Discouragement – a battle I’ve been fighting lately. Tonight in church, while listening to our pastor discuss the book of Nehemiah, I thought of discouragement and how easy it would be to give in to it. When discouragement sets in – when life gets overwhelming and we have difficulty seeing the way through and out, we are faced with choices. We can choose to give in and give up. We can choose to find somewhere or someone on which to place the blame. Or we can choose to use the discouragement to propel us to new heights. Nehemiah was such a great example of one who chose to use his discouragement to work his way to great heights.
Nehemiah was a Jewish exile living in Persia. We know he had proven himself to be a man of trust and integrity because he served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. His job gave him constant access to the king – tasting the food and drink before it was placed before the king. Many of the Jews had been given permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild and had chosen to do so under the leadership of Ezra. Nehemiah learned through hearing the news from Jews who had returned to Persia that, even though the temple had been rebuilt, the wall around Jerusalem had not been. Nehemiah was discouraged with this news. In those times, a city without walls was vulnerable to attack – it was a weak city. Jerusalem would not ever be able to be a strong city, a proud city, or regain its former status until the wall was rebuilt. It was an overwhelming job – a large job – and one in which it would be difficult to see the possible ways to the end. But instead of choosing to allow his discouragement lead to despair, Nehemiah worked on developing a course of action to correct the problem.
After praying and planning, Nehemiah took advantage of his close, trusted relationship with the king. It is somewhat noteworthy that the king so paid attention to Nehemiah that his downcast expression was remarked upon. The king must have cared something for him. Nehemiah explained the situation, said a quick prayer, and then boldly asked for everything he would need to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. The king granted the request and Nehemiah carried out his plan. The wall was rebuilt.
When we are faced with discouragement, we can choose to allow it to develop into depression and inability to act or we can choose to allow it to motivate us, giving a renewed determination. Like Nehemiah, we can choose to allow discouragement to motivate us to find a way to solve the problem and not wallow in it, feeling sorry for ourselves. We can choose to grow from it. We can choose to allow God to work His mighty changes in us for His glory. We have the responsibility and freedom to choose. It is our choice.