Most of us assume we’ll be tasked with overcoming obstacles at some point in life. It’s rare that we encounter clear paths in the work we set out to do. And when we picture the kinds of obstacles we might face, the first things to come to mind are the sorts of things we figure we’ll just power through. If there’s paperwork that needs to be completed, we’ll do it. If the power goes out, we’ll get on the phone with the electric company. If we run into a competitor or a naysayer, we’ll keep our eyes on our goal and continue forward.
But not all obstacles are the sort we should just power through. Some require extra thought and consideration. Some might require us to delay the work that we’re doing. Some might even require us to change.
So how are we supposed to tell the difference between the obstacles we power through and the obstacles that require consideration and change? Well, let’s start by taking a page from Nehemiah. In the fifth and sixth chapters of his book, Nehemiah encountered both types of opposition. And his response to each is telling.
Nehemiah experienced the first kind of opposition when a Jew named Shemaiah tried to convince him to shut himself inside the temple. Nehemiah had been facing constant threats since starting his work to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, and Shemaiah told Nehemiah that, by hiding in the temple, he would be out of harm’s way. But Shemaiah had been hired by adversaries of Nehemiah’s, and Nehemiah saw through Shemaiah’s scheme. He ignored the obstacle Shemaiah had put before him and continued on with the work God had given him to do.
When opposition is baseless, we shouldn’t let it distract us. We should keep moving forward.
But opposition isn’t always baseless. As we read in chapter 5 of the book of Nehemiah, wealthy Jews were forcing the poor to borrow money at high interest and mortgage their fields, vineyards, and homes to feed their families. Even worse, in some cases, the poor had no choice but to subject their children to slavery in order to stay alive.
When the poor came forward to Nehemiah about their situation, he didn’t ignore this obstacle. He understood this conflict threatened the unity of the Jews rebuilding the wall and was contrary to God’s love for the poor. Which meant Nehemiah needed to act. After thinking it over, he went to the wealthy Jews and confronted them about what they had done. His case was so godly that the Jews could find nothing to say in defense of their actions, and they agreed to return all they had taken from their fellow Jews.
When opposition is valid, we should deal with it head-on. It might not be comfortable. We may have to have difficult conversations and change the way we’ve been doing things. But if it’s what’s necessary to do our work—and particularly God’s work—then it’s absolutely something we should do.
Looking for more clarification on whether the opposition you’re facing is baseless or valid? Pray. Seek God’s Word. Ask God for the wisdom you need to tell the difference and for direction in dealing with whatever obstacles come your way. He’ll help you find your next step forward.