Nehemiah 4 records the difficulties the Israelite workers faced when rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Their work was exhausting and difficult, and half way through the project they became discouraged and wanted to quit.
The Israelites’ story, recorded in Nehemiah 4:1-12, reveals the following four sources of workplace discouragement.
Ridicule. The Israelites were ridiculed by others who were threatened by their work. Nehemiah 4:1 is speaking about the leader of Israel’s opposition when it says, “he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews.”
Being mocked by a sarcastic co-worker is unpleasant, but the fact is the person who is deriding your work is probably jealous of you for some reason and they are driven by their own inadequacies. Consider the source of the ridicule, mute their noise, and move forward despite the other person’s derisive comments. Proverbs 9:12 says to those who ridicule others: “If you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”
Fatigue. Nehemiah 4:10a speaks to Israel’s fatigue when it says “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out.’” Most of us have started an important project with high energy, but only to have our strength and enthusiasm wane as the project wore on.
Avoid fatigue induced discouragement by making time to rest and renew. Even God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of the need to rest in Mark 6:31 when he tells his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Your work has limits.
Rubble. This source of workplace discouragement is dealing with on-the-job “rubble” which can serve as a metaphor for today’s workplace obstacles, disruptions, and breakdowns.
Murphy’s Law was active for the ancient Israelites just as it is now for you and me. Nehemiah 4:10b is quoting the discouraged Israelite workers when it says, “there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” Today’s rubble will slow your work, but it shouldn’t stop your work.
Enemies. Finally, Nehemiah 4:11-12 declares: “Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’”
The Israelite’s enemies stayed close and were determined to put an end to the good work the Israelites were doing. Your workplace enemies are those who, for whatever the reason, are trying to undermine your work product. Remember Psalms 55:22 which says that God “will never let the righteous fall.”
The Solution: Remember the Lord and Fight
The solution to overcoming these causes of work-life discouragement is revealed in Nehemiah 4:14: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (emphasis added)
In the language of the Old Testament “fight” in verse 14 means to slay, destroy, and to put an end to. Fight the discouragement that can come your way in your career. Persevere and finish what you start despite the challenges. Remember 1 John 5:4: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.”
Israel’s discouragement was temporary and yours can be too. The day came when the Israelites finished their work, completed the rebuilding of the wall, and dedicated it to the Lord with great joy. Nehemiah 12:43 says, “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy.”