Have you ever heard news that broke your heart? Have you ever become aware of a need so great that it turned your stomach and you knew that you had to act? Have you ever grieved for a nation, or cried out to God for a city?
That is what Nehemiah did. He was a man living far from the home of his ancestors, the city of Jerusalem. He knew God, he loved God, and he grieved for God’s people. In the first chapter of Nehemiah we read that he hears about Jerusalem, he hears news that he can’t believe…that Jerusalem is in disgrace, and the city is broken down and falling apart.
His heart breaks, his knees buckle, and he falls to the ground and weeps. The despair weighs so heavily on Nehemiah’s shoulders that he fasts, cries out to God, and mourns for days. He feels the weight of Jerusalem, the burden of suffering crushes him until he can only remain in prayer, face down, desperately seeking God.
I can imagine how he felt…in ministry we feel it, don’t we? The weight of our cities, our countries, our callings pressing us down, facedown into the dirt, overwhelmed with grief for the pain we see around us. We weep for the youth in our nations, the lost, the seeking, and the destitute. We feel overwhelmed; we struggle to move into action, sometimes paralyzed by the need.
That place was the beginning of Nehemiah’s incredible ministry…a place of prayer, of confession, of crying out to God. He rose from his knees, and moved into action. He went on to restore a broken city, and to persevere through situations and circumstances of incredible pain and difficulty.
The first chapter in Nehemiah tells us that before all of that, he was just the king’s cupbearer. He wasn’t a great leader, or priest. He was the king’s cupbearer. Reading through that chapter, this caught my attention. He was an ordinary person, with an ordinary job who was so weighed down by Jerusalem’s plight that he made that city’s burden his burden, and he dedicated his resources and his life to serving there.
This gives me hope because I am “just” a small person, just a mom, just a woman living far from home with a burden for the city where I serve. I feel inadequate, I make mistakes, and I am always learning. I feel like I never quite have it together. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on my knees, paralyzed, not knowing what to do. But God calls me, enables me, encourages me, and burdens me with the things that break His heart.
I find myself on my knees again waiting for the next step, feeling weighed down, but relying on Him and knowing that no matter who or what else I may be, I am “just” a follower of God whom He can use to bring restoration to the broken places of this world.
Do you ever find yourself in that place of being overwhelmed? What kinds of feelings hold you back from moving forward? How has God spoken to you there?