What do you do when life goes haywire? How do you respond when life is erratic and out of control?

Right now, we are living in a time when the world has gone haywire. 

  • People are getting sick from COVID-19, and people are dying.
  • The economy is up and down, and many people have lost jobs.
  • Our emotional health is in jeopardy as we deal with stress, worry, fear, or depression. We have seen a rise in suicides in our nation during this pandemic.
  • Our relational health has taken a toll as people are getting irritated with each other. Unfortunately, we are hearing of more domestic abuse.
  • Our physical health is hard to maintain because we aren't able to go to the gym, and our sleep routine is out of sorts. Our hair is getting long, and many of us desperately need it cut!

These are interesting times, and our world has gone haywire. 

The good news is that we are starting to hear of talks of reopening and restarting. We are about to enter a new season of rebuilding. As we begin to rebuild, what things do we need to do before we rebuild? What things do we do when life goes haywire?

The book of Nehemiah is about rebuilding. Nehemiah, a God-fearing Jew, was living in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire. He was serving as Cupbearer to the King, which was considered of high importance and one of the King's greatest advisors. While serving in Persia, he received a gut-wrenching report from his brother, Hanani, about his own people's condition in Jerusalem. Hanani said:

"The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3)."

Although the people of God who were under Persian rule were allowed back from exile to their homeland in Jerusalem, they were in great trouble and shame, and their walls were in ruins. In other words, their world went haywire.

When Nehemiah heard this bad report, he didn't immediately get to work and try to solve the problem, but notice the three things he did after he heard the bad news:

"As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of Heaven (Nehemiah 1:4)."

There are three things we can learn from Nehemiah of what we need to do when life goes haywire.

1. We Grieve.

A soon as he heard the bad report, he sat down and wept and mourned for days. He took the time to grieve. When crisis comes and our world has been shaken, we must take the time to grieve. Dr. Kenneth Haugk says, "Grieving is normal, it is necessary, and it is natural." 

Our world has been turned upside down these past few months. It's been tragic to see all the negative things that have come from this pandemic. We must grieve and mourn over what has happened to us. If we don't take the time to properly process our grief, it will come back and bite us. 

The same is true whenever crisis comes in life. Whenever you lose a loved one, a job, receive a bad health report, or whenever you have to move, you must take the time to grieve. If you bottle up your feelings and never process them appropriately, it will later hurt you.

2. We Fast.

Nehemiah didn't just grieve, he continued fasting. Fasting is denying something you enjoy and giving it to Jesus for a time so you can enjoy being in His presence. Fasting is a way to express sorrow and to humble ourselves before Jesus. 

When we fast, we are saying to Jesus, "Jesus, You must become greater, and I must become less (John 3:30)." Our every loss is for the sake of gaining Christ. Fasting reveals our utter dependance on God as we cry out to Him.

During this season of crisis, I would encourage you to take time to fast. It may be one meal or an entire day, but as you fast, spend your energy focusing on Jesus, confessing your sins, and asking God to guide you especially in the days to come as we begin to reopen and rebuild.

3. We Pray.

Throughout the book of Nehemiah, you see a consistent them of praying. Chuck Swindoll described Nehemiah as "A Leader -- From the Knees Up." Nehemiah heard the news in the season of Kislev which was between November-December (Nehemiah 1:1). When he approached the King and asked permission for him to leave and go to Jerusalem, it was the season of Nisan which was between March-April (Nehemiah 2:1). This tells us that Nehemiah spent 4 months praying to God before he took action. He spent 4 months asking God to guide him and help him before he began working.

Before we begin to reopen and rebuild, let's take the time to pray before our great God. As Nehemiah asked God for success (see Nehemiah 1:11), let's ask God for success by keeping the virus away and by allowing us to get back to work.

Nehemiah prayed a heartfelt prayer before God in Nehemiah 1:5-11. In this prayer, he includes prayers of adoration, intercession, confession, recollection, and supplication. 

I am calling our Church, Christ Covenant, to a 24-Hour Prayer Vigil of praying and fasting that incorporates these 5 elements of prayer beginning Thursday, April 30th through Friday, May 1st. If you are reading this and not a part of our church, you can join us during this time (just sign up for a 30 minute slot on our website). Here's a prayer guide to help you in your time of praying and fasting.

When crisis comes, be sure to take the time to grieve, fast, and pray.