Day 1 | Let us therefore arise and build
…The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build…~ Nehemiah 2:20
Self-care is a vitally important aspect we all should concern ourselves with. Each one of us is prone to endure stressful situations. Taking time out from those activities will give us that necessary relief of anxiety where we can engage in more relaxing and fulfilling activities. Felix Sabates states that – All work and no play is not good for the soul. In times of crisis though, it is not all about work or play – it is about maintaining what clinicians in the field of social services and psychology call homeostasis. A strive for balance in our lives. When we are out of balance, there is much emotional turmoil and suffering. We encounter this through Nehemiah as he fulfills his duties and obligations in the court of King Artaxerxes as the King’s cupbearer. However, before we continue forth, let us take a step back and reflect on this observation from Ray Stedman:
… Last week we left our hero weeping and praying over the ruins of Jerusalem, beseeching God to lead him in a program of recovery. In the wonderful way the Bible has, this is intended to illustrate the damaged and ruined areas of our lives that need to be rebuilt, repaired or recovered. As we pursue that interpretation through Nehemiah, we shall find much practical help on how to reclaim a ruined life.
Many today find themselves in almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still in bondage to wrongful attitudes or habits. It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you should expect an answer. Expect God to do something. Be ready for when it comes.
An opportunity to change will surely appear, at times rather unexpectedly or after a longer period of time than you think it ought to take, but it will happen because the God we worship is a God who answers prayer.
Stedman’s observation is appropriate because as we arise and build, we must recognize the nature of what it is that we are building and the important significance it has to be built back up again. Our very own lives have significant importance to us, to our family and to those around us. Whatever it is that we have brought about to cause our own destruction, when we arise and build, we are reclaiming the worth and value of our own personal integrity and contribution to society.
Another interesting tidbit to consider is that Nehemiah chapter 1 opens where it took place in the Hebrew month Kislev (which correlates to our month of December). Comparing this with chapter 2 of Nehemiah, we see that it takes place in the month of Nisan (which is our month of April). Thus, four months having transpired between Kislev and Nisan – and quite possibly could be the length of time Nehemiah engaged in personal mourning, weeping, fasting and prayer before making his request known to the King (See Ray Stedman’s article: Don’t Hesitate – Investigate!)
God often works in lives this way today. We are hasty, impatient creatures. We want our prayers answered tomorrow, or even yesterday! We pray, and we expect God’s answer right away. But God often delays his answers. It is not because he is impotent or unwilling. … We are taught again and again in Scripture to persevere in prayer – to keep praying till the answer comes. Evidently Nehemiah has been doing this and the indication of it is that his heart is still deeply troubled over the state of Jerusalem.
Before us, we have a man that has engaged in weeping, mourning, fasting and prayer for certain days or approximately four months. His heart is still heavy and it is evident as he begins to serve the King in official duties and obligations. Therefore, we shall explore the first principle action of recognizing our own despondence; or, the despondence within another person’s life.
Thoughts to consider:
- Is there anything in your life at the moment that you have consistently prayed for and brought before Heavenly Father and yet to have received an answer?
- What particular doubts do you have regarding unanswered prayers concerning the particular situation you or a friend, family member, or neighbors are in?
- In what ways does the length of time where Nehemiah engaged in weeping, mourning, fasting and prayer to a point where he is now placed in an opportunity to be receptive to an answer from God helps strengthen you with faith and hope that prayers will be answered? Have you given up praying and doubt the ability of God to provide the answer to your prayer? If so, what are you willing to do to engage in fervent consistent prayer until an answer is received?
- If you have received an answer, how long did it take, what was the impression or opportunity provided by which the answer came?
- What ways can one help another understand the nature of praying consistently, knowing that God will answer prayer?
Why is thy countenance sad?
As previously stated, we open the second chapter with Nehemiah serving as the King’s cupbearer:
1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. 2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, 3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
Here are two important things that we can draw out from these scripture passages. First, Nehemiah fulfilled his duties and obligations. It seems implied that he did not justify his behavior or sadness, and faithfully served in the capacity he had been placed in. Second, Nehemiah knew the reason for the sad demeanor that the King had seen. His own emotional vulnerability exposed to the one whom he served. Many of us either negate our responsibilities because of traumatic experiences (unless we are physically incapable of doing so) because of the depressed state that has come upon us, or we tend to engage in destructive behaviors to hide the true emotions that must be dealt with in our lives because of the moment of crisis. We also are afraid to have our raw emotions exposed and therefore try to create a false appearance that all is well when our emotions are in chaos. As for Nehemiah, we may or may not know whether he attempted to hide his emotions, but what we do know is that he relates he had never before appeared saddened in the court while fulfilling his obligations. It is said that we can only endure so much before reaching the breaking point and others see the exposed vulnerable self. This may have been that moment for Nehemiah. All because our own countenance – or facial expressions – show the true state of emotions that we are experiencing.
