I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah this week. He wasn’t exactly the happy-go-lucky glass half-full kind of guy.
Nehemiah 1:3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
Nope, when he heard bad news it was like a dagger to the heart that drove him into sorrow. However, unlike I typically do, he turned directly to God. I tend to pout and wait for God to come to me. There’s a LOT for me to learn right there.
I think part of what makes me hesitate to go to God with my sorrow, though, is that I feel guilty for being sad. After all, I am supposed to be full of the joy of the Lord and it is supposed be my strength. If I am feeling sorrow, it feels like I am not pleasing to God.
But God himself feels sorrow. But he doesn’t let it stop him from being God. I let my sorrow steal my whole identity at times.
So, if I want to understand my sorrow and turn it into something better, I need to immediately take my mourning to the God of Heaven.
At this time, Nehemiah heard some news that was not what he wanted to hear. He also felt it was not what God wanted to hear. But, God already knew what he was going to hear and was already planning to make some huge changes. But Nehemiah was still really sad because he couldn’t see this plan.
Right now, at this moment, I feel sorrow for the way a LOT of things are. It is highly possible that God wants to use me for something but I need to leave the self-pity party and go see what he wants. It would be easier if I could see the plan but that isn’t how God works.
Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king. I guess it had its perks, he got to eat all the best food, drink all the best wine and enjoy hanging out in a palace instead of a tent in the desert with a bunch of goats.
It was a pretty good job unless someone tried to poison the king. I’m not sure how often this happened but since this king had killed his own brother, he was aware that being king wasn’t the safest job in the world.
Well, Nehemiah was so filled with sorrow that when he took the king his biscuits and gravy, the king asked, “Hey, dude! What’s a matter you? Why you so sad?”
Nehemiah 2:2 Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
The king was not known for his compassion. He killed his own brother, for Pete’s sake. But he asked Nehemiah what he wanted. Nehemiah knew that if it annoyed the king it could end up being his last request.
So, he turned to God quickly. There wasn’t time for a long time of prayer and fasting but Nehemiah had already done that. He prayed and then he spoke.
Nehemiah requested a paid vacation to go home and rebuild the city. What could go wrong?
Nehemiah 2:6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.
I’m fairly certain that as of this moment, the sorrow disappeared.
I haven’t gotten this far in my own story yet. I’m still way back at the part where I got bad news and I want to cry. I’m just now managing to shove the shame of my sorrow aside and taking these tears to God.
It’s really hard sometimes to get it through my head that no matter how wrong I feel about the way I feel, God wants me to bring it to him. Suffering from depression, I make myself feel that sorrow is a bad thing and it means that I am relapsing into my insanity.
But, that isn’t true at all. Sorrow is not a bad thing. Allowing that sorrow to separate me from God and my life is the problem.
I guess I need to wrap both arms around this sadness and carry it to the cross. I have a king that I can take this to at any time without fear or shame.
The sorrow will pass.