It’s a New Year. Whether you had a great year this past year or you had a pretty bad one, it’s always great to have a fresh start isn’t it? Speaking of a new year do you have an idea of what God wants for you in this new season of your life? What burdens, visions or plans has He laid on your heart? This new year I’ve been thinking about the things God has allowed me to go through this past year that is setting me up for the things He wants to accomplish this year. This reminds me of a book in the Old Testament that I’ve been reading lately called Nehemiah. You might be familiar with Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem or even with his job as a cup-bearer or even with his heart-felt prayer in chapter one. But let’s briefly look at how Nehemiah goes from cup-bearer to wall-builder.
Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 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. (Nehemiah 1:2-4)
You see, when Nehemiah hears about his home, about the needs of his people, he’s heart-broken. He mourns for days. Much like you or I might get sad, punch the wall, eat a bowl of ice cream or cry for a good long while. You and I face problems on a regular basis that upset us. Occasionally I face situations that seem almost depressing and I’m sure that you do also. Situations that feel so big and overwhelming it seems like there’s no hope. Notice that Nehemiah doesn’t just weep but prays and fasts. This goes on for days, weeks and even months. Eventually, the King notices that his cup bearer is sad and asks him what is wrong and Nehemiah tells him that he’s sad because his city is in ruins.
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. (Nehemiah 2:4-6)
Notice that Nehemiah doesn’t just presume that the King will let him go. But when the opportunity arises and the King asks him what’s wrong, Nehemiah doesn’t hesitate to share his plan with the King. All that time spent weeping, fasting and praying wasn’t wasted. God was preparing Nehemiah. God was making sure Nehemiah’s heart was right and ready for the task ahead. What if this past year was just a year where God was making sure your heart was ready? I’m not talking so much about God testing you but preparing you. Even if you think you utterly failed in how you responded to this past year maybe God had used a season of waiting, mourning and praying to push you to your limit to make you more durable for the road ahead. Maybe He’s got a door that He’ll open just around the corner that will leave you speechless.
I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work. (Nehemiah 2:13-16)
Notice that even once Nehemiah has all the things the King has granted him – papers, a personal army, wood and other resources – he doesn’t just celebrate and kick back. Once he reaches Jerusalem he’s sneaking out at night to inspect the walls and the gates. He’s got a singular focus. He doesn’t take this trip for granted. He doesn’t want to miss even a moment of this opportunity. Months of mourning don’t call for celebration just yet. Nehemiah didn’t feel that months of praying gave him the right to kick back and relax. God had heard Nehemiah’s prayers and opened up the opportunity that was humanly-impossible. Nehemiah wanted to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Nehemiah wanted to be prepared for the next step. Nehemiah knew that the humanly-impossible work that God was doing had just begun and that the hardest that Nehemiah would face was yet to come. Maybe for you too, your season of waiting and weeping will come to an end. Then as God opens the door, you can roll up your sleeves and dive into what God has for you in this new year. So pray expectantly, hope fervently and don’t for a moment think that God doesn’t see your weeping or hear your prayers.