Courtney Jacob

Now What? Rebuilding When Life Falls Apart

"Now what?" It’s a question we ask when the way forward is unclear. There are so many reasons we experience a lack of clarity or uncertainty. 

  • A major life event like retirement or the loss of a spouse might be bringing a chapter of reliable, comforting routines to a close. 
  • Something life-altering like a medical diagnosis, a job loss, or natural disaster may have forced an unwanted change in plans. 
  • Past choices and mistakes may have led to hit rock bottom and life just cannot be the same as it was before. 

When such catastrophic change occurs, uncertainty and fear of the unknown become real threats to our faith. And it can be difficult to know where or how to begin rebuilding. In our Groundwork series, “Now What? Rebuilding When Life Falls Apart,” we’ll study the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah as they lead a remnant of Israelites in rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple after a long time in exile to discern biblical lessons to support and encourage us as we endure seasons of rebuilding in our own lives. 

When Progress Stalls

It’s quite common during times of rebuilding to experience seasons when it feels like we’re doing everything right but everything still goes wrong or like we’re spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. As faithful believers, we trust God, yet the longer the season lasts, the more frustrated we might feel and the more difficult it might be to see God’s hand in it all. These are the times it’s helpful to look back on the history of our faith. 

We can certainly look back over our own personal story and remember what God has already done in our lives. But for deeper reassurance, we recount the stories of the Bible. These stories give us the gift of hindsight. Since we can see the whole picture we can see that God was present even when the Israelites couldn’t see him, identify how he was working behind the scenes, and be reminded of things we forgot. When we retell the history of our faith, we are reassured of God’s presence, his love, and his faithfulness in our lives by witnessing it in the lives of those who went before us—even though the way forward may not be any clearer. 

The biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah both provide an example of this practice (Nehemiah 8-9) and gives us valuable fodder for our own practice of recounting our faith history and strengthening our faith. 

Recalling the Story of Ezra and Nehemiah

In the last chapter of 2 Chronicles, Babylon conquered Judah, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple with fire, and hauled the survivors off into exile in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). Then 2 Chronicles jumps ahead in time, approximately seventy years after Persia has in turn conquered and settled in Babylon. It closes with Cyrus, the new King of Persia, proclaiming that God charged him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, therefore, any Israelites who desire to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple may go (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). 

This is where the book of Ezra begins and the story the book of Nehemiah subsequently continues. King Cyrus allows the remnant of Israelites to return, but a long and arduous process laid ahead of them: it took a long time to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem, the extent of destruction to the walls and city left them vulnerable and overwhelmed with work, and if that wasn’t enough, opposition and challenges impeded their progress.

The stories recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah detail the efforts to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Through these stories we see God orchestrating events and working through humans like King Cyrus, Ezra, and Nehemiah to achieve his purposes. These stories were recorded originally to encourage the remnant of Israelites to see how the hand of God was at work so that they also might be encouraged to persevere in their rebuilding efforts. 

Learning from Ezra and Nehemiah

Like the original audience, we too can find encouragement to see the hand of God at work in our lives by studying how he was at work in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. I invite you to find assurance for your faith and the courage to persevere in your life’s challenges by studying stories of Ezra and Nehemiah through our Groundwork series, “Now What? Rebuilding When Life Falls Apart”...

  • Know that God is Working - Ezra 1-2, Ezra 7:1-8, and Nehemiah 1:1-4
  • Making Sense of Setbacks - Ezra 3-4 and Ezra 7:8-28
  • Building Blocks for Biblical Success - Nehemiah 2:11-18, Nehemiah 4:1-15, and Nehemiah 5:1-12
  • Lean Into God's Grace - Nehemiah 8-9 and Nehemiah 13:22,31

...and together we’ll discover biblical wisdom and guidance for taking the next step in putting the pieces of life back together with confidence in God’s grace and great love for us.

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