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.” 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.
— Nehemiah 1:3–4
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
— Proverbs 3:27
Nehemiah got terrible news about the state of Jerusalem, and it moved him to tears. It’s important to know that the story doesn’t end with him crying about what was lost. That part of the story is not the ending. It is the beginning.
After this, Nehemiah prays and comes up with a plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then he goes to Jerusalem and leads the people there to rebuild those walls.
That’s what makes the story of Nehemiah exceptional. He didn’t just feel bad about the state of the world. He had a burden on his heart, he prayed about it, asked for God’s help, and then did everything in his power to fix it.
He did not stop at feeling bad. He observed a need, and he met that need. That is a powerful example for God’s people today. Too often, we live in a culture that is content to look at the tragedy in the world instead of helping. We satiate our sadness with a social media post. “Praying!” That wouldn’t be so bad except, let’s be honest: most of the time, we don’t even actually pray about it.
I’m not saying that you are going to be called to help in every situation. But I know there will be things that speak to your heart and genuinely move you to compassion. At that moment, remember this: Proverbs 3:27 admonishes us not to withhold good, when it is within our power to help. So we must help, even if it’s hard, even if it’s scary, even if it costs you. I also recognize that to help means a lot of different things. Each of us should do what we can. If you can give, then give. If you can organize, then organize. If you can cook, then cook. If you can counsel, then counsel. Use whatever God has given you to help. And yes, if all you can do is pray, then pray continually.
As we celebrate 15 years of service at c|Life, my favorite truth about who we are as a church is that we are compassionate people who lead through service in our communities. One of the most frequently quoted values is “change the world.” Because here is the truth: feeling bad about how much suffering exists in the world is useless, especially if you can help.
Help us honor that value by asking yourself two questions this week:
- What breaks your heart?
- What are you going to do about it?