Having a dream can be really discouraging at times. Because you can see how the pieces of your life could possibly fit together to achieve what you’ve always wanted, but for some reason God doesn’t choose to act the way you think He will. And it can begin to feel like opportunity after opportunity passes you by. Maybe God chooses to do that so we never get the idea that we orchestrated the events in our lives. I don’t know. I just know it can be very frustrating.
So when I see all sorts of opportunities going past in things that I feel like I should be doing, I start wondering if I’m doing the right thing at all. And my first inclination is to drop everything I’m doing and chase after what I feel is right for me to be doing. But is that the right thing to do?
Today’s verse isn’t a verse. Actually, it’s a whole book. I’ve been struggling with this for a while, the concept of being completely spontaneous versus being prepared. Even now, I don’t think I can tell you which one is better; I just know that God uses both. And what matters behind both of them is the heart and the motivation.
I never really paid much attention to the Book of Nehemiah. I knew what it was about: a Jewish cupbearer to the King of Babylon has a vision to see his people reunited and the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. God works through him, and in spite of opposition from enemies and infighting between workers, Nehemiah and his team rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.
Usually Nehemiah is a book that people usually use to study leadership. But it said something different to me in the last few days.
In the first chapter, when Nehemiah is told that Jerusalem has fallen into ruin, he is distraught. And in verses 5 through 9 of chapter 1, Nehemiah has a heart to heart with God:
“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ ”
Nehemiah had a dream, something that God had put in his heart that he wanted to achieve in his lifetime.
I think everyone has dreams. Everyone has a vision for leaving a legacy or making their mark on history in some way. We all want to make a difference. And somehow we have this idea that dreams will come true as long as we’re good people and sincere in our beliefs and treat others the way we want to be treated. But that kind of Disney princess theology doesn’t really hold water. Because you can be good and sincere and compassionate and still never see your dreams come true.
What did Nehemiah do?
Well, he prayed about it. And he went about his everyday business until the king asked him why he was so sad (Neh. 2:2). So Nehemiah was able to explain the problem, and because he was a good servant (and because God had given him grace), the king offered to help. The king provided everything that Nehemiah would need, from supplies and personnel to protection on the road to Jerusalem.
Maybe I’m stretching this. Maybe this isn’t what the Book of Nehemiah is about. I’m not a scholar and I don’t know a lot about Bible culture. But to me, Nehemiah’s story is about being prepared to achieve your dreams.
I know people who have dropped everything and run toward their dreams to achieve them. And God has called them to do that, I have no doubt. Because God has done amazing things through them and they have achieved the desires of their heart. And that’s something only God can help you do.
But what do you do if you have a dream but you know you can’t leave? What happens when you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but you know that God has called you to something bigger?
That was what happened to Nehemiah. He knew that God had given him a purpose, but he recognized that his purpose was far bigger than he was. And instead of dropping all his responsibilities, he waited for the right moment. He waited until God had arranged for everything to work out, and then all he had to do was say yes.
Did he still have trouble? Yes. Throughout the book, Nehemiah experiences all sorts of setbacks and dangers and opposition. But that never stopped him.
I guess the point of this thought today is that everyone has dreams, but we aren’t all called to accomplish them in the same way. While there is a large part of me that wants to run away from everything that I’m struggling through in my life right now, I know I’m not supposed to. Because everything I’m experiencing is helping me prepare for what is coming. It’s not wrong to be steady. It’s not wrong to wait. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not following God’s commands.
It just means you’re waiting for Him to open a door.