Where Do You Turn When Problems Arise?

Note: This reflection continues a series based on the Bible book of Nehemiah.

We’ve all been there. The expected offer never came; the “sure thing” blew up just before closing; your loved one received a dreaded diagnosis. Whether relatively large or small, things go wrong in your world and in mine.

Consider the moment you received word of a crisis. How did you respond? Where did you turn next? Who did you call first? This is exactly where Nehemiah is first introduced to us (Nehemiah 1:1-3) He was receiving word that all was not well in the world, nor in his domain.

As we try to step into Nehemiah’s shoes (445 BC) we observe his awareness of a great and “major” need The broken down walls of Jerusalem placed the returning Israelites in grave danger and uncertainty. The resulting chaos jeopardized the hope for restoration and revitalization of their city.

I am always amazed to read the history of how God orchestrated an unusual convergence of circumstances and individuals, strategically placed to respond to unique opportunities.

The Bible teaches us a very important lesson about responding with faith to circumstances often wrapped in adversity. It’s a relief to know that this type of faith comes through God’s grace, not our own strength or wisdom.

Nehemiah’s unusual circumstances. In 586 BC, Jerusalem’s walls and city were destroyed when Babylonian’s King Nebuchadnezzar invaded, completing the 70-year exile of God’s people (2 Chronicles 36:18-19). According to God’s purpose and promise, the Medes and Persians invaded Babylon and King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. The “remnant” of those near Jerusalem were greatly distressed over the devastation and instability there. God had placed Nehemiah as the king’s cupbearer and had been shaping him for this critical opportunity.

Nehemiah’s unique opportunity. There stood Nehemiah at the unusual convergence of some unique circumstances and a unique opportunity to trust God and move to action. Nehemiah recognized that the King could provide the permission and resources needed to rebuild the walls. In real estate language, he grasped the possibility to get his entitlements and funding and to pull a permit! It must have felt somewhere between a long shot and impossible. Plus, who knew if the demoralized people in Jerusalem would even buy into his vision?

Nehemiah’s essential response. Did he pull up the covers over his head in despair? Did he pull in consultants to help develop a strategy? Did he pull off the project by designing his own plans? Not initially.

Nehemiah’s first move was to literally turn to God, with all of his emotion and trust in God’s character: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said ‘O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants . . . ‘ “ (Nehemiah 1:4-6a, ESV) Nehemiah answers an essential question for life and business: What circumstances and opportunities will God converge for me this week?

Serving Him with you in the marketplace,

David Atchison

I am always amazed at how often I find myself already in the fifth or sixth step of trying to solve a problem when it hits me that I haven’t even prayed about that. Lord, help me remember and learn from Nehemiah’s example. Teach me to turn to You first. Seek Your counsel, strength and provision, first. And teach me to pray like Nehemiah—with humility, intensity, repentance, dependence and anticipation of what you are orchestrating. Amen.

“When we cannot pray as we would, it is good to pray as we can. If I feel myself disinclined to pray, then is the time when I need to pray more than ever. Prayer is the natural outgushing of a soul in communion with Jesus.” – Charles Spurgeon