There are times when picking up the pieces following a national trauma is symbolized by a single person doing a small yet important task. For me and many in our country, Congressman Andy Kim epitomized that small, powerful act of beginning to pick up the pieces following the Insurrection.
Congressman Kim was in his office in a separate federal building during the attack so he didn’t arrive in the capital until midnight.
I was just overwhelmed with emotion,” Kim, 38, told NBC Asian America. “It’s a room that I love so much — it’s the heart of the Capitol, literally the heart of this country. It pained me so much to see it in this kind of condition.”
So for the next hour and a half, he crouched down and filled a half dozen trash bags with debris. When he finished cleaning up the rotunda, he began working on the adjacent rooms, including the National Statuary Hall and the Capitol crypt downstairs.
Then he returned to the House floor to debate Pennsylvania's vote count, a session that lasted until 3 a.m. By Thursday evening, he’d been awake for more than 36hours.
In a similar way, the living and most gracious and compassionate God raised up Nehemiah whose name means YHWH has comforted to empower His ancient people to begin picking up the pieces of their lives after a devastating trauma that occurred well over a century before they were born.
Last week I expressed that almost all of us, if not all of us, those we know and even those with whom we come into casual contact have experienced some form of brokenness within our lives. Thankfully, our compassionate God cares about us and our trauma thus invites us to open ourselves to His healing and rebuilding. This is why I encourage all of us to bring our own trauma and brokenness before our Lord.
I also gave a timeline of the events that led up to Nehemiah hearing the words of vs. 3, And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
This morning I’d like to cover a bit more of Nehemiah’s context and look at three aspects of his initial response to learning of the condition of his people, namely his passion, his prayer, and his plan.
In 586 B.C. the Babylonian Empire conquered and crushed Judah, breaking down its walls, setting its gates on fire, and destroying its temple. The Babylonian empire lasted for around 50 years after that until they were conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire which then became the dominant power of that region for around 200 years.
The Medo-Persian Empire’s strong central gov’t administered by appointed regional governors and open religious tolerance were the features of the Medo-Persian Empire God used to heal and rebuild His people. Following a pattern set by Cyrus the Great who conquered the Babylonian empire, Medo-Persian rulers made good use of capable men from the peoples they conquered. This explains how Nehemiah was able to rise to the important position of royal cupbearer. The cupbearer was the man responsible for serving the wine at the king's meals and ensuring that the portion given to the king was free from poison. He had to be a man of outstanding character and capability and almost always became a trusted friend and confidant to the king.
God used Nehemiah’s relationship with Emperor Artaxerxes coupled with the emperor’s policy of using capable people to ensure that Nehemiah would be appointed to serve as governor of the province of Judah.
This is a good reminder to think and pray through the people God may have placed in our lives to work with us to pick up the pieces of our traumatic brokenness.
Nehemiah’s passion. Nehemiah’s ministry to his people began with his passion for their plight. Vs. 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Passion is that strong, powerful feeling that eventually propels us into action for the issue, people, or situation of brokenness with which we're faced. And that includes our own trauma.
Nehemiah wept and mourned. His reaction to this news demonstrated his passion for his people and his ancient home. These words reveal that he was overcome with deep expressions of sadness and grief.
From our perspective redeeming brokenness begins with a passion for what is broken. It could be the family of our birth, our marriage, our church, our community, a particular group of souls within our community or something within our own lives.
And it’s okay to weep. Think about the way we weep and grieve lost loved ones.
Moreover, we know that it was Christ’s passion and brokenness over our sin, its penalty, and misery that drove Him to the cross.
Nehemiah’s passion led him to take the whole matter to God in prayer.
Nehemiah’s prayer. The first thing to do with our passion is to commit it to the living God in prayer.
It’s similar to the first response of a child to pain is to cry out for mommy or daddy.
Nehemiah' sprayer like most in Scripture is a kingdom-focused prayer. It's kingdom-focused in that it prioritizes God's glory, fame, and redemptive plan.
Nehemiah prayed as an expression of his dependence on God, recognizing that his passion even though great wasn't sufficient to address his people's brokenness.
It’s also a prayer for God’s insight and direction. It’s a prayer that realizes God is already at work in the situation which is why He brought it to Nehemiah’s attention in the first place.
Nehemiah also repented, realizing that his people’s sin and rebellion led to their trauma and humiliation.
There are times when this kind of corporate repentance is absolutely necessary so we can humbly identify with the loss of others. And it’s especially important to remember that some of our loss and brokenness might have been caused by our owns in.
That’s not always the case. For example, though King David grieved the death of King Saul, he wasn’t called to repent over Saul’s sin against him.
One of the main reasons repentance is necessary is it gives us a right attitude toward all sin and serves as a constant reminder to refuse destructive, sinful responses to our trauma and brokenness.
Nehemiah’s Plan. vs. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah's plan involved the course of action he intended to pursue that was grounded in prayer and made use of God's sovereign work within his life. This included:
His position and relation to the king. The particular set of skills, abilities, and talents God gave him. It was a plan to begin picking up the pieces of his people’s trauma and brokenness.
If any of us were diagnosed with a life-altering disease or condition we’d most certainly take it to the Lord in prayer and ask those close to us to pray along with us. But we’d also develop a plan of treatment.
Picking up the pieces of our traumatic brokenness is not easy, and we almost always start small, but start we must.
For some of us starting may mean just beginning to grieve the loss and perhaps ask others to grieve with us.
Others may begin by taking some time to engage God in prayer for healing and insight into His restoration and rebuilding work in our lives.
Others of us like myself may have to seek out a good therapist to begin processing what happened in an objective, yet redemptive way.
And we can do so with joy knowing that the God we serve is passionate about redeeming, restoring, and rebuilding our traumatic brokenness. We know that because of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that culminated in a plan God declared to Adam, Eve, and Satan immediately after Adam led humanity into traumatic brokenness with his rebellion against God.