Today's Devotional Thought
May 03, 2011 by Rachel Piferi
On Friday, my family traveled to North Carolina to visit family and celebrate my dad’s birthday. And on Saturday evening, we were all playing board games and having a great time. My oldest daughter (who is 7 years old) has just started playing games with us. She’s old enough to really understand and follow the rules by herself. And, she takes after her mother just a bit and really hates to lose!
As we were playing on Saturday night, one of us made a move that seriously compromised Anna’s position on the board and she was not happy. She started to cry and just whimper that she really wanted to win. After trying to console her a little, she kept saying that it makes her sad when she can’t win.
As I watched this scene unfold, I saw that we had a pretty key teachable moment. I thought of all the perfect lines to teach my daughter about winning and losing….
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts.
As long as you are having fun, it doesn’t matter who wins.
You can’t win them all and you have to learn how to lose.
But before I uttered any of these classic lines, I saw my precious little girl crying genuine tears because she was trying very hard and didn’t feel like she was accomplishing her goal (which was to win). And, as someone who also plays games to win, I just couldn’t tell her that it didn’t matter if she won, because at that moment, it mattered to her.
So, I picked her up off her chair and put her on my lap. And I told her that I got it. I told her that I understand why she’s upset and it is okay to be upset that you’re not winning. And I told her to just use those emotions to move forward. Don’t let those negative emotions paralyze you – use them to motivate you to reach your goal.
On Sunday, the pastor spoke from the book of Nehemiah. And as he was introducing his message, he read from the first two chapters. Even though his sermon was on another theme from this book, as I read through the first few verses of Chapters 1 and 2, I was struck by the honest emotions that Nehemiah displayed. In addition to pouring out his angst to the Lord in Chapter 1, he also approached the King with sincere sadness in Chapter 2.
In the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we are introduced to a deeply emotional Nehemiah who has just heard that the walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt. Although the temple had already been completed, the city walls and gates were still in shambles. Nehemiah is told, “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” (Nehemiah 1:3).
When Nehemiah heard these things, he was greatly distressed. You see, rebuilding the wall was important because it represented protection, power, and safety for the Jews to worship God in the temple in Jerusalem. Verse 4 of Chapter 1 says that when Nehemiah heard these things, he sat down and wept. “For some days, I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
After he mourned and fasted, he then went to the Lord and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t just brood alone about the condition of Jerusalem. He was sad, and appropriately so, and then he used those emotions to move forward in a plan that God had for the city of Jerusalem. As the book continues, we see that Nehemiah approaches the King with similar honest emotions and is granted permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
What I love about this book of the Bible is that we see a man who saw a problem, expressed genuine emotion about it, went to God with it, and then moved forward with strong motivation to fulfill God’s plan.
Emotions can be very motivating. When you are distressed by a situation in your life, don’t deny those emotions. Verse 4 says that Nehemiah sat down and wept and for some days, mourned and fasted. We don’t know how long exactly he mourned. But we do know that he allowed himself to experience genuine emotions. And then he prayed to God and asked for direction.
Emotions are real. Don’t be afraid to cry out to others or to God when you are experiencing genuine distress. I am saddened by the fact that I see so many of us try to deny or distort the emotions we are feeling because we believe that they are counterproductive to our witness or to the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives. Sometimes I think that we feel like it is ungodly to show sadness in times of change or loss. Almost as if others will think we don’t have enough faith and that’s why we’re sad. But friends, I believe that it’s okay to be sad or grieved by circumstances in our life. In fact, I believe that it is disingenuous to pretend to others that you aren’t sad by these circumstances and furthermore, I believe that it is more compromising to your witness to mislead others into thinking that your faith takes away all moments sadness.
In Ecclesiastes 3, we are told that there is time for joy and a time for mourning. There is a time for laughter and a time for weeping (v. 3-4). Allow yourself to feel and display your joy and your sadness. Emotions are valid. Feel them. But friends, do not allow them to paralyze you from moving forward in God’s plan. Feel sadness. But then ask God how he wants you to use that distress to further his plan for your life.
Nehemiah was deeply distressed about the condition of Jerusalem. But, he did not just brood about it. He felt and displayed his distress, went to the Lord, and then mobilized himself to do something about it. It’s okay to be sad. But don’t stay there too long. Feel it and use it to motivate you towards God’s destiny for your life.