Rebuilding After Defeat: You Can Move Forward

5 Mins read

Recovering from any type of defeat is difficult. Depending on the type of defeat that you’ve suffered, it may seem as though there is no hope for you to truly pick up the pieces and move on. However, there is never a situation that is hopeless in the eyes of our God. If you feel like you’re trying to gather up the broken pieces and rebuild your life, embrace principles from the story of Nehemiah and how he brought about restoration to the people of Israel.

How do you bounce back after defeat? When we ask that question, we’re not talking about a minor setback that you’ve experienced. Instead, we’re talking about the kind of defeat that leaves you with no choice but to completely start over. Glenn Cunningham knew what it meant to be forced to start over.

When Glenn was only 8 years old, he suffered a terrible tragedy while at school. In 1917, schools that had heat relied on kerosene to fuel the heaters. Glenn’s older brother, Floyd filled up the gas can one day at the school, but inadvertently used gasoline instead of kerosene. This resulted in an explosion, and a terrible fire. Floyd was tragically killed in the explosion, and Glenn was left with horrible burns, especially on his legs.

Doctors encouraged his parents to allow them to amputate both of Glenn’s legs. They feared that if the legs were not amputated, infection would set up, and Glenn’s young body wouldn’t be strong enough to fend it off. However, Glenn was so distraught that his parents refused to sign off on the operation. Eventually, Glenn did lose all the skin on both his legs, and all the toes on his left foot. At only 8 years of age, Glenn had to relearn how to walk. His burns were so severe that he didn’t even start on the relearning process until the spring of 1919, roughly 18 months after the fire.

Glenn’s family were Christians, so he knew the value of Scripture. Years later, he acknowledged that he held onto the promise of Isaiah 40:31 during his recovery. ”Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

In 1932, Glenn did something that no one would have expected: he ran in the Olympics. He finished fourth in the 1500 meter. Four years later, Glenn willed himself to try again, and brought home a silver medal in the 1500-meter race. Glenn had gone from nearly losing his legs to medaling in the Olympics against the best athletes in the world.

Why? Because even at a young age, he committed himself to rebuilding his life. He refused to accept defeat, and through his faith in God, and the support of his family, Glenn turned his life around. Not only did Glenn eventually set the world record for the world’s fastest mile, but he was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974.

Glenn’s story of rebuilding his life is truly inspiring. However, there’s a story that predates Glenn Cunningham by thousands of years. While many people aren’t fully aware of the story of Nehemiah, his tale of restoration and redemption gives us a powerful example that we can follow in our own lives.

If you feel like your life has been shattered by the defeat that you’ve suffered, let today be a day of recovery, rebuilding, and restoration.

Nehemiah 1:4-5 (ESV)
As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.”

The story of Nehemiah opens at a very painful time in Israel’s history. They had been taken captive, and many of them were dead. Those who had survived were permitted to return back to Jerusalem, but when they got there, they found that the walls of the city had been torn down. In Biblical times, a city’s walls were its only line of defense. A city without walls was a city that was guaranteed to be taken captive again. Nehemiah was heartbroken.

Nehemiah’s road to recovery started with prayer. Did you notice how Nehemiah opened his prayer? He started by talking about the greatness of God. God didn’t need Nehemiah to remind Him of His own goodness. Nor did God need Nehemiah to remind Him of His covenant with His people. Instead, this prayer was about Nehemiah reminding himself about God’s goodness.

Additionally, Nehemiah repented for the sins of the people, and for his own transgressions. When we seek to rebuild our own lives, we must be honest with ourselves about how our decisions led to our defeat.

Once you have repented for the poor decisions that you have made that led to the defeat that you’re now recovering from, spend some time reminding yourself about God’s goodness and provision.

Nehemiah 2:19-20 (ESV)
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

The second thing that Nehemiah did was commit himself to tuning out the naysayers. When you seek to rebuild your life, there will always been some voice of dissension that tries to tell you why it’s not going to work. This voice may come from a person you know, or it may be an attack of Satan, trying to cause you to wallow in your own defeat. Wherever the voice is coming from, only you have the power to silence it.

Nehemiah knew that the same God who had called him to rebuild the walls would sustain him in the work. When you’re rebuilding your life, don’t listen to the doubters. Instead, stand on the powerful truths and promises of God’s Word. The One who called you to rebuild will give you the strength to rebuild.

Nehemiah 4:6 (ESV)
So we built the wall. And all the wall was jointed together to half its height, for the people had mind to work.

Finally, it’s important to understand that your rebuilding process is going to be a process. Think back to the story of Glenn Cunningham that we discussed earlier. He didn’t get burnt one day and then win an Olympic medal the next. Instead, he went through a lengthy, painful process. Your rebuilding process will largely look the same.

Nehemiah had to face verbal and physical attacks during the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls. However, he never let those deterrents stop him. Instead, he continued to perform the work that God had called him to do.

When you set out to rebuild after a defeat, it will not be easy, and it will not come without opposition. However, when you commit yourself to the process, even in the face of pain, you will see the same kind of restoration that Nehemiah saw.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for being such a good God. Thank You for Your faithfulness and Your love for me. Forgive me for the things I’ve done that led to my own downfall. Help me to rebuild my life. Give me supernatural strength to shut out the doubters and to overcome the resistance. I will be victorious, because You are victorious, and I am Yours. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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