Holy Discontent

by Melanie Cocalis, Community Development Manager

“And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, ‘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 it’s gates are destroyed by fire.’ 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. And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel, your servants.”

– Nehemiah 1:2-6

In this brief passage of scripture, we read Nehemiah’s initial response upon hearing the current state of the Jewish nation; his homeland and people. I love this passage, as it has taught me the essence of what it means to be discontent as a Christ follower. Holy discontent. It’s a discontent that enables us as Christ followers, to pursue transformation in the midst of tribulation. It’s a discontent that enables us as Christ followers, to pursue unity amongst the communities we are a part of… even when unity seems unattainable.

This passage first reveals Nehemiah’s compassionate curiosity. This is the first step, as he gains a deeper understanding of the current conditions of his homeland. He asks how things are going. He digs past the surface. He seeks to truly understand. Without compassionate curiosity and the willingness to listen, the wall in Jerusalem may have never been rebuilt.

As we continue reading, the response to Nehemiah’s question is anything but positive. The dismal and hopeless state of this community is evident. There is a longing for physical rebuilding, spiritual renewal, and emotional healing. Now, our natural response as humans to brokenness tends to be one of two things: the first is to hear the news, avoid any personal or emotional connection with the situation, and move on. The second is to experience sadness, mourn over the challenges or brokenness and become frustrated. We are discontent, but this discontent leads to defeat.

But Nehemiah’s response to the brokenness of Jerusalem puts me in check. It’s far from our natural tendency as humans. It’s challenging in and of itself and requires us to be all in. It’s uncomfortable. Nehemiah’s response to hearing of Jerusalem’s brokenness was to mourn and weep. He empathized, and was close to experiencing the same shame his people were experiencing. But he didn’t let it stop there. Heartbreak without action is worthless. He responded with fasting and prayer, and a recognition of God being the ultimate healer, redeemer, and restorer of all things. He commits to prayer day and night for the people of Israel.

What if this is how we, as the body of Christ, responded to brokenness? What if we allowed ourselves to mourn and experience pain for those who are in pain? But what if we never let it stop there? What if we responded with a holy discontent that led to the rebuilding of a nation?

Next Step Ministries