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Sarah at Christmas

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What to do in times of enormous stress


Nehemiah handled monumental anxieties.

Nehemiah began his Biblical narrative by telling the reader about an event that occurred in December, 446BC.  While exiled from his native Judah, he worked as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, King of Persia.

During this time we now know as Christmas holidays, several Jews from Jerusalem arrived in Susa, the capitol of Persia.  Eager to hear of news, Nehemiah found his countrymen and asked about his native city.  They told him the city walls are shattered and the gates to the city had been burned. When he heard the update, he wept and mourned for days, and then he began to fast and pray.

In his prayer, he affirmed God’s love and greatness. After that, he reminded the Lord of how he had been praying day and night on behalf of Israel. He confessed the sins of his people.  Following the confession, he asked God to remember the promises the Almighty had made to Israel’s forefathers.  His final appeal to God was to find favor with King Artaxerxes. The king could grant him his desire to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah prayed this same prayer—never giving up his belief God would hear and answer.

Four months later, God answered.

Was the four months an eternity to Nehemiah? Remember his condition—he wept, fasted, and prayed. The guy experienced enormous stress through these days—four months probably seemed infinity, and let’s also not forget his fear.  King Artaxerxes possessed the power to take his life if the official so desired. Terror of government administrators, and great sorrow for his homeland should have rendered Nehemiah incapacitated, but in spite of these apprehensions, he made plans to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. 

Faith, prayer and preparation go together.

Four months may seem a short period of time for those who have pleaded four years—or maybe  as long as forty years. A long stretch of waiting emerged for Nehemiah, but through it,  he set an example. Here we see a man who prayed as though results depended upon God but worked as though outcomes depended on him.

I know many who are experiencing great worry and sorrow in their lives today.  Perhaps it is divorce, or maybe financial ruin. Others face the loss of loved ones or the loss of health. A few confront fear of the future. Remember this:  God listens, but may seem slow to us as He responds to our needs.  Nehemiah set an excellent example in times such as these.  Take heart, dear friend.  The answer is on the way.

In our next segment, we will consider Nehemiah’s prayer and plans.