So I was talking with some women at work the other day. They were telling stories of their kids and peer problems at school. In my opinion there is no stage of life harder than Junior High for girls. They are so unsure of themselves, but they don’t want anyone to know that. They live by the opinions of the people around them, the media and yes, their parents/family. But you know, it’s really hard trying to “be” what all those different people think you should be. I remember being in Junior High. Going to a very small school everyone was involved with everyone. I was a “good girl”, which was not always the popular status. I knew God as my Savior, which included knowing right from wrong and that definitely did not always go over well. I can remember the unkind names and ridiculing comments to this day. It hurt and those kinds actions can cause you to rethink your position or go about doing what you are doing a different way, perhaps trying to hide what you are doing.
That’s not how Nehemiah handled the ridicule thrown his way. See here’s the thing, ridicule is not an honest problem. It’s someone saying I don’t like what you are doing. It’s negative, often silly comments just meant to degrade or humiliate the other person. It’s not based in truth. Usually the opposition has not attempted to know the truth in any way. They are just talking to cause you a problem. Following Nehemiah’s lead, don’t legitimize their comments. His response was to go straight to God. He just prayed to God to take care of it and kept right on going because he knew there was no truth to their talk.
When ridicule didn’t work the opposition organized a bit and came against Nehemiah and the workers physically. Verse 8 of chapter 4 says they “plotted” to “fight” and “stir up trouble”. But Nehemiah and the gang “prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” So now they added guards, watchmen to their defense. They were threatened so they prayed for God to protect them but they watched. I’m reminded of the verses where God tells us to “guard our hearts.” That’s what is going on here. God will handle the situation, like we know God is in charge of the world but that doesn’t mean we just blindly stumble through our days. We need to have our eyes open, seeing what’s around us. We need to make good choices.
The last kind of opposition noted in chapter 4 was the rumors or threats they were telling. Planting seeds of fear in the people. Fear is a powerful weapon. Nehemiah’s response was to equip the people. They began working in pairs with weapons at their side. Throughout this entire story Nehemiah worked with other people. He did not attempt this project alone. True, God made him aware that it was time to do it but that did not mean he had to do it alone. Now when scary rumors were flying around the area, he paired the workers up. Nothing is quite as scary as it could be when you are with someone else. We were able to laugh when we were lost in Europe and didn’t speak the language because their were 6 of us and we knew that together we’d figure it out.
My last notes of chapter 4 of Nehemiah talk about him encouraging his people, reminding them of whom they are serving. That’s something I believe in strongly. We all need “cheerleaders” in our lives. Encouraging us to “hang in there”, or go a little longer, further, or harder and why we are doing what we are doing. It’s amazing how tired you can be but if someone tells you that you are doing a fantastic job you can give it that last bit of energy to finish well.
How do you respond to opposition? Rebuttal, fear, frustration or just endure until you wear out? Maybe it’s time to go against that opposition looking at it honestly. Pray, set a guard, gather your team and speak the truth of why and for whom you are working. You’ll be amazed at just how much you can get done. And by the way, who can you be a cheerleader for today?