Pressure, Expectation, Nehemiah

It has been a while since I last wrote. This was not for a lack of things to say, rather because working out how to say everything in my head was a task too great to muster. Also, because there are only so many times I can bear to repeat that same old tale of the ABCD.

The last couple of months have been particularly hard, and I have drawn myself away from God. This was not a deliberate move, it was more a ‘wedding to plan, furniture to paint, job to do, oh no I am sick‘ kind of business that just shunts him slightly into a place of constant, but silenced companion.

This has led to my being a hopeless friend – before some of you jump to correct me this is something I have felt. It has been a burden I have been carrying. I can’t really talk about it entirely in the past tense, as I still feel it now. However, there is more peace in the idea of putting it down.

I don’t say it for sympathy or praise or comfort. I say it because there is the burden of expectation. This is something I put on myself, of what a ‘friend’ should be. I feel, due to the fact I have been more absent, attempting life as a bit of a recluse, I am letting friends down. Not being available for them, being unaware of their need.

Recent weeks at church have been taking us through Nehemiah (legendary man – well worth more of a mention) and I was struck by the fact that he did not ever cave to the burden of expectation, or the pressure from others. He is a man so confident in God and in the task God has set before him that he goes about his business with an extraordinary strength.

I find my (real or percieved) social laziness, brings about a huge sense of pressure and expectation. I carry it, I cry about it, I wish I could be more how I think I should be. I certainly don’t really think to talk to God about it – I am frightfully busy after all.

Now Nehemiah’s task was not ‘being a good friend’ and in fact I don’t really think the desire to be a better friend and Nehemiah’s story are really comparable situations, as they are so different. What I have enjoyed though is the way he handles pressure and expectation.

The thing I really love about Nehemiah, is that so much of his strength comes from his confidence in God’s faithfulness. I don’t think God’s faithfulness, or anything of God comes into how I take on pressure. It often doesn’t occur to me as relevant. Nehemiah would send up one quick arrow prayer and then respond to those speaking. He didn’t ask God to give him detailed instructions for every step. He didn’t ask God to tell him how to do relationship. He studied God’s word, and he trusted in God to work through him.

For him God was at the centre.

It is so hard to remember to send up an arrow prayer when we are feeling under attack – whether perceived or real. It is often even harder to spend time with God when all is good and peaceful. However, reading Nehemiah, I find that he did not carry the weight of expectation. His enemies expected him to fail, his supporters expected him to succeed, or doubted he could just wished he would. This is the kind of pressure that would cripple most. Yet he didn’t stop. He waited when God said wait, then dived in with the knowledge that God would work and do his thing. There is no more to it.

There is a difference between what Nehemiah faced and my little problem of ‘I wish I was a better friend’ but he has inspired me none the less.


  • It took me many years to accept that I, yes me, was made in God’s image, and loved by Him and that I did not need to be approved of by others. I still at times struggle with self esteem and paranoia about what others think, but i know that those things don’t really matter. I just need to do what I can. God will love me with all my strengths and weaknesses. God bless you in your journey. I know that you bless many others. PS I believe that the greatest form of prayer is that process of resting in Him in our weakness. It is a full time communication of trust and dependence.

  • Friendship can be kept up by small means as well as spending lots of time with people, I appreciate things like a text, an email, a postcard from my friends, start small and work up? Sometimes I wonder if the hermit tendencies are part of our bodies and minds knowing they need some space and time to heal, but it can get unhelpful too, that ever tricky balance. Will have to read Nehemiah again, this cloud of witnesses are such a helpful example. Strive on towards the goal and remember that you are loved, so hard to remember when feeling so mired in sin and feelings of failure, but it’s true, He loves you and so do lots of people. (and I’ll try to heed my own advice)

  • Sorry also meant to say – it says that it is more blessed to give than receive and sometimes in friendships you need to let others be blessed by giving to you. There will have been times in the past and will be times in the future when you can give and be blessed and good friendship rests on this giving and receiving. (again, I don’t always find this easy to accept myself, I’m working on it)

  • Katherine, I have just started reading your blog after I heard your father on the radio. What I have been struggling with in my darker days is how to believe that God loves me when I can’t stand myself or my thoughts. I do realise that God is bigger than me and my thoughts but I think/hope you might know what I mean.

  • I was just contemplating the connection between keeping up friendships & keeping up with Jesus this morning, before I read this! The last few days as 2014 wanes, I’ve been thinking about 2015, and filling up with aspirations–expectations–that I sort of know will crumble (but still hope they won’t!); I’ve been saying that in 2015, I want to “double down on people.” Relationships have been so exhausting the last few months, but part of me knows that a lot of my wellness depends on continuing to interact with people. Just this morning I realized that my relationship with God is the same way–though there’re years of history between us, I can’t just depend on that to see me through, I’ve got to continue to prioritize interacting with/time with God. Thank you for your good words!

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