Here we are, doing church life ‘online’ amid corona virus realities.
At the back of my mind today has been the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Mmm, what’s that got to do with 21st Century life and pandemic coping? What follows are a few thoughts…
Nehemiah was a Jewish man exiled and enslaved in the service of the King of Babylon. He was a type of bodyguard to the King, as the cupbearer. If the wine was poisoned, then Nehemiah would be the one to die not his majesty!
One of Nehemiah’s brothers along with some others come from Jerusalem (100s of miles away) and tell Nehemiah how things are:
“Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3)
What was Nehemiah’s reaction?
Firstly we learned that he wept (1:4). It is neither abnormal nor weak to experience different emotions when sudden shocking news is received. If you read on in the book of Nehemiah – he was no pushover but a strong character, a leader who faced up to tough stuff. Yet he did not hide his weeping from others.
Maybe we have had all kinds of thoughts and concerns stirred by the corona virus situation and its fall out. We do not have to deny these things. Perhaps it is good to talk with others we trust about how we are doing.
Then the text goes onto say that he mourned. Often we associate mourning only with someone we care for passing away. That of course is very real for some people today.
Yet perhaps there is something else in relation to what is happening with corona that has or will cause loss for you. For example: Impact on your work or study, a postponed family event or it having to be different from how it was planned, a cancelled holiday, not being able to visit loved ones in another country…
Give yourself space to grieve the loss and don’t be ashamed to talk with someone else about it. It might help you with processing it.
Weeping… mourning… Perhaps also there is someone we know who is need at this time and we could reach out to them?
In reading on, we see that Nehemiah ‘fasted and prayed before the God of heaven’ . He turned to God about the devastating news he had heard.
As I write this today, there is a national day of prayer here in the Netherlands. It has been called for people to turn to God together on behalf of the nations at this time. Will we turn to the Lord?
In the New Testament we read in Hebrews 4:16, these words,
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may received mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”
How do we respond to such words? I realise that all kinds of people could be reading this. People who are Christians and those who are not. For some the idea of praying may well seem pointless. I want to acknowledge that may be the case for some people. I have had such a view on occasions. Right now, I don’t have the space to open all that up. Happy to talk though with anyone about it.
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I finish with part of Nehemiah’s prayer:
“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying…” (Nehemiah 1:5-6)
Thanks for reading