bad has not seen God. Demetrius has been well-reported-on by them all and by the truth itself. In fact, we too are bearing witness about him, and you know that the witness we give is true.”
Just as there are wicked individuals among Jehovah’s Witnesses, even in the highest office, there are most assuredly brothers who are well-reported on by the truth itself. Part of the problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, is that the Watchtower occupies such a dominate place in their lives and it presents the organization as a trouble-free spiritual paradise. Not only that, but the Governing Body have assumed the mantle of the infallible mouthpiece of God. So, there is no support for fellow believers who are confronted by various evils within, or the realization that God’s mouthpiece is not so truthful. Consequently, more and more Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves wondering: ‘How could this be Jehovah’s organization if this is allowed to go on?’ Tragically, many have abandoned their faith altogether, some after many years of faithful service.
But if we allow the misdeeds or unfaithfulness of others to determine our course, is that not an admission that we are following men? Better to follow the apostle’s wise advice to keep testing whether we are in the faith and keep proving what sort of persons we are, even if doing so is as one who has been thrown out of the congregation by men.