I have been struggling lately. Watching our country destroy itself is never easy to do, especially when you are sitting on the sidelines wishing the whole country would just stop.
If I am honest, a good part of me wants to just stay in my little bubble here in the South and not engage with what is going on with the rest of the world. I want to shut down my Facebook, skip the news, and not talk politics or current news with anyone around me. It feels so much easier to just put it off, than to deal with the strife that is going on right now.
I feel powerless. I feel powerless to stop people from raging against each other. I feel powerless to be able to speak into the hate. I feel powerless to close the divide.
And the truth is, in and of my own self, I am powerless. Trying to get my voice heard in all this noise is ridiculous.
But there is One voice that can be heard above all of this and it is His voice I want to turn our ears to today. Because when we don’t know what to do, when we don’t know how to respond, and when we feel powerless to affect change, we must turn to the One who knows the Truth and is in full control, regardless of the mess we see around us.
Nehemiah, a prophet in the Old Testament did just that. In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah’s brother and friends visited him to tell Nehemiah that the city he loved, Jerusalem, was still in rubble and the people have not been able to rebuild it.
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4)
Sure Nehemiah’s first response to what probably felt like a punch in the guy was to sit down and cry. Isn’t that how most of us feel right now about what is going on in this world. We want to just sit down and cry?
But it doesn’t stop there. It says he mourned, he fasted, and he prayed.
What do we do when we see the injustices around us? Do we do as Nehemiah did becoming heartbroken over the state of our communities, mourning, fasting, praying?
No, I think if we are honest with ourselves, we do something more like this: complain, tell our friends what we think, post our opinions on social media, and then check out because it feels so big and we feel powerless to do anything about it. And the world doesn’t change and we become more frustrated, less engaged, and less willing to be apart of the solution.
However, I think we can learn a lot from Nehemiah and his response to the brokenness he saw around him.
What does it look like to biblical mourn? Because we know from Nehemiah’s contemporaries, more than likely, Nehemiah ripped his clothes and cried aloud. What about you? Is your heart broken over what is happening to our nation? Our community? Are you concerned over the division? The strife? How are you responding to the news stories we are hearing all over the nation of people rebelling in the streets and burning flags? With anger and aggression? Or have you checked out and become passive, almost numb to it? Nehemiah’s response was so much of the heart of God. It’s exactly what I believe God is experiencing today. Remember we are created in his image ( Genesis 1:27). All of us. Male. Female. White. Black and Brown. Poor. Rich. Inner city and rural. Republican and Democrat. And every thing in between. He created us and as our created it grieves Him to see us destroy each other.
Have you become numb to the stories? Ask God to break your heart for the things that break his. And when He does, then you can do the next step.
For Nehemiah this more than likely meant going without any food and/or water and through the scripture we can see that it says, “For some days.” Though we have no idea exactly how many. So what about you? Do you fast? Have you ever fasted? Would you be willing to sacrifice physical provisions for your body to see true change come about in our country? Our cities? Our communities? What are you willing to give up to see God move?
Again, I ask you to seek God for your fast. Do you stop reading social media to focus on Him, do you abstain from food or drink?
Let’s face it. To the issues of this world…we don’t have control. We don’t even really have answers. It may even feel like to you there are no true solutions. But God sees things from a whole different perspective than us. Our prayers can be used by God to give us wisdom to know how to pray. From what we can read in the scripture, it seems as if that is exactly what happened to Nehemiah. His need for God to do something, which he exhibited in his mourning and fasting, led him to be more in tuned with the heart of God so that he could know how to pray.
After he did these things it then shares with us his prayer. His prayer of adoration (Neh 1:5-6a), repentance (Neh 1:6b-7), recalling scriptural truth (Neh1: 8-9), and making his request known (Neh 1:10-11).
And then when it was all done, Nehemiah waited.
Let me say it again, when we don’t know what to do we can learn from Nehemiah and his response to the brokenness around him.
Nehemiah knew he too was powerless.
He had no idea what he was going to do when he first received the news. He didn’t know whether or not God would do anything at all, after all it was the rebelliousness of his people that put them into captivity and destroyed their city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah didn’t know if God would use him in the solution. All he knew was that he was heartbroken over what had become of the city that he loved.
Nehemiah didn’t try to get ahead of God’s timeline, he waited patiently for Him to open the door. And about 4 months later the door opened and the King did something, unheard of. He allowed his cupbearer (Nehemiah)a leave of absence, fully equipped with all the resources he would need, along with some man power, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city.
So I ask you today.
Are you heartbroken over your nation?
Would you be willing to mourn over what is not, fast on behalf of the wrong , pray for what could be, and be willing to wait patiently for the response?
It is in this response we can recognize that we truly have no power to do the things needed to systematically change the brokenness that now divides our country. However, in yielding to God and His plan we can use His power to make a difference in the world around us.
Mourn. Fast. Pray. Wait. It worked for Nehemiah when he didn’t know what to do.
It can also work for you.