Messy Lives & Shadowy Pasts

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In the Old Testament book named after him, Nehemiah, “Cup Bearer” (this meant he served wine to the King and the Royal Family) for Artaxerxes, King of Persia, writes about an interesting confrontation in chapter four. Previously, Nehemiah was distraught about the walls in Jerusalem having been destroyed, and when the King noticed his Cup Bearer was not his normal, jovial self, he asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah poured his heart out to the King, and then asked if he could go rebuild the walls. Artaxerxes agreed, and appointed Nehemiah Governor of Judah, a position in which he served for 12 years. The book of Nehemiah is quite fascinating—I’m just six chapters in, haven’t read it since college and am thoroughly enjoying it—but I’d like to point out something I didn’t notice the first time I read it.

At a few different parts thus far in the book, opponents of Nehemiah’s little “rebuilding project” mocked him for what he was attempting to do.  In chapter four, he details a comment from one of his greatest detractors:

Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage, and insulted and mocked us and laughed at us, and so did his friends and the Samaritan army officers. ‘What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they are doing?’ he scoffed. ‘Do they think they can build the wall in a day if they offer enough sacrifices? And look at those charred stones they are pulling out of the rubbish and using again!’ (Verses 1-2, emphasis added)”

THAT’S the part I’d previously missed: Nehemiah was pulling charred stones out of the trash heap to help rebuild the new wall.

Sanballat and his bunch saw a pile of refuse, but within the amassed burnt stones, Nehemiah found some he could re-use. Doesn’t that remind you of God’s redemptive love for us?

A short list of offenses my friends, certain family members and I have committed include narcotics dealer, drug addiction, alcoholism, theft, attempted suicide, imprisonment and much more. As far as I know, none of us were popular in school. In fact, some of us didn’t even graduate high school, and others like me…just barely. We’re not much to look at, physically, and we’re not rich.

But Jesus unearthed a few stones among our mound of rubble He can use. One of my “charred stones” is chronic pain. When I pull this stone out of the pile, others find comfort. They know they’re not alone. It may have seemed useless, debilitating, discouraging and infuriating to me, but somehow the Lord uses it.

Another of my scorched boulders is depression. Millions of people suffer this in silence, but when God impresses upon me to speak about my struggles, a handful of these precious ones know there are others who can relate to their pain.

Additional stones God pulled from the stack and uses to build His kingdom include struggles with my father as I was growing up, being molested as a child, a suicide attempt and a 35+ year fight with anger and bitterness.

What everyone else views as trash, God sees as treasure.

I know it’s just worthless debris to you,” He smiles, “but I can use that.

We are His adopted children (Galatians 4:5), and He loves and protects us. As I stated in my previous blog, He uses for good what was meant for evil and destruction.

Like Nehemiah, perhaps you’ve been insulted, mocked and laughed at. Well, Jesus Himself was as well, so you’re in good company. The same friends and family I alluded to above have all experienced that. Every single one of us.

Is your life a seemingly worthless pile of charred bricks, stones and refuse?

Good, the Lord can use that. He doesn’t have much use for the rich and arrogant, but messy lives? Shadowy pasts?

OH yeah, that He can use!

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