And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven
Nehemiah had just received some bad news. His fellow Jews who had returned home after the Babylonian captivity were still struggling. They were under threat from hostile neighboring nations and they were vulnerable because the walls of their main city, Jerusalem, had not been rebuilt.
The key point of this verse, however, is Nehemiah’s reaction to the news. The verse tells us that he
- wept and mourned
- fasted and prayed.
That is, Nehemiah’s response to the painful news was both emotional and spiritual/devotional.
When dealing with grief we often fail to realize the importance of affording ourselves and others the room to be both emotional and spiritual. It is okay to weep and mourn as long as we also remember to fast and pray to God. Likewise, as we seek God in difficult times let us not forget our humanity, because He doesn’t.
Painful experiences, like the loss of a loved one, or coping with an illness that ravages our bodies or even facing financial ruin that threatens our families, can tear our hearts open. But it is while our hearts are ripped open and raw that God can finally reach past the barriers to touch the core of our being. It is in these moments that that the façade is ripped away and we can only be who we really are, unvarnished, before Him.
Indeed, in the midst of our sorrow, when we are sick with grief, the Holy Spirit cries out to God for us:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. ~Romans 8:26
Because God has compassion; He feels our distress; He knows our pain:
“For we have not an high priest [Jesus] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…” ~Hebrews 4:15a
As we deal with the hurt that we sometimes experience, let us allow our emotions to flow out and God’s tender mercies to flow in.