Editor’s note: When life blows up, how do you pull it together? How do you begin again? In his new book Putting It Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart, Tom Holladay will help you discover how to face the seemingly impossible task of starting again and regaining your sense of purpose. In this excerpt he addresses one of the hurdle of rebuilding — facing ridicule. Plus, it’s Sit & Listen Saturday at Devotionals Daily: enjoy reading as well as listening to today’s devotion below, or on your Alexa device by first enabling the skill, then prompting, “Alexa, Ask Devotionals to read today’s devotion.”
The first weapon of those who want to tear you down is ridicule. Look at Nehemiah 4:1-3:
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?”
Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building — even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
Sanballat and Tobiah were the opposition. They were leaders in the land before Nehemiah arrived. If Nehemiah were allowed to rebuild the wall, Sanballat and Tobiah would lose their power because the city would have new strength. So they started a campaign of opposition, beginning with words of ridicule.
When you want to rebuild, jokes and laughter are primary weapons in the arsenal of opponents.
These effective weapons often form the first wave of attack. You tell people you want to reenergize your career, and they find it an easy target for attack. They would call it humor, but it is ridicule. It’s found in phrases such as, “Like that’ll happen,” or “What career, flipping hamburgers?”
There is a huge difference between genuine laughter and ridicule. Genuine laughter can pull us up; ridicule puts us down. Laughter helps us relax; ridicule makes us want to quit. Laughter is a healer; ridicule is a weapon. Laughter is with us; ridicule is against us.
Ridicule comes from having the wrong perspective. Notice that Sanballat and Tobiah called it the Jews’ wall, not God’s wall. They were looking at things from a merely human perspective. They saw the wall as simply Nehemiah’s bad idea that was going to negatively affect their lives. Human perspective will always ridicule steps of faith. Because faith can’t happen from a human perspective, it’s one of the easiest things to ridicule.
Rebuilders must have thick skin because they’re going to face attack.
That attack may come from an individual, but it can also come from within. One of the names for Satan in the Bible is “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10). He loves to ridicule your faith. So he’ll send a thought when you want to renew your faith, a relationship, a ministry, or a dream.
Satan is not creative. With him, it’s almost always the same thought: Who do you think you are? You’ve failed so often, not followed through, been disappointed in relationships. Who do you think you are that you could have the kind of faith that could change anything?
Nehemiah teaches us that to defuse the weapon of ridicule, you must choose to redirect your thoughts. If you focus on the ridicule, you’re going to be drawn into it like falling into a deep well. Instead, you redirect your thoughts. The key to this is prayer — getting your thoughts off the enemy and back on God by talking to God about it.
Don’t think that talking to God must start with some deeply spiritual expression of love and wisdom. Nehemiah begins by telling God what happened and how he feels about it:
Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached its height, for the people worked with all their heart. — Nehemiah 4:4-6
One of the most refreshing discoveries about prayer is that you don’t have to have it all figured out before you talk to God. The prayer that redirects your thoughts begins by telling God where you are right now — including expressions of anger and disappointment. When we tell God what we’re feeling, He’s able to redirect our thinking. The psalms are absolutely filled with these kinds of prayers.
When we hide our feelings behind a veil of spiritual-sounding phrases, we end the prayer in the same place we began. Of course, God always knows what we’re feeling, yet it is our expression of those feelings to him that leads us to begin to gain his perspective.
Through his prayer, Nehemiah decides to redirect his thoughts and look at the ridicule from God’s perspective. Apart from God’s perspective, even in seeming victories, we are still focused on proving wrong those who have ridiculed us — which is a losing strategy, because our focus has moved from God to people.
In prayer, God often works to redirect your thoughts in two very important ways.
First, you are reminded that God’s will includes opposition. Think of a time when you started to do something good and began to experience opposition. It’s easy to start to feel, Why me, God? You were just trying to do the right thing. Why should you have to face this?
In prayer, we begin to look beyond ourselves and realize we are not the only ones who have faced opposition. In fact, the Bible tells us we will certainly face opposition for our faith:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. — 2 Timothy 3:12
Jesus faced opposition, so of course we will face opposition.
Prayer opens our hearts to these truths. God’s will includes opposition, and God’s will cannot be stopped because a few people are critical of the plan. In prayer, we redirect our thoughts from Why me, Lord? to You are with me, Lord.
Second, prayer helps you recognize the destructiveness of retaliation. The human response to criticism is often retaliation. In prayer, you can decide to let God fight those battles. Satan would love nothing more than to distract you from the rebuilding you need to do by getting you caught up in a battle that is not a part of the victory. Retaliation is a battle that leads to defeat every single time.
The emotional reaction to criticism is anger. We don’t get to choose our emotions. If we are ridiculed, we will usually feel anger. We do get to choose what we do with our emotions. If in that anger we start to focus on proving them wrong rather than on doing what is right, we’ll find ourselves drained of the time and energy we need for rebuilding.
Take your anger and express it to God and let it go. Retaliation will always lead to defeat; letting it go in God’s presence is what leads to victory. You may need to pray right now:
God, I want my thoughts to be firmly focused on You. Instead of running that criticism through my mind again and again, I bring it to You, and I let it go. I don’t want to get caught up in proving somebody else wrong. I want to get caught up in living the life You have for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Excerpted with permission from Putting It Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart by Tom Holladay, copyright Tom Holladay.
* * *
Watch the Book Trailer
All of us will at some point face life blowing up. And, we will need to rebuild. As we do, we will face hurdles, insecurity, and most of all opposition… even ridicule. When we do, let’s take it to Jesus! He can give us the thick skin we’ll need to keep going and walk us through every step of rebuilding. With our thoughts focused on Him, rather than our detractors, He will bring beauty from ashes! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily