I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. While I can get pretty “in the zone” while working, I still overhear bits of many conversations. I’ve worked in all types coffee shops all over the US, and I’ve realized there is one thing they all have in common: there are always people there complaining. It may be their local problems, their churches, national issues, or their health, but people always seem to gather to complain about something. These “coffee shop philosophers” are far from the only complainers in our society. If you turn on talk radio, cable new channels, or logon to social media you are likely to hear people complaining about something, ranging from politics, to the weather, to social ills, to people who do not know how to properly utilize the lanes in the McDonald’s drive-through (if you live in Oskaloosa you know what I’m talking about). We seem to be a society of complainers. But, is that what God wants us to be?
I’ve always been struck by the story of the prophet Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a relatively cushy job in his era, serving as the cup-bearer (basically, a butler) in the King’s palace in Persia. One day he received a letter from people in his homeland of Israel (see Nehemiah 1). The city walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the city was prone to attacks from various other nations. It broke Nehemiah’s heart to hear about the struggles of his compatriots in Israel. Faced with this heartbreaking information Nehemiah really had two choices: he could complain, or he could do something about it. He took three actions that all of us should take when we see something that breaks our heart.
- He cried: Nehemiah didn’t just try to forget that he had heard sad news, he took time to mourn. He understood that his heart was breaking for something that also broke God’s heart. If you hear or see soemthing that breaks your heart take time to consider that perhaps God is trying to get you to pay attention to that problem
- He prayed: When you see a problem that breaks your heart give that problem to God. Don’t just complain about it, but give it over to the one who can do something about it: God.
- He took action: Even though he had a good job and no engineer skills he chose to travel to Israel to help rebuild the city of Jerusalem. In just 52 days he was able to get the wall built, a project that has sat undone for decades. He saw a problem and said to himself: somebody needs to do something about this, and it might as well be me.
If you see a problem that breaks your heart take time to mourn it, to pray about it, and to think about how YOU can help address it. God did not make us to simply complain, but to take action to address the many problems addressing our world. Somebody needs to do something about these problems, and it might as well be you!