Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here. If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.
Remember the Lord. When is the last time you considered that statement? I hear it from time to time, but I don’t think I give it much thought.
Remember the Lord. It’s a phrase straight out of the Bible, a practice that an otherwise ordinary man encouraged his neighbors with as they worked to on a monumental task, sludging through tough days while facing opposition.
Nehemiah in Jerusalem
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss-American psychiatrist
Somewhere around 930 B.C., the twelve tribes of Israel divide into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. In 722-720 B.C., the Assyrians conquer Israel. Judah lasts until 586 B.C. when they are conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed, and most of the Jews exiled. A group of Israelites returns in 538 B.C. to rebuild the Temple. Yet, with the wall in shambles, the city inhabitants remained in danger.
This weighs on the heart of a man named Nehemiah, and he petitions God and King Artaxerxes to return to his homeland long enough to make repairs. God clears the way, and Artaxerxes sends him with letters of passage. However, before Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, officials in the surrounding area are not happy. Nehemiah 2:10 reports, When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
They ridicule him, but Nehemiah prays. When these men see the openings in the wall close up, they get angry. They all plotted together, Nehemiah writes, to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat (verses 8-9).
The threat grows, and Nehemiah keeps praying. But what impresses me is that he doesn’t merely pray. He also acts. In 4:9, he posts a guard. When life becomes more intense, he stations people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows (verse 13). And he encourages the people, Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families (verse 14).
Remember the Lord. And fight.
Nehemiah never let circumstances take his eyes off of his purpose. He knew he’d been called to this work, but he took nothing for granted. He kept a trumpeter near him, ready to sound an alarm. I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “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!” (verses 19-20).
We’re not positive of the extent of the work, other than it was considerable. Based on historical records, we believe the wall was sixteen feet wide, and the modern wall averages thirty-nine feet tall. Considering that, one of the most amazing verses I’ve found in the Bible is Nehemiah 6:15. The wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
It’s absolutely amazing what we can accomplish when we focus our attention on what God’s asked us to do, trusting Him to do what He said He will do while putting forth the effort to use what He’s already provided. Remember the Lord. And fight.
Picking up our battle gear.
In my situation, God had called me to be a wife and a mother. After all, I was married with children. Those callings would not change just because circumstances around me became difficult. I needed to pick up my battle gear—my Bible, my prayers, quality Christian books and devotions—and fight, knowing that God stood ready to step in everywhere I needed Him.
But what about those places where we must depend on God, and it doesn’t seem like He’s answering? What if God seems unconcerned? What actions should I take with my husband’s health problems if even the doctors don’t know what to do with him? Sure, I can read my Bible and pray, but should I be doing more?
Please, no more.
Maybe the thought of doing more is disheartening because you’re exhausted. Dealing with everything that’s going on is more than you can handle, and the thought that God asks one more thing is too much.
In the eleventh chapter of his Gospel, the apostle John walks us through a very intense scene. Jesus gets word that dear friend Lazarus is ill. He knows Lazarus will die, yet Jesus waits for that death to occur before He makes His way to Lazarus’s sisters.
Then John records the heart-breaking cry of everyone touched by intense pain, first from Martha. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 21). A few minutes later, Mary echoes her sister. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 32). Have you had moments when you’ve cried out, “Where was God?”
My human heart and mind can’t understand God’s ways, but I trust His heart. ~
Right after Mary’s heart-wrenching question, John writes, When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled (John 11:33). Our English translation cannot convey the depth of emotion here. Sheila Walsh writes in God Loves Broken People,
The Greek term translated “moved” is embrimaomai. It’s a strong word denoting anger, strength, or the bellowing and snorting of a horse. In other words, as Christ looked at the grief of His friends, He felt a rage, a fury at what sin has done to this world. “Moved”? No … that doesn’t even come close. I feel “moved” when my son tells me he loves me, or my dog rests her head on my lap. But what Jesus experienced went far beyond some sentimental, warm feeling; far from it! (page 47).
Whatever you face right now or in the days ahead, Christ feels it too. He rages at our pain with an intensity that we often overlook. He understands the unfairness of this fallen world, and He longs to restore it to what He meant it to be.
This is an excerpt from my book Living in the Shadow of Death. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead, or you can purchase the book on Amazon (other retailers coming soon!).
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!