The biblical story of Nehemiah is a great source of encouragement for people living in troubled times. As the “cupbearer” to the king, Nehemiah was in a high profile post; nonetheless, he was moved by the plight of the people in his ancestral homeland. In a moment of high passion and optimism, Nehemiah asked his boss the king to let him return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the failed capital city. In what must have been a total surprise, the king green-lighted the project. And Nehemiah found himself on the great adventure that became the focus of his whole life.
The story found in Nehemiah, chapter four, tells us how he pulled it off—returning to Jerusalem and securing it as a place to live safely through rebuilding the outer wall of the city. To succeed, Nehemiah was focused and deliberate in what he chose to do. First, he intentionally anchored everything in his relationship with God. “Hear us, O our God,” is how he began his work.
He focused on what he could do—the task at hand—and took stock of what needed to be done. He rallied the resources to the task: “the people worked with all their heart” (verse 6).
He called those working with him to focus on the future in the context of how they had been blessed in the past: “Don’t be afraid…. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (verse 14). His message was one of focused hope: Remember the Lord. Remember what is most important. Take the long view.
Physician and philosopher, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. once wrote, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, —but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
How do we relate to difficult circumstances? We put our trust in God’s love and grace. We focus on the work at hand. And we push through; we keep moving forward.
In the strength that God provides.