I first wrote this article five years ago. I thought it might be appropriate to reprint it (with some edits) as we consider how we will respond to the world around us and what could lie ahead in this new year if the Lord tarries.

How do you typically respond to the messes in the world we have left to our grandchildren? However you respond, there might be some lessons we can learn from Nehemiah for the sake of the next generations.

Do you remember the first time you heard the news that you would be a grandparent? First-time grandparents are usually quite excited when that day arrives. Few things provide more of a rush than holding that new grandson or granddaughter for the first time. Nearly twenty one years later, I still remember that moment as though it were yesterday.

I also remember the terror I felt when I realized the kind of world my generation was leaving to this new generation—our grandchildren. It didn’t require a PhD to figure out that we are a nation of hard hearts who, for the most part, have forgotten or ignored God. The question that must answered is this—how do I respond when I look around and see the rubble in our land?

To be honest, it is easy to get angry and complain about the mess around us. I’m also prone to blame others rather than accept responsibility for the problem. The truth is that tirades and blame rarely turn into a passion for action.

If ever there was a man who was justified for casting blame, it was Nehemiah. Here was a man who had been born and raised in exile, far from his homeland. He wasn’t even around when God sent the Jews into exile. He could have washed his hands and said, “Not my problem!”—but he didn’t.

Read for yourself: “When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).

When was the last time you wept over the condition of our land? Yet, when Nehemiah learned about the continued ruined condition of the walls in Jerusalem, that’s exactly what he did. He wept, just as Jesus wept when he saw the hard hearts of that same city hundreds of years later.

Unlike Nehemiah, we have no excuse. We are part of the problem. But like Nehemiah, we can benefit from his example. Here are four attitudes we need to adopt if we want to successfully help our grandchildren navigate this shattered world:

  1. Let God break your heart: if you can’t weep over the sin in our world, you will likely not be an effective conduit of His grace and truth in that same world.
  2. Let your broken heart drive you to repentance and prayer: Notice that Nehemiah bowed before the God of heaven and confessed his sin and the sin of his father’s house. He acknowledged his responsibility. The problems in the world are your problems too. It is your sin as much as anyone else’s that has brought us to this place.
  3. Ask God to grant you success to do something about the problem: Nehemiah prayed, give your servant success today. The Lord gives the victory. Ask Him for show you success that will glorify Him and bless the next generations.
  4. Do what God lays on your heart and trust Him to provide all you need: What has God laid upon your heart to help your grandchildren walk in the truth? Whatever it is, be intentional, and know that He has supplied all you need already to succeed.

When Nehemiah followed what God laid upon his heart, results were amazing. The walls were completely rebuilt in fifty-two days!  But that wasn’t the only amazing thing that happened. In chapter six we read, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”

When you make much of Christ in all you do, your grandchildren will be able to see how great God truly is. The choice is yours—tirades or tears? Which will be the epitaph of your life?

Founder and Executive Director of the Christian Grandparenting Network. Cavin writes a weekly blog called Courageous Grandparenting, serves as Assistant Resource Director for the Legacy Coalition, hosts a monthly online GrandChat Live! for grandparents, is an author and speaker.

Cavin and Diane were married in 1969, have two daughters and nine grandchildren. Their home is in Colorado Springs.