How to process bad news…

Nehemiah is a fascinating individual, from whom we can learn much about leadership and faithfulness in difficult circumstances. We read about him in the book of Nehemiah, whose events take place beginning in 436 BC. Nehemiah had been born in captivity during the Babylonian exile. The ten northern tribes of Isreal were unfaithful to God and were conquered by Assyria in 722 BC. God warned Judah numerous times, but they followed the same path of unfaithfulness until Jerusalem falls to Babylon in 586 BC. People had been carried off during each of the previous sieges, but the remainder would be exiled.

God had warned that His judgment was coming through His prophets. Isaiah painted a particularly clear picture of a courtroom scene where God declares Israel guilty of infidelity, and judgment will be handed down. But this is not the end of the story. God also spoke through Isaiah that once Israel had served their time, His grace would be extended and that they would be restored. This is the promise we see carried out in Ezra and Nehemiah!

Take a moment and read Nehemiah 1:1-10

The book of Nehemiah opens in December of 436 BC. Nehemiah had been born in captivity to Babylon, but some of his relatives had traveled back to Jerusalem, and when they return, they bring devastating news. The city lay in ruins. The temple is destroyed and the city walls are a rubble heap.

I have fond memories of summers spent with my grandmother in the country. I remember sometime after she had passed away, I decided to drive out to where she used to live. The yard that she had meticulously kept with all sorts of flowers, bushes, and trees was unrecognizable. The house that she lived in was falling apart, the roof dipped in, slowly being reclaimed by nature. I remember how sad this made me. All of the memories of the “good old days” ran through my head as my mind tried to reconcile those memories with what my eyes were witnessing. Imagine being a jew and hearing of the state of the temple and Jerusalem.

So, how can we be faithful when we receive devastating news? I believe that Nehemiah gives us an example to follow. He does not act out in rage and anger, instead, we see that he grieves, he prays, and he commits to do something!

We see that Nehemiah grieves in verses 3 and 4. He sits down and weeps. Jerusalem, the city where God chose for His temple to be located, where his ancestors had worshipped, a symbol of glory now lay in waste. He is hurt by the loss to his people.

It is important that we recognize the emotional strike that we receive sometimes with bad news. Whether in an unforeseen conflict in our relationships with others, financial setbacks, unexpected health news, etc., we must take time to acknowledge our pain and loss. One of the things I love about the Psalms is that David is not afraid to grieve. We see David, a man after God’s own heart, pour his heart out to God and grieve when he is in the midst of bad news.

God already knew what David was going through. David was not telling God anything He did not already know. But, David drew close to God and shared the emotions he was experiencing with God. Communication is important in our relationships, and our communication with God is important. Often, our prayers can be like going to an ATM. We always go expect to receive. How often do we go in prayer, sharing our hearts and emotions, to allow God to comfort us?

That naturally leads us to the next thing that we see Nehemiah do right. In verses 4-11, he prayed. He prayed a model prayer for us today as well.

He begins by acknowledging God’s greatness as the sovereign ruler over all of creation. He confesses his sin and the sin of Israel. He recognizes that they are facing the consequences of their sins. He intercedes for the people. Finally, he offers a petition to God for help to accomplish God’s will.

This is a model prayer for us to follow. Often we spend time peppering God with requests or complaining. When we begin our prayer with adoration of God, we place everything else in place. God and His will should come first. And when we spend time in confession, we continue to recognize the order of things. We are sinful, and it is only by God’s grace that we are able to approach Him. Intercession and petition come next, only after we remember who we are and that God’s will comes first.

Finally, Nehemiah was ready to roll up his sleeves and do something. Read verse 11. Nehemiah does not ask God to send someone else do it. He does not tell God how unqualified he is. He does not just complain about the condition that Jerusalem is in. He is willing to step up and work.

How often do we approach God and ask Him to make us part of the solution? Often we tell God all that is wrong and expect Him to change it without our involvement. The opportunity to allow God to display His glory through our lives is there if only we would pray as Isaiah “Here am I Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

God wants to use you to accomplish His will and to bring glory to His name. There are many things to be done but few willing to step up and do it. Are you willing to allow God to work through your life? Is the Holy Sprit moving your heart with compassion for a person, people, or project? Have you bathed it in prayer? Are you ready to do something or are you content to just complain?

God is ready to work through you!

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