When You’re Discouraged: Lessons from Nehemiah

Have you been discouraged? Here’s a lesson from Nehemiah.

I once had a boss who nicknamed me “Pollyanna” because I found the good in everything.  Most of the time, he did not use that nickname as a compliment, yet it didn’t discourage me. I embraced that God had wired me as an eternal optimist.

You may be wired differently. For me, disappointment is rarely a thing. And when it does come upon me, it usually means I’ve been working too hard without adequate rest, or that I’ve been trying to make things happen in my own strength – apart from the Lord.

Knowing this about myself (and the importance of The Blue Cord book’s launch and the upcoming Blue Cord Impact women’s conference,) I’ve been diligent about following a rhythm in my spiritual life that includes a daily deep Bible study and prayer time, a weekly Sabbath rest, and a regular prayer and fasting retreat.

Discouragement Still Comes

Despite all these things, I woke up discouraged.  Here’s what I was wrestling with all through the night:

No one…no one…no one. (Things always seem worse in the middle of the night, don’t they?)

In the morning light, I talked with the Lord about what I had been wrestling over. Then the Holy Spirit illuminated an Old Testament passage in Nehemiah during my morning Bible study. It brought me comfort for discouragement. I hope it does you too.

Discouraged by Ridicule 

In Nehemiah’s day, Jerusalem was desolate. There were more foxes than people running around the ruins of the city. The people of Judah were afraid to rebuild the broken-down walls and burned-out gates. The problem wasn’t just broken physical walls. Judah’s leaders were being ridiculed and discouraged by their neighbors too. Dejected, the leaders came to Nehemiah and said,

“The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” (See Nehemiah 4:10)

Oh, my friend, don’t miss this. They were on the cusp of giving up because they were trying to rebuild the wall in their own strength and power. In their focused, solo striving, they had lost sight that God could do the impossible.

Has this happened to you too?

Have you been hunkering down, doing things zealously in your own strength, only to realize that you are tired? Does what you are striving to achieve seem completely out of reach – even after you’ve given your all?

Discouragement Overcome

There is nothing new under the sun. When the people of Judah sought out Nehemiah, they were ready to give up too. But Nehemiah didn’t let them. Instead, he reassured them and pointed them back to God,

“…Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord…” (Nehemiah 4:14 CSB)

Nehemiah reminded them that apart from God they could do nothing. You and I can’t do anything apart from God either.

The people of Nehemiah’s day had a choice. They could continue to strive in their own power and expect human results. Or they could turn their eyes to God to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall with fresh zeal – as though they were employed by God – leaving the results to Him.

So, that’s what they chose to do. Soon, against all odds, they rebuilt that wall, and all the nay-sayers who had been ridiculing them could see God’s help was obvious. There was no way they could do what they did without God.  Uncertain (and I imagine a bit freaked out) the hecklers quickly backed down. (See Nehemiah 6:16)

This passage in Nehemiah is a fresh reminder that when you are focusing all your thoughts on what you can’t do, or what is not happening despite all your hard work and effort, you’re not likely to be thinking about what God can do.

In our own power, we can’t do anything. Nothing. Zero. We can’t even breathe without Him. (See Acts 17:38).

Remember this truth: When you wholly seek and trust in God, you will never be disappointed, discouraged, or ashamed. (See Psalm 22:5) And the results will always be better than you can imagine.

Think It Through

  • What is your rhythm for cultivating your spiritual life? What do you need to stop, start or keep doing?
  • How have you been approaching discouragement? Is it working for you? What do you need to do differently?
  • Do you have someone like Nehemiah in your life who is encouraging you to remember our great and awe-inspiring Lord?
  • What is one small step you can take to tackle discouragement this week?


Tags: A Christian approach to discouragement, comfort tor discouragement,