Sometimes, when the going gets tough, it’s tough to get going. Pressure mounts and paralysis sets in. What began with enthusiasm, becomes a constant source of exhaustion. The prize once set before you, now seems beyond your grasp and you feel like you’re barely able to even walk much less run the race.
Disillusioned. Discouraged. Disoriented. Depressed. You don’t know how you can keep on keepin’ on.
Kind of describes the prevailing mood halfway through the great wall re-building campaign of Nehemiah’s day.
The rubble was being cleared and the wall around Jerusalem was taking shape. But the opposition was also becoming greater.
At first, the enemies of God’s people were just “greatly displeased” that Nehemiah had returned with the king’s blessing to “seek the welfare of the people of Israel” (Neh. 2:10). Then, when they heard that Nehemiah was promoting the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, they laughed out loud and mocked such folly (2:19). When the people actually came together and started making a bit of progress, then their enemies became “angry and greatly enraged,” their mocking laughter turning to spitting derision (4:1-3).
But when they saw the walls at half height, the enemies of God determined to take action, “and they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (4:7). And that was the straw that seemed to break the camel’s back . . . or at least break the people’s spirit.
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”
(Nehemiah 4:10 ESV)
Or as Peterson puts it, “The builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; Were in over our heads, we cant build this wall” (MSG).
And it was true, they were in over their heads.
For as long and hard as they had been working, the piles of debris were still surrounding them. What’s more, the more they kept faithfully laboring at the task before them, the greater the opposition was growing around them. While at first they might have shot back at their enemies with “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me”, now the other guys were preparing to come at them with “sticks and stones.” Insults were about to give way to injury.
But what they may have failed to notice was that they were in over their heads in another aspect as well. The wall, being half built, was over their heads. Significant, against-all-odds progress was being made. But the overwhelming circumstance of the present caused them to forget God’s provision of the past and so they weren’t sure they could press on into the future.
Enter Nehemiah . . .
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
(Nehemiah 4:14 ESV)
Remember, says Nehemiah. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.
Mounting pressure required a moment of perspective. The task before them was still doable in light of the God who promised to always be behind them. The enemies around them paled in comparison to the Lord among them. While they might have been in over their heads, they needed to pause and reflect on the Sovereign who is head over all.
Maybe easier said than done. But still needing to be done.
Before they’d be ready to resume the fight, they first needed to pause, pray, and not forget.
Not forget that our God is a great and awesome God. That the work He has called us to begin, He will enable us to finish. That the race He wants us to run, He has already won. That pressure we might feel can be offset by the power He has promised. That while our enemies might seek to devour us, greater is our Savior who has delivered us.
Sometimes you just need to remember. To be still and know that He is God–that the LORD of hosts is with us and the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Ps. 46:10-11). To be still and believe that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9).
Such, it would seem, is at least one of the keys to unlocking all sufficient grace.
Such, it is sure, is the type of response that will bring Him all deserving glory.