by Melissa Barnes 

Sometimes I walk into a room in our house with the intention of getting it “in order.”  I enter the room full of energy and enthusiasm for the task, ready to conquer the mess and restore order to my chaotic home. As my eyes scan the room in search of a starting point, however, discouragement quickly sets in.

Mini-mountains of books have no home. Boxes of last year’s schoolwork await filing. Tiny scraps of a young child’s paper project litter the floor like confetti. Random toys and game pieces, overlooked during clean-up time, lay abandoned on the floor. Nothing looks quick or easy.

I’m sorry to confess that this is not an uncommon occurrence in my home. The tasks vary. Sometimes it’s the dreaded change of seasons in which my husband brings the kids’ clothes boxes down from the attic for the semiannual “sorting of closets.”  Other times school work piles up on me, and I face a mountain of papers to grade. Often it is laundry that multiplies to cover every empty surface in my bedroom.

Usually these tasks pile up as a result of neglect, an unexpected interruption such as a sickness or surgery, or a season of busyness that causes a traffic jam of sorts.

Sometimes we experience a similar sense of despair as we face the ruins of a damaged relationship, a spiritual drought, or even a family culture that does not reflect Christ. We “wake up” and recognize the problem, but we don’t begin to know where to start to “fix it.”

In such times the Old Testament prophet Nehemiah offers great wisdom and a plan of attack.

When Nehemiah inquired about the condition of Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant who had survived the exile, he was overwhelmed. The people were in “great trouble and disgrace,” the wall was “broken down,” and the gates had been “burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3, NIV’84).

His response?

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV’84). Then he prayed a beautiful prayer acknowledging his own shortcomings and those of his people. He called on the God he knew would keep his covenant if only they would return to Him. Nehemiah then went to the king and asked to be sent to rebuild the city.

Can you imagine how overwhelmed he must have felt when he arrived and saw for himself the desolation of the home of his ancestors? My messy rooms and mountains of laundry seem insignificant in comparison, but damaged relationships, spiritual deserts, and broken families do not.

When faced with such seemingly impossible rebuilding tasks, we can follow Nehemiah’s lead. We can return to our God with humble repentance and begin to attack the problem we face brick-by-brick and gate-by-gate.

The rebuilding of the wall was not an overnight project for Nehemiah. He had groups of people working on individual sections of the gate, tackling the project section-by-section. He faced opposition and ridicule, but persisted. Despite working with “all their hearts,” his laborers grew weary (Nehemiah 4:6-10, NIV’84). Still they pressed on until the task was complete.

Whatever area of your life appears to be in total ruin, don’t give in to the despair you may feel when you survey the damage. Pause, turn back to God, seek Him earnestly through prayer, and set to work rebuilding one gate at a time, taking to heart the encouragement Nehemiah offered his workers, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14b, NIV’84).

Do you or someone you know face a “ruined” relationship or family culture? Have you suffered a recent drought in your walk with the LORD? If so, step back and survey the damage, seek the LORD with all your heart, and begin to rebuild…one day, one conversation, one prayer at a time.


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  1. Susan Campbell says:

    This was just what I needed! God is not the author of confusion – I make enough of that myself. I’m saving this to read over and over. Thanks!