“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I 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.’ ” NIV

It seems some time elapsed between Nehemiah beginning to pray and this moment. During that period, Nehemiah just got on with faithfully doing his job. While you are involved in one area of work/service, God may put into your heart a vision for something else. But between the sensing that there’s another ministry for you to take up and the actual doing of it, there may lie weeks, months, even years, of patient waiting. So, until God opens the door for the new thing He’s calling you to, keep going in your ‘lane’. Do your best in the work you are currently doing.

Eastern potentates were to be protected from seeing anything unpleasant. Nothing was to come into their presence that might threaten, or dilute, their happiness (see, for example, Esther 4:2). Nehemiah was taking a big risk by looking sad. Not that he could help it. His heart was mirrored in his face. But, you know, whether or not I’m right to be, I’m touched by the thought that this powerful king noticed. ‘Well,’ you might say, ‘it was obvious was it not?’ Yes it was. But it wasn’t just the noticing; it was his kindness in asking. He took the time to be interested in Nehemiah’s pain.

Are we too busy to notice the signs of stress in someone else’s features; too self-absorbed to care?

PRAYER: Lord, may I not be in such a hurry that I fail to see the heartaches of others; may I not be so selfish that I insulate myself against their pain.