In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I (Nehemiah) took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” — Nehemiah 2:1–3
In spite of his grief, Nehemiah went about his daily work. He performed all of the tasks expected of him. But sadness isn’t easy to conceal. The king saw sadness in Nehemiah’s face and correctly named it when he said, “This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
While we cannot weep through every moment of all of our days, our hearts can still be sad. We can do everything required of us. Daily tasks and routine can distract us from our pain and help us by giving us a sense of purpose. But duties and distractions can be helpful only if they allow time to grieve.
People who know you well may recognize a “sadness of heart” on your face. Those who understand the need to acknowledge feelings and process them will give you the freedom to do so. Some well-meaning people who care about you may think concealing your sorrow would be better for you. Some of them may do this because they are uncomfortable with their own sorrow.
Sadness is normal. Moving on too quickly and pretending you’re not hurting isn’t healthy. Going about your regular routine and not rushing into trying new things may help you. Just be honest; admit the moments when you have sadness of heart.
• Like Nehemiah, you may look sad while you’re going about your regular routine. You may not be physically ill, but you have a sadness of heart. What do you feel like inside?
• Nehemiah wasn’t able to hide his sadness from the king. Are you anxious about how others perceive you? Are you afraid that you appear weak to them? Explain.
• You may have gone back to performing what is required of you in daily life. Are you giving yourself enough rest? Or are you avoiding rest because you don’t want to think about your sadness? Describe your actions.
Hearing God’s Voice of Hope
Our enemy, the devil, does not want you to have hope. Christian counselor Sandra D. Wilson offers help to hear God’s voice of hope above any other voices. The following guidelines are based on her book Into Abba’s Arms: Finding the Acceptance You’ve Always Wanted and on Peter Lord’s book Hearing God.
• God calls and woos us with the gentle voice of a shepherd who leads his sheep. Like a ravenous wolf, Satan seeks to drive sheep into panic. He threatens, demands and intimidates.
• The Lord’s voice is quiet and internal. Satan’s voice is intrusive.
• God always speaks in ways that align with major principles of Scripture and his revealed attributes.
• God’s voice drips with mercy and grace toward us and toward others. He does not condemn our personal worth.
• God’s voice is grounded in truth and hope.
• We receive hope when God speaks to us. Satan’s voice speaks hopeless despair.
Even in the midst of terrible pain and loss, God’s voice lovingly offers hope. God has plans for hope and your future. Take one step at a time. Hold tightly to the handrail of hope, even when you cannot see it.
Lord God, You recognize my sadness for what it is. I know I don’t have to be afraid to tell You, that You want me to tell You. I cannot see the future, but You can. Thank you. Amen.
¹Sandra D. Wilson, Into Abba’s Arms (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 199-200.
² Peter Lord, Hearing God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 99–101, 121, 131, 152.
Devotional drawn from articles by Sharron Carrns found in the NIV Hope in the Mourning eBible.