How to Restore a Broken Community
A few Disney songs are being sung around my house lately. Maybe it’s because there have been more movies watched over the last few months than the previous six! Or, perhaps because some of the phrases seem to capture specific thoughts that tend to come to our minds. “Into the Unknown” resonated as this virus-season began, watching the medical community wrestle with a new virus of unknown characteristics. “Bare Necessities” captured the frantic shopping and searching for necessary items from cereal to toilet paper. “A Whole New World” seems to be playing in my mind presently, as we begin to re-enter the outside world after these weeks of isolation.
How do we, as followers of Jesus, prepare to enter this “new world,” as the pandemic slows and major change is happening throughout our nation? How do we get back to a pace that allows us to re-establish rhythms and patterns of a more “normal” existence?
The book of Nehemiah provides us with some guidance. When Nehemiah learned of the enduring brokenness of his homeland, he immediately cried out to his God. In prayer and fasting, he acknowledged his own and his people’s sinfulness and helplessness. Nehemiah admitted the need for supernatural intervention to change the trajectory of the Jewish people and their land. He offered himself to God for use as an instrument for restoring the nation. At least ten times in these 14 chapters, it records Nehemiah approaching God in prayer. The last words of the book contain his final prayer: “Remember me, O my God, for good.”
His words reveal a very clear indication of the intimate way he had come to know God. He had become convinced that God was very present during this time of calamity, and that He desired to be close to His people and each person.
The best posture for entering this new world is on our knees.
The best posture for entering this new world is on our knees. We are observing a crumbled economy, an overwhelmed health care system, grieving families, and scared people. This picture should remind us that we are in desperate need of the mighty God to restore our world. We are not the solution — God is. We should enter this new season with a resolve to walk closely with Him in regular conversation in prayer and the Word. We are desperate for His wisdom and power. Our strength and renewal come when we are walking closely with God in prayer. Let’s often pray as families, in our groups, and as individuals as a result of these last few weeks.
Nehemiah also gave us the example of personal involvement in the work of God. Though he had the opportunity to remain distant from the trouble in Jerusalem, he willingly left his secure position in Persia. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to assess the situation and engage in the work. He led with prudence as he rallied others to join the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He was personally involved in many ways, sacrificed willingly, courageously faced opposition, and addressed the physical and spiritual brokenness of the community. Nehemiah exemplified for us the need to be active and not passive in the work of God.
God is calling every one of us to be active for Him in this next season. The instructions of Romans 12: 11 are poignant: “Do not be slothful in zeal; be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, and seek to show hospitality.”
Our families need active, spiritual leadership from parents, and our neighborhoods need dynamic demonstrations of kindness and community. Our churches need enthusiastic and generous care for one another. Our businesses need active, God-honoring leaders and workers who are committed to noble efforts and decisions. God will use His people for His glory.
Nehemiah was also aware of God’s work throughout the journey. Listen to some of his observations:
“the good hand of my God was upon me” (2:8)
“the God of heaven will make us prosper” (2:20)
“God had frustrated [the enemies] plans” (4:15)
“Our God will fight for us” (4:20)
“God turned the curse into a blessing” (13:2)
Repeatedly, Nehemiah pointed out that God was working — undoubtedly as a reminder to himself and to those around him that circumstances can be deceptive, but God’s promises can be trusted.
Let us be faithful to notice and mention how God is working. Conversations at the dinner table, reflections in our prayer journals, or discussions with our friends — they can all be settings in which we point out how God has worked around us and through people.
Let us be faithful to notice and mention how God is working.
Amid the heartache and chaos, God empowers His people to be instruments of His grace and renewal. He is close and personal, filling our hearts with comfort and confidence. He is working and bringing hope and restoration to his people and through his people. May we rise to the occasion and be the servants of God as we enter “A Whole New World.”