Working from Ashes

Currently we are studying the book of Nehemiah at church, and I find myself relating to this piece of scripture at this point in my life. The book begins reflecting upon the state of despair that Jerusalem is in; the people had been exiled, the city walls torn down, gates burned, and the Jerusalem was completely vulnerable to all that surrounded it. “When (Nehemiah) heard these things, (he)sat down and wept. For some days (he) mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah's anguish over this situation brought him to his knees before the Lord. Not because he didn't know what to do, but because it was the only thing to do. This man is miles away from this devastation and I am in the front row seat of mine; yet, his response to the Lord was more devoted. I am challenged...I need seek His face.Sometimes I think that we all walk through life with a sense of security or protection. It may have developed from a nice childhood, an excessive need to control, preparation and planning, lack of knowledge or even denial. Whatever the reason, it is excruciatingly painful when that façade is ripped away. My husband and I are by nature cautious, careful, and well planned; it is to a fault. We tried to build our “walls of protection” higher and stronger. But despite our best efforts Claire was still diagnosed with cancer before one, she spent half of her life in the hospital enduring intense treatment, and then she relapsed. Our world came crashing down, “the walls” are a pile of fictional rubble. After we watched her last breath, in our own home, any remnant of false protection that we might have left was burnt to the ground. Just like the city gates in Jerusalem.

We all experience trials and tribulation at some point in our life; failures, health issues, betrayal, miscarriage, financial struggles, unacceptance, persecution, etc. Someone once told me that every person is either in the midst of a storm, recovering from one, or preparing to enter a new one. I believe that is probably true. Every hardship is different and comes with its own struggles. A battle with pediatric cancer is very visible to the public. That comes with increased support as well as vulnerability. My tender spot, my weakness, my Achilles heel is always on display. When something so private has been made so public, I find myself revealing less about it to try and hide in plain sight; find some privacy. It can sometimes be overwhelmingly isolating for so many people to know our situation, with few who can truly empathize.

Throughout scripture God’s people continued to experience adversity, but He proves himself to be greater than any affliction. Moses parted the red sea to free the Israelites from Egypt. Noah built the Ark to rise above the flood. Nehemiah led the reconstruction of the wall around Jerusalem. I trust that God will move in his time. It took Noah 120 years to build the Ark, but it only took Nehemiah 52 days to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Our Lord’s ways may seem mysterious to us, but they are sovereign.

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This study of Nehemiah has really challenged me to let God work in my life through other people. Nehemiah could not have rebuilt the wall on his own. So how can I expect someone to help me carry this burden if I do not open up? How can someone lay my needs at the feet of the throne if I do not tell them what they are? How can someone hear what is truly in my heart if I do not have a real conversation with them? How can the Lord send someone to help me if I am not receptive to help? The Holy Spirit continues to work on me, and inside my heart. Scripture warns that pride comes before a fall, and I feel as if I am already on my knees. So Lord grant me a spirit of humility to look up towards you and over to my neighbor. In your time you will rebuild me, and bring me back to my feet.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

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