Today isn’t easy for so many of us; I’ve had an email from a dear friend who’s down and broken hearted, defeated by depression and anxiety. She’s asked for help but the person she turned to has promised to help in a ‘few weeks’. A few weeks when today is already too much! There’s a woman nearby who’s lost a child in infancy, the funeral is over and there is just the reality now of life alone. I remember those few weeks after the funeral so well. For them, the day is daunting and their backs are broken. There is no easy comfort. That’s not what I’m talking about today, that level of grief and despair needs more than a blog and a few comforting words. That level of grief demands our silence and our respect.
So, this is not written to those struggling in that depth of despair, when even a word of consolation is patronising and banal. Christians sometimes throw Bible verses at each other, like they’re aspirins. ‘Take two with a cup of sweet tea and repeat the process in four hours’. But sometimes the day is not supposed to be easy. Sometimes the day is the lesson. Sometimes life enters a hard season and it’s insulting to intrude with words, easy words.
This blog is for the everyday, simply workaday, daily little nips and bruises of life: today has been a lesson for me. Not easy, but I’ve learned through it.
There’s this bloke called Nehemiah. He cares so much for his home town, for the citadel that is Jerusalem, that he gives a great chunk of his life in order to rebuild it. He takes eleven years off work (paid? unpaid?) and risks the scorn and endures the complaints of everyone around him, and he leads them, really strongly leads them, into rebuilding the walls of that sprawling city, into repairing the huge gates, into making it a safe place to be. When they grumble and rebel and mock him, he works on steadily. When outsiders attack he manages to marshal his troops to defend themselves and the work they’re doing, and from somewhere he gets the skill he needs to become a warrior, an architect, a salvager, a quantity surveyor… and all he was, to start with, before he got the call to repair the city wall, was a cup bearer. A lackey. A footman to the king. As slaves go, it was quite an exalted position, but it was still slavery. And then, seeing a real need, he transformed into master builder, defender and leader. Amazing.
Maybe it wasn’t in his nature to be a leader or a soldier. Maybe some days he just wanted to pack it all in and run away. Maybe among all the opposition, his most trusted and friends deserted him. Maybe he hated building. Maybe he found managing people really difficult… but he did it. He did it because God was with him, because it was a good thing to do, because he was a man of prayer. But it wasn’t easy. That’s not what makes a great story, that’s not the stuff of drama. We learn through pain and surprise and discomfort. And through all of these things we are, like Nehemiah, transformed into what we need to be. I hope that the lesson I’ve learned today will be a part of transforming me into what and who God wants me to be. If so, then it’s something to celebrate, not regret.
Would it have been difficult for you? Probably not.
Sometimes our wall of Jerusalem doesn’t seem enormous to anyone else. Maybe today your wall is just stepping out of the house and smiling at someone. Maybe that’s the enormity of what you’re facing today. Maybe you have to let go of anger, forgive a friend, or a parent. Maybe you have to get through another hour without black thoughts. If that’s your Jerusalem, then you can do it. With God you can do it.
It doesn’t matter what my lesson was. It was for me, not you. But through it I remembered that only God is constant and that I can choose to shed the hurt of the day and rejoice in the fabulousness of the eternal. God will enable me to do that. On my own, no chance! I’d be stinging and indignant and bruised. With God, well, ‘all things work to the good for those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:28) Even this. And whatever day you are facing, however damaged your wall of Jerusalem is, even today can bring good to you. Choose good. Choose light. Like Nehemiah, send a prayer to God, call on Him for the work ahead. When you do that, you will find all that you need.