Feeling Overwhelmed? Take These Tips from Nehemiah

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Feeling Overwhelmed? Take These Tips from Nehemiah

A child once drew a picture of a tiny boat on a raging sea and wrote underneath:

“Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”

Nehemiah knew that feeling when God told him to rebuild the destroyed and demoralized city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was working for a foreign king in a city a thousand miles from home. Not one thing on his resume pointed to his starting from scratch to restore a ravaged city and its people. But he eventually revived both the city and its people.

How he faced his stiff odds reveals several important steps to how we can conquer ours.

First, though it seems counterintuitive, Nehemiah acknowledged that he was unequal to the task. Admitting that he was weak and sinful, he fasted and asked God for success—and that not for his own sake. Bruce Wilkinson’s bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez, similarly encourages readers to ask God for success in bold undertakings. Some people worry that such a prayer encourages selfishness, but Nehemiah’s prayer led to his leaving the safety of Susa for the ruins of Jerusalem . . . and Bruce Wilkinson and his family sold their U.S. home and moved to Africa to help address the AID’s crisis.

Second, Nehemiah used his connections to get started—he appealed to the king for safe passage to Jerusalem and for financial support. Habitat for Humanity’s founder Millard Fuller says the best way to gather resources for God’s work is to boldly ask people to supply them.

Third, Nehemiah regularly met with a small group of people who cared about getting the job done. He avoided the common mistake of thinking that personal responsibility equals individual responsibility. God may have called Nehemiah; but Nehemiah says with holy boldness, “I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work.” He knew it would take many people to conquer an otherwise impossible task.

Finally, Nehemiah knew that any task worth doing is worth doing poorly . . . at least on the front end. His critics mocked: “Will they restore things? Will they finish in a day? That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!” But Nehemiah was not building a wall; he was building a community of coworkers. After considerable labor, the wall was only “half its height,” but Nehemiah’s team was more than halfway to becoming people able to accomplish everything God asked.

Nehemiah’s task would have remained overwhelming had he not turned from his own strength to God’s, turned to those with resources, turned to potential co-laborers, and turned a deaf ear to critics . . . in the high calling of his daily work.