Within the open verses of the Old Testament book Nehemiah, we see the reality of leading in a world filled with pain and challenges.
“3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
4 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 1:3-4
When Nehemiah gets word about the conditions of those who had survived the exile because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God’s covenant, his heart his broke. As a leader, your heart will be broken over people and places in ways that will surprise you. There will be moments of great disappointment on your journey as you seek to bring change. People will let you down, people will make destructive choices, people will hurt each other and you will see evil present in the world around you. How will you respond?
Nehemiah’s response is helpful because it highlights three things: compassion, emotional health and dependence.
Nehemiah is moved to tears as he reflects on the conditions of Jerusalem and God’s people in general. Their sin had led them here, and Nehemiah was mourning the results. He was mourning the condition of his people.
I am thankful that we have Nehemiah’s mourning recorded. It helps me in those moments when I am moved to tears because of the condition of people or cities. Mourning over brokenness because you care about people is healthy. Bottling it up inside is not. As a leader, we need to find outlets to process these emotions as we come into contact with brokenness in people or places and we feel it.
Nehemiah mourns and then he turns to God in prayer. Where else can we go? Nehemiah doesn’t just move to action on his own, he moves to call upon the God of the universe to act to bring about the change. Moving to action by ourselves, working in our own power is a formula for failure. We can’t handle it, we can’t bring lasting change, we won’t be sustained in the general if we rely on ourselves. Only real, lasting change can come as a result of God’s presence and involvement in whatever we are seeking to do.