Have you ever faced a task that seemed impossible? Maybe you just don’t feel up to the journey? I am in the middle of writing my dissertation, and I have to admit there are days when I just want to throw my hands up and quit because the road ahead seems too daunting. Even though I know the Lord has called me to this work and even though most days I really love the research, there are those days where I just am weary and get easily discouraged.
I work with students who feel that way about completing their own degrees so I know I am not the only one who has those “I can’t take it anymore!” kind of days. For some of my married friends with kids, they have those days where the responsibility of raising kids seems overwhelming. Or, maybe you have been trying to witness to a loved one for many years, and you are just not seeing any results. I am not sure what you are facing, but I am willing to guess that you may have had those days where you just feel like the task is too hard or the road is too long or you are just too weary.
If you find yourself having that kind of day (or month or year), can I encourage you with some things the Lord has been showing me in His Word?
I have been reading through the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament because he was faced with a daunting task as well. The walls of Jerusalem were is disrepair, and Nehemiah realized that Jerusalem was vulnerable and unable to protect itself from foreign invaders. When he realized the plight of his people, Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed, and then took a disjointed nation and brought them together to accomplish what I consider to be one of the greatest tasks in the Bible. In fifty-two short days, Nehemiah completed an incredible building program.
How did Nehemiah do it? How did he stay on course through some very trying and difficult circumstances? As you read through the book of Nehemiah, you will discover that Nehemiah realized two important things: the power of prayer and the importance of perseverance.
The Power of Prayer
The ability to communicate with God—to go into His very throne room and present our requests to Him—it is something far too many of us take for granted. As you read through Nehemiah, you will be amazed at how many times you see the phrase, “and he prayed.” Nehemiah realized something very important—he could not accomplish the task in his own strength. To Nehemiah, completing the wall was not possible without moment-by-moment reliance upon God. Charles Stanley once said, “Remember the shortest distance between a problem and the solution is the distance between our knees and the floor.”
I hate to admit that I forget that truth at times. I forget that prayer is powerful. In a crisis, most people turn to those they trust most to give them advice; Nehemiah went directly to God each time he was faced with an obstacle. His prayers reveal a deep trust and confidence in God. He realized his place before God, the powerthat comes from God, and the peace that flows from an intimate prayer life. Prayer sustained him and made him effective to accomplish the task God had set before him. I have found that when I am having those “I can’t take it anymore!” kinds of days what I really need to do is spend some time alone in prayer before the Lord.
The Importance of Perseverance
The second thing that has really encouraged me as I have been looking at Nehemiah is how he handled hardships. Again and again, his enemies threw obstacles in his way—they questioned his character, threatened his life, and tried to stop his work. However, he persevered and kept his hand to the task. Hebrews 12:1b encourages us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” and Nehemiah definitely modeled this in his life.
We tend to give up too easily when the task gets hard. I know I have been tempted to do just that. We pray for people to be saved for a couple days or weeks, but would we be willing to pray for years? Adoniram and Ann Judson were missionaries in Burma, but they did not see anyone get saved and baptized until they had been overseas for seven years! Imagine if during year five or six they had decided it was too hard or they were too discouraged and had just given up? A whole nation was influenced because of their work, but it took years before they were able to see the fruit of some of their labor.
Walter Payton who is in the Hall of Fame as a Chicago Bears running back realized the importance of perseverance. Someone observed that he rushed over eight miles in his professional career, and one announcer put that tremendous achievement into perspective. He remarked that Payton got knocked down every three of four yards, though, and still got back up again. We need to be the kind of people who keep getting back up when we are knocked down.
So, if you are in the midst of a task that seems too hard, be like Nehemiah. Realize the tremendous power you have through prayer and don’t give up! Persevere in the tasks God has given to you to accomplish. “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).