“You Must Be Sad At Heart”

From the first reading for Wednesday, October 4th, Feast of St. Francis


NEH 2:1-8

In the month Nisan of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
when the wine was in my charge,
I took some and offered it to the king.
As I had never before been sad in his presence,
the king asked me, “Why do you look sad?
If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart.”
Though I was seized with great fear, I answered the king:
“May the king live forever!
How could I not look sad
when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins,
and its gates have been eaten out by fire?”
The king asked me, “What is it, then, that you wish?”
I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king:
“If it please the king,
and if your servant is deserving of your favor,
send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves,
to rebuild it.”
Then the king, and the queen seated beside him,
asked me how long my journey would take
and when I would return.
I set a date that was acceptable to him,
and the king agreed that I might go.


Nehemiah simply states in this reading from Scripture, “How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?”  I think with all of the devastation we have seen recently in our world, we would respond similarly. If someone approached us and asked for the reason for our sadness, how many of us would gesture to the news, mention an upsetting headline, or admit that we are just not sure what to think anymore. We, like Nehemiah, “must be sad at heart.”

It can be difficult when we dwell on the sadness of our world to remember the goodness of our God. I was listening to a song this week and the artist sang, “Tap your foot and listen in, ignore the world let the music cave in.” All of us have our own ways of coping with sadness. It could be music, Netflix, food, an old habit or hobby, going to the gym, or reading a book. It is our way of escaping the stress and worries we may have. Although this can sometimes be good, it can be exactly that, an escape.

When we escape our feelings, doubts, or anxieties without truly addressing them, it affects us. We can become down-trodden, disappointed, and even angry. Ultimately, we end up just like Nehemiah, sad at heart.

Unlike Nehemiah, we don’t usually follow up being sad at heart with going to go fix the problem. Sure, we may feel the sorrow, shake our heads, and admit how tragic it all is; but what do we do about the situation? Nehemiah sees the people in need and goes. He feels the Holy Spirit guiding him to not just be still, to not remain just sad at heart, lying in bed watching Netflix and wishing the bad things had not happened in the first place.

In a world that asks where God is in the midst of sorrow and trial, we must bring His light. We hear in Christian music, in quotes by Mother Teresa, to reach outside of ourselves and to be God’s hands and feet here on earth. Do we really pray for that, or are we too focused on where God does not appear to be? Are we really asking God to use us in whatever way best benefits Him and His plans? Are we asking Him to make his presence and his goodness known through us and the lives that we live?

When we allow ourselves to be once again the simple vessel in the hands of the Potter, reworked to each situation that He needs us in, we are more so our true selves. We can aid in rebuilding what is broken. Let us say like Nehemiah to the great King, “If it pleases you, send me.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply