In so many ways, Nehemiah could have felt overwhelmed or incapable and just bailed on the entire project. The very fact that the people looked to him alone and counted on him alone for leadership and initiative and encouragement could have drove him over the proverbial edge. But he didn’t freak out. He just continued making forward progress, doing what he believed God wanted.
I am sure that as a human, Nehemiah struggled in certain ways, but those struggles did not seem to disable him from accomplishing the Lord’s work. They did cause him to pour his heart out to God in prayer, and beseech His help on a daily basis, which we all need to be doing. But I am just moved and inspired by his steadfastness throughout the entire story. I want that and need that so badly in my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence in God lately, and I’ve determined that when it comes to doing a boy-girl relationship really well – I mean really well – this quality is absolutely critical. I can only speak from the guy’s perspective, but there are many parallels for girls – and so if you’re a girl, let me know your thoughts! Okay, here’s what I think I’ve figured out:
My relationship – and my goal of making it the best relationship ever – needs me to be stable – emotionally and psychologically and spiritually. This does not mean that I shouldn’t be vulnerable when I struggle and share with her what I’m wrestling with, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle – we all will and we all do. It just means that hopefully I struggle less as I become more mature, and that my coping mechanisms are largely healthy rather than dysfunctional.
For example, when I struggled with insecurities or interpersonal conflict or significant stress as a teenager, I usually just isolated myself in my bedroom and didn’t talk to anyone, and gave my immediate family the silent treatment because I was mad at the world. I basically pulled out and bailed from life. Not good, I know.
This would last for days, during which time I worked through things in my mind, and eventually got over whatever the issue was. I know other teens coped by yelling at their parents, or abusing alcohol and other drugs, or rebelling through promiscuity or other shortsighted adolescent behaviors. These adaptive responses may be normal when considering our developmental immaturity as teenagers, but they are definitely not healthy nor God-honoring.
As an adult in a long-term relationship, I still struggle on a personal level with various issues – but I have realized that even if I want to, I can’t resort to my old-ways of dysfunctional coping. I can’t put up “walls” to shut everyone out, because my girlfriend – and others who care about me – want to be there for me and feel helpless if I push them away through silence or sullenness.
Now more than ever, it seems, I have to do what is mature and right and appropriate and conducive to growth in my relational skills and abilities. My romantic relationship will sputter if I am a jerk to my girlfriend when I am dealing with personal junk. My Christian witness will crumble if I withdraw and seclude myself from social interaction when I am having a day when I feel like I can’t handle life. My own spiritual walk will start to disintegrate as well.
Plus, honestly, I believe that with the Holy Spirit in me and Christ living through me, I shouldn’t have any excuses to be less than God-honoring in my speech and actions and attitude. I don’t care what I’m dealing with. The right thing to do is to be surrendered to whatever He is doing (as painful as it is), to acknowledge the reality of whatever I’m wrestling with, to humbly accept it, and to get beyond myself by trusting Him fully to lead me through the valley into green pastures. Like David said (and oh man, this is one of my all-time favorite verses), Psalm 27:13 – “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” [italics mine].
So, this brings us back full-circle to confidence in God. I am realizing that if my confidence in God is not rock-ribbed and completely solid, I am going to allow the devil and the world various footholds in my life and in my dating relationship and, unfortunately, into a marriage and family (if I am blessed to have children). This is a really big deal. If we are spending our lives praying for and waiting for The One, we don’t want to be caught with our spiritual pants down – and not ready to confidently proceed into the roles of a spiritual leader and priest of the household.
What is my life like when I am doubting and fearing and a complete mess because I’ve taken my eyes off of Him or failed to keep nourishing myself with His Word or through His people? Well, it sucks. In every way. I get anxious, and I find myself less able to watch my words, and I say things that betray stupid insecurities, and I am moody, and I get caught up in worldly worries and concerns which choke everything else out.
What is more, I can’t sit still, and I can’t hear Him, and my quiet times are complete crap, and I get suspicious, and I stop looking for and seeing the best in others, and I get critical and judgmental, and I’m always sizing up others so I feel better about myself. And I waste myself in human effort to make myself feel better about who I am or what I have or what my future will be like, and who I am and what I’m here for starts to become really foggy. And basically, there is just no peace or joy to be found.
I am sad to recognize all of this in me, because I really thought that I’d have conquered all of it by now. I know that sounds ridiculous and naïve and even prideful, but I was like – man, I went through so many years in the crucible, where He was shaping me and refining me through so many trials…and it stinks so much that still, even now, the potential for all of that nonsense is there. And so what that shows me is that every single day, I need to be intentionally doing whatever I can to make sure I am growing in my confidence in God. Every single day. Or it will start to erode, slowly but surely.
Can you imagine what this is like for your dreamboat when you are a complete insecure mess on a regular basis? It’s not fun. I can’t be the man God needs me to be for her if I am like this. I am not going to be the father I want to be to my children if I am like this. And I don’t think I invite God’s favor on our relationship, marriage, and family when I am like this and I haven’t been purposefully doing what I know I should be doing. Prioritizing Him and seeking Him first and foremost (Deuteronomy 4:29). Feeding myself on His Word (Job 23:12). Praying and practicing His presence (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Camping out on His promises (Psalm 56:11, Hebrews 13:5). Insulating myself from the world’s negative influences (1 Peter 4:4). Deflecting Satan’s arrows with the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).
As I close, I just want to be clear that I know it’s not all about “manning up” – which is contrived, hollow confidence that does not last. That is not a house built on the Rock, but a house built on shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-29). I also know that I am going to continue to grow in this area for the rest of my life – just like you are. And, I am going to have bad days – which are perfectly okay to have. I need grace, and so does everyone else – desperately and constantly. I am talking about the big picture, and I am setting in front of me what I believe is a realistic goal to attain. I want my life to be deeply marked by confidence in God like Nehemiah ‘s, so that I can live a similarly meaningful and uniquely appointed existence – powerfully impacting the lives of others, glorifying God, and being a light in this dark world.