Acknowledging our emotional burdens
Because Nehemiah knew that the King saw his facial expressions as being saddening, the conversation comes about by inquiring as to what reason has Nehemiah to be in such an emotional state. He did not appear sick and therefore justified with such a sad disposition. Today, we have people who understand and know our own personal behaviors. Hence, when we appear deeply saddened, it is a question of concern as to what is the causation for our emotional discomfort. Many of us hear it in the tone of compassion and inquiry as someone asks us –
Is everything okay?
You seem quite distant and upset
I can tell that there is something bothering you, care to talk about it?
Acknowledging the awareness of those close helps us to admit to ourselves the emotional burdens we carry; as well as help us understand and help those who are deeply troubled to become aware of their own emotions and how to begin to express those things that are causing such emotional disturbance in our lives. In addition, being transparent and vulnerable enough to confide in those who are sincere about wanting to know what is deeply troubling us gives us the ability to seek out counsel and wisdom, or to have someone listen to our particular state of emotional crisis.
Thoughts to consider:
- Has there been a time in your own life where someone noticed the sadness in your expression? What was their response? How was it acknowledged?
- Has there been a time in your life where you have seen someone’s expression where they are deeply saddened and troubled? If so, how did you go about talking with them? Did you ignore it? If so, what reason?
- Has it frustrated you at any point where sadness has been shown but you felt no one has observed the deep expression of sadness?
Recognizing the door of opportunity
The account in the second chapter of Nehemiah also shows us the means by which our Heavenly Father has opened the door of an opportunity. Many years ago, while no longer a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had decided to take a break from my duties as a janitor for a local Assemblies of God Church. Frustrated with where my life was emotions overtook me and as I sat down, all I could do was cry and simply pray about my frustrations. Within a few minutes a gentleman had come up and sat with me, asking if things were alright. It was early in the morning (around midnight or two am). He sat with me for a good fifteen minutes talking with me sharing with me and praying with me. Before he got up and left, he shared how he was driving home and felt real impressed to stop, turn around and through the power of the Spirit, knew exactly where to find me.
Recognizing the door of opportunity where we know Heavenly Father answers our deepest and most sincere prayers gives us the hope and assurance we need to increase in our faith that He truly is there, hearing us and listening to our heartfelt cries. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, people can be used to bring comfort to our hearts, to our souls, and to our troubled minds. We can also recognize these doors of opportunities where we are able to rise up and receive strength to carry on doing that which we are willing to accomplish. For Nehemiah, his request becomes a commission to go up to Jerusalem and see the extent of the damage and to rise up and build the walls once again. All this in order to rise up and build back up the walls of Jerusalem that had crumbled and been laid waste
Thoughts to consider:
- What doors of opportunities have you recognized in your own life where you received comfort or were impressed to comfort another person who was in distress?
- How has our Heavenly Father opened up doors of opportunity in your life as an answer to prayer?
- What advice would you give to those who are struggling in their faith and do not understand why Heavenly Father is not answering their heartfelt prayers and to what extent could we bring comfort and strength to their despondent souls?
Action to take:
What have you confessed to someone about the state of crisis, or the nature of your mourning and fasting and prayer? Seeking out and confiding in someone is a healthy cause that helps us release the emotional turmoil that churns within our own hearts and souls. Acknowledging the fact that we are in a state of emotional crisis helps us to share with those who are sincere the specific details of what has caused our current state of affairs. Confession is always a healthy pursuit as we seek to maintain a balance in our spiritual lives and temporal lives. Take the time now to write down your thoughts and impressions of past experiences where you felt the power of the Holy Spirit guiding you to comfort someone or be comforted by someone. Seek out ways to develop a greater awareness of the companionship of the Holy Spirit to help recognize opportunities where prayer is answered.