Nehemiah begins with shocking news that Jerusalem was left without protection (1:1-3) which led him to repentance (1:4). Following this, he responds with one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture. And this prayer of Nehemiah gives us a pattern that we can use to learn about responding to crisis situations.
It’s interesting that Nehemiah doesn’t begin the prayer by sharing his needs with God, although he had a great burden. In fact the focus of this prayer didn’t ask for many things at all! He only begged God to have mercy upon them (Israel) and restore His presence.
Nehemiah clearly understood that after repentance, the next step was submission to the plan of God
The prayer itself begins in 1:5 with adoration of God. During his time of fasting (1:4) Nehemiah was reminded of Gods amazing character, which led to worship of Him. This worship is a significant part of responding to crisis situations because we often forget what God is like when under pressure.
In a trial or temptation its incredibly easy for us to believe lies that Satan tells us about God
- He Has forgotten about you
- He doesn’t love you (it isn’t fair)
- You could do a better job of making decisions than Him
- His allowing you to suffer means He is evil
- Or He doesn’t know what’s best
In situations like this it is crucial that we keep our eyes focused totally on God and His character revealed in Scripture
Nehemiah in this prayer reminds us of two important elements of God’s Nature
God is Powerful
The words “great” and “terrible” both refer to the fact that God is more powerful than mankind could ever be. The word terrible here instead of referring to someone wicked, refers to someone who is majestic, or deserves worship and reverence.
To put it simply…Nehemiah sees God as one who is in complete control
This is obviously very different from the view of God that Satan puts in front of us in suffering or pain. He wants us to believe that the Lord has been weakened somehow (no longer wise, or almighty). This false view of Him is often backed up by circumstances, so we must never forget that God’s truly in control.
The fact is God’s always sovereignly in control of life’s situations, but it may not always feel like it. So we must get our eyes off circumstances, and back on God.
- By studying Scripture
- By meditating on His truth (memorize Scripture)
- By remembering how God cared for us in the past
- By making prayer our first response to stress
- and by confiding in close Christian friends
The closer we draw to God, the more we understand that He’s truly in control, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Nehemiah then continues to focus on another attribute of God…
God is Faithful
This could be seen as teaching that God is merciful, however, I see the faithfulness of God emphasized in the last part of 1:5. Nehemiah knew that God would never give up His promises to the children of Israel. Some of the promises hadn’t been fulfilled, but this is because of their own sinful wandering away from Him (He was careful to explain the righteous are blessed by God).
The faithfulness of God can be explained by saying…He will never let you down
Again this goes directly against the words of Satan who tells us that God has either forgotten us, or doesn’t love us anymore. It also contrasts the world that says when things are going well, God loves you.
So how do we respond when it doesn’t feel as if God is protecting or loving us?
- Focus on His promises in Scripture
- Focus on His character (God cannot lie, otherwise He couldn’t be God!)
- Focus on the Gospel (We are Gods children, and He will care for us)
- Focus on the plan of God to make us more like Christ (not give an easy life)
- Focus on Heaven where we will live with Christ for eternity
- And focus on the Cross…if God was going to abandon us, He would never have sent Christ to die
The faithfulness of God doesn’t mean things will always be perfect, it does mean He will redeem and restore us eventually.
The application of Nehemiah 1:5 is we cannot allow circumstances to define God for us. So for every one look at our surroundings, we must take three looks at the God of Scripture