You may be making progress in rebuilding your relationship following deployment, and then something discouraging is said, from inside or outside your family walls
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. (Nehemiah 4:1–4)
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:6)
Fighting words. You know them. Someone from outside or inside your walls speak them, and they sting. Fighting words can come in the form of nagging, blaming, criticizing, or venting. Whether you return the punch with your own words or shrink in silent hurt, fighting words are daggers to the soul. Without striking a blow, a word can bring defeat, wreak havoc, and do damage.1
The returning exiles were rebuilding. Not happy about the progress, enemies hurled fighting words at Nehemiah and the wall-builders. Naysayers surrounded them, ready to attack. What an intense moment! Outside, enraged enemies; inside, builders frightened by a continual bombardment of propaganda.2 Would the discouraging words stop the rebuilding effort?
The Israelites organized their army around families. Each family stationed themselves to work, and in this case fight, together. Nehemiah began to muster their courage. He did this out in the open so the enemy could hear and see the preparation for what could have been a minor war.3
Can you relate to this war of nerves? You may be making progress in rebuilding your relationship following deployment, and then something discouraging is said, from inside or outside your family walls. Voices whisper, “Too much has changed and your family will never recover.” Do not believe the naysayers. Will it take work? Yes! The fact that the words “work” and “fight” are included in this rebuilding scene implies that progress did not come easy. But with God’s help, and the will of the families to do the hard work, they made progress—and so can you.
Take heart! Like these builders, muster your family, look to the Lord, ask for his help, and have a mind to work! Even when you are discouraged, don’t stop. Look at what you have accomplished, not just what needs to be done. You too can report: “We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because [our family] had a heart for the work” (Nehemiah 4:6 MSG).
Have you heard discouraging words from without or within your family concerning redeployment? What strategy can you adopt to fight them from the example in Nehemiah 4?
Prayer for the Journey
Father, give my family and me a heart to do the work of rebuilding anything damaged or broken. Help us not to become discouraged, but to keep working together to become the family you have designed. Amen.
1 Julia Schemmer, “The Power of Words,” Huff Post, January 22, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-schemmer/the-power-of-words_b_4516603.html, (accessed March 6, 2015).
2 F. Charles Fensham, The New International Commentary of the Old Testament: Ezra-Nehemiah (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 186.