Quieting the Critic
Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Nehemiah 4:4
I work with a team to put on an annual community event. We spend eleven months plotting many details to ensure the event’s success. We choose the date and venue. We set ticket prices. We select everything from food vendors to sound technicians. As the event approaches, we answer public questions and provide directions. Afterward we collect feedback. Some good. Some that is hard to hear. Our team hears excitement from attendees and also fields complaints. The negative feedback can be discouraging and sometimes tempts us to give up.
Nehemiah had critics too as he led a team to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. They actually mocked Nehemiah and those working alongside him saying, “Even a fox climbing up on it would break down [your] wall of stones” (Nehemiah 4:3). His response to the critics helps me handle my own: Instead of feeling dejected or trying to refute their comments, he turned to God for help. Instead of responding directly, he asked God to hear the way His people were being treated and to defend them (v. 4). After entrusting those concerns to God, he and his co-laborers continued to work steadily on the wall “with all their heart” (v. 6).
We can learn from Nehemiah not to be distracted by criticism of our work. When we’re criticized or mocked, instead of responding to our critics out of hurt or anger, we can prayerfully ask God to defend us from discouragement so we can continue with a whole heart.
Have you noticed how criticism seems so justified when we give it—but so wrong when we receive it?
As Jewish families returned to their homeland after seventy years of exile in Babylon, they faced strong criticism. Current residents believed it was in their own interest to resist the returning exiles. They saw the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls as a threat to their own homes and families.
Just as understandably, Nehemiah and his friends felt they had a God-given right to regard as enemies those who opposed their effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s broken-down walls (Nehemiah 4:4).
Nehemiah’s courageous prayer of faith is a chapter in a bigger story that leads us to even higher ground. Many years later, by His own example, Jesus calls all people on both sides of conflict to find security in more than walls of self-interest. He taught all of us to pray for those who abuse us and to bless those who curse us (Matthew 5:9–12, 44). In His kingdom, it’s a heart of mercy that Christ desires.