In the last entry, Nehemiah and the workers prayed and persisted amid opposition and distraction. However, discouragement took the wind out of their sails. Let’s examine the causes and cure of this crisis.
“Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.””(Neh 4:10) The whole wall was joined together to half its height. The newness had worn off. These people had been working a long time and they were getting tired. A loss of strength took an emotional toll on their bodies. Despite all of the work, there was a lot of messiness. The builders lost vision of the completed wall. Can we relate to their experience? One’s confidence and motivation can be shaken by physical exhaustion with foggy vision. It can result in an overwhelming sense of discouragement.
“Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”” (4:11) Another cause for discouragement was the threat of insecurity.
“Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Whenever you turn, they will attack us.””(4:12) As the Jews kept hearing those threats day after day, they multiplied and magnified the dangers exponentially. You cannot constantly hear negativism without having some of it rub off on you. Hence, don’t run the risk of spending a lot of your time with people who traffic in discouraging information.
This seemed to be worse than the intimidation and harassment from the enemies. How could Nehemiah motivate the discouraged?
First, Nehemiah stopped the work and “posted them by families” (4:13). The builders had been scattered all over Jerusalem working together with stones, water, and mortar and yet separated from their families. Nehemiah unified them according to families because our families should be an essential source of our encouragement.
Next, Nehemiah directed their attention to the Lord who was their source of strength and security. They were reminded of the greater purpose of their work. Nehemiah “(I) stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.””(4:14)
Lastly, Nehemiah emphasized the importance of supportive relationships among the people and reassured them that God was their protection. “The work is extensive and spread out. And we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us.” (4:20). Nehemiah changed the work arrangement and the people looked out for each other’s safety while continuing the work. Furthermore, Nehemiah and a few others served the community as their guards. “Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.” (4:23). Indeed, serving others can be an effective way to battle discouragement.
Discouragement may be tough to handle, but it is curable. At times, the best thing to do when I am discouraged is to take time off and realign my heart and mind to “the main things”. We need to rest so that we can later build more effectively. Seek clarity and ask life-searching questions. Moreover, I can rarely work myself out of discouragement alone. I am willing to accept help from others as well as support others who need my help. We need to be a part of a community. Work together, serve one another, and look out for others’ interests. We build our community with these shared values: to love God wholeheartedly, to learn diligently, and to serve selflessly.
Swindoll, C. R. (1990). Hand me another brick. Nashville, TN: Nelson.