“So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4
We’ve all experienced pain and loss which means that we’ve all, with varying degrees of intensity, experienced grief.
Grief, for most people, is a natural and healthy process. In college we were taught that there are five stages or phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some have observed that people don’t generally work through these phases sequentially instead there is a back and forth progression between them until healing has brought full acceptance.
The length of time required to reach full acceptance is individual to the person and the degree of wounding they experienced in the trauma that caused the grief. In some cases, as it is with physical forms of trauma, the pain of the wounding persists after full acceptance has been reached. This is why some people can grieve for many years. The pain of their loss is present as long as what they’ve lost is missing.
In our focus text, Nehemiah is grieving. He’s just been informed that the people of God in Jerusalem are living in reproach and that the city itself is lying unrepaired and in ruins. This in itself is reason for concern but for Nehemiah there is a greater concern than the hardship of the people. Nehemiah’s greatest concern is for the glory of the reputation of the God of heaven.
For years, if anyone had asked why they were living in captivity, separated from their homeland, they could say that it was because they’d disobeyed God and he was punishing them for seventy years for their rebellion. Only now the seventy years had ended, people had been given permission to return to Judea, and now more years have passed and the city of God and the land of his promise is still a pile of rubble.
Nehemiah understands that this continued state of ruin is due to continued unfaithfulness on the part of God’s people. He grieves for their weakness and waywardness and, because he knows that in the eyes of foreign nations the prosperity of another nation indicates the ability of that nations God to prosper it, he mourns for the damage being done to God’s honor before the nations of the world.
Do we mourn over the sins of God’s people as we ought? Does it grieve us that God’s cause and his name is made small in the minds of so many people today because of the actions of those who claim him as their own? It should. We should all grieve like Nehemiah.
But Nehemiah did more than grieve. He prayed. Many times we neglect the best healing and strength available because we neglect to reach out to God. We may not know how to move forward but God does. And he says that he’s there for those that seek him with all their hearts.