It's funny how God points you in the right direction to what you need, even when you don't know you've been looking for it. I was studying the scriptures this morning, reading 2 Nephi 9:52, which reads, in part, "Let your hearts rejoice." I followed the footnote to Deuteronomy 26:11, but before I got there, my thumb stopped on Nehemiah in the Old Testament. I've never really read any of those "little prophets" books in the Old Testament, but I remembered hearing a talk by Pres. Deiter F. Uchtdorf a few years ago about Nehemiah, so I detoured a bit from my "planned" activity and read up.
Essentially, Nehemiah was a Jew in the palace of a Persian king named Artaxerxes (bless you! need a Kleenex?). Jerusalem had been wasted and the people carried off into other lands. One day, Artaxerxes sees that Nehemiah is depressed and asks him why. Nehemiah responds, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city...lieth in waste, and the gates consumed with fire?" (Nehemiah 2:3) Having compassion on him, Artaxerxes allows Nehemiah and some of the Jews to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the bad guys surrounding Jerusalem see the activity and are nonplussed. They threaten Nehemiah and his brethren, but the Jews don't respond. Finally, Sanballat, the leader of the bad guys, tries to trick Nehemiah into coming out of the city to "negotiate". Nehemiah doesn't buy it. His response really struck a chord with me today; he says, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down with you?" (Neh. 6:3)
Nehemiah knew what he was there to do. He knew his purpose. And I imagine he also knew that the Holy City wasn't going to build itself. He didn't get caught up in the thick of thin things. Despite the threatening and the coaxing of his enemies, Nehemiah remained vigilant, fixed in his resolve. But he was not without opposition: "For they all made us afraid, saying, 'Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.' Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." (Neh. 6:9; emphasis added) He trusted in God to be his protection--he didn't need to come down from his important task to squabble with his enemies or be distracted so that the work didn't get done.
Because of his diligence, Nehemiah and the Jews raised the walls in an incredibly short 52 days. Afterward, the same enemies who had tried to distract him "heard thereof, and all...that were about us saw these things, [and] were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God" (Neh. 6:16; emphasis added).
I testify that if we will stick to the tasks God has given us, and declare to our enemies (e.g. self-doubt, temptations, antagonists, etc.) "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down", we will find the surprising strength to overcome and to accomplish that which is our destiny. So keep it up! Don't despair! be like Nehemiah! You got this.
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