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God in the Ruins by Michelle Bauer

Ruins are an interesting thing to visit on vacation. However, no one wants the experience of walking through ruin in their personal life, their home, their marriage, or their family. When that happens, it takes great courage to face the reality of destruction and decide to rebuild instead of just cutting losses and moving on.

Nehemiah is a man who faced this exact challenge. When he heard the news of the destruction of his hometown, he made plans to return and rebuild. The book of Nehemiah chronicles this journey from discovery to completion.

If it’s been a while since you’ve read Nehemiah, take a little time and read it. It is a beautiful record of God’s provision and protection of Nehemiah and the people of Israel. Consider this account from Nehemiah 1:1-11:

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, ‘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 have been burned with fire.’

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:

‘Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

‘Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

‘They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.  Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.’

I was cupbearer to the king.”

Nehemiah is faced with the news that the walls and gates of Jerusalem have been destroyed, leaving the city’s inhabitants vulnerable to attack. What do you need to talk to God about: what are some things in your life that need to be rebuilt? Are you ready to ask God to show you something that is in need of repair? What resistance do you have?

The news from Jerusalem leaves Nehemiah in a state of deep, stunned grief. What feelings do you have about the broken “walls and gates” in your life?  How do you sense the Spirit responding to your grief?

Nehemiah refuses to shove down this grief. “For some days” he wept and processed this experience in God’s presence. What has your own grief at the destruction in your life been like? What pressures do you feel to get over it or move on with life? What would help you fight the urge to hurry through this part of the process?

In verse 6 of Nehemiah’s powerful prayer, he asks God to be attentive to him. Nehemiah challenges God to “remember” the Israelites’ story. What would you like for God to remember about your life and how he created you? What promises would you like to remind God of, as you face your rebuilding project? In what ways do his promises comfort you?

A cupbearer was a high ranking officer in the king’s household. It appears that Nehemiah had a comfortable life and lots of potential excuses to not involve himself in Jerusalem’s tragedy. What might distract you from your rebuilding project? What will it cost to focus time and energy on making the necessary repairs?

What in your life needs to be rebuilt? Where are you in the process? What do you need from God to bring your project to completion?

Rebuilding is hard work. Commit today to taking time each week to rest. Make a plan, share it with at least one other person, and ask them to hold you accountable. How does it feel to consider that God will continue the task of rebuilding while you rest?