"At present, so much of this seems hard, but it will yield a much richer fruit - righteousness,
so lift up those drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, so that full healing can be the way before you".
Hebrews 12: 11 & 12.
You know what it's like... You're working hard, and usually alone, to finish some really awkward job, and an 'expert' turns up and proceeds to tell you you're doing it all wrong, which is bad enough, but they then proceed to explain to you, at length, how they would do/ have done it.
Funny how those people always appear at that moment, and the 'help' they give usually isn't that helpful - Stevie Wonder's "He's Mr Know it All' often starts playing in my head about then.
Nehemiah had similar, but far bigger, troubles.
Jerusalem in his day was a rubbish tip - little more than piles of rubble and had been for a long time, but now, the exiles had come back, and they set about working hard to find stones so they could re-build the old walls and start the long process of renewing this city once more.
The problem was, the 'new' locals had plenty of advice, as they wanted things to stay just as they were. They were organizing to teach these unwanted meddlers a lesson.
The burdens - foreign and domestic - were just too great.
We can look at our present circumstances in exactly the same way, and often that's a fair assessment -
We sigh, we groan, and we feel that there has to be a way our of here.
Nehemiah, however, was able to press on, and encourage his fellow company to do likewise - because he had a far bigger picture than the rubbish heaps or the folly of his enemies.
He knew Jerusalem had once been the jewel of the world, and that in spite of present troubles, its greatest 'day' was still ahead, for behind the idea of this place was an even bigger reality, and that was going to bring a moment the world would never forget.
The only way forward was to actually get the job done, so these folks re-doubled their efforts, focused on the task whilst keeping a watchful eye for intruders.
Slowly but surely, in spite of all the meddling by others, the walls rose, the temple was restored, and the people turned afresh to God. The preparations, as it were, for something much better were back in place.
We can often be in exactly the same place as those unwanted exiles.
We look at the day to day of living out our faith, and it seems that all we're doing is bending and scraping to place a few old burnt stones in a pile, but occasionally, God allows us to look around and see how that connects to what else is going on around us, and then, perhaps, like Nehemiah, we catch a glimpse of the far bigger picture - that all of this is to make ready for the great day that's fast approaching.
Discouragement can be so destructive, so next time things are hard, don't listen to those who are telling you how bad you're doing - the walls are rising, and the new city is on the way, so just keep pressing on, running the race... Because of what happened outside a city wall on a cross, a new world is going to replace the old, whatever the critics say.