A few years ago, I spent about 6 months studying the Book of Esther for a ladies’ Bible study I was leading at our church. And a few of the main lessons I took away from that study have been “swirling” around in my mind over the past several weeks. I thought I would share them in hopes of encouraging some of you.
Having grown up in church, I have heard this exciting story – the story of Queen Esther – my entire life. I actually have no recollection of when I first heard it. I just have “always” known it. But, as I have learned to do from my husband, I decided with this time around to go a little deeper and get as much as I can from her life. And let me tell you – after studying her for those 6 months, I gained so much that can be applied to my personal life.
Most of us who have gone to church for any length of time can probably tell the story ourselves without even looking at the Bible. We can tell how Esther was raised by her cousin (who was old enough to be her father), then sent to the palace of the king along with all the other young unmarried women in the land. After a year of preparing, she went before the king, he found favor in her, and she was suddenly married and became queen of Persia! She had to keep her Jewish heritage a secret. Then, Haman (the king’s right-hand man) devised an evil plot due to a deep seeded hatred for the Jews. And now, all the Jews were to be killed in just a couple months. So it is up to Esther to save her people. She goes before the king – unannounced – to plead for her people, the Jews. Going before the king uninvited was punishable by certain death, unless for some reason the king held out his scepter to pardon them. So she goes before the king, the king holds out his scepter, and she escapes death. Then she reveals that she is a Jew, and pleads for her people, and saves them from death as well.
It really is a beautiful story. But while I was thinking about and studying it, a thought struck me. We commend her so much for her actions. We praise her for her most famous line, “If I perish, I perish.” We think of her as a woman with no fear – only faith and bravery. And while she was these things and more, I think we put her up on so high a pedestal that we forget one important thing. She was human. She wasn’t some super-Christian. She struggled just like us.
Look closely at Esther chapter 4, when Mordecai (her cousin) first sends word that she needs to go in to the king. Her initial reaction was not, “Sure! I would love to go and risk my life to save my people. That sounds like fun!” No! Her first reaction was fear and to come up with excuses. She didn’t jump at the chance to risk death just to save a people that didn’t necessarily ask her to save them. She was afraid. She was uncertain. She made excuses – trying to think of why she was the last person to do this job.
And that’s how we are too. How many of us actually ask God to bring hard times into our life. We don’t beg God to bring trials, hurt, and grief into our life. No, we actually pray that it doesn’t come. But yet, God does allow hard times to come into our lives. Sometimes He asks us to go through what appears to be an impossible situation. A situation that we don’t understand. And we don’t want to go through it. Just like Esther.
But in the end, she knew what needed to be done. She knew that God had a plan, that He had brought her to this place for “such a time as this,” and that no matter the outcome, He would be with her. Even though the situation seemed impossible, suicidal even, she knew it was what she needed to do. And God showed Himself so powerful. The king did find favor in her, he did not have her killed, and through it all, her people were saved!
Another thing we need to remember about Esther is this (and this really hit me this last time I read through the book) – Esther didn’t have her whole story written out in the Bible for her to read like we do. She didn’t know the outcome of her story. When she was getting ready to go in to the king uninvited, she didn’t know he was going to extend his scepter to her. She really was fully relying on God and her faith. She was literally placing her life in His hands. To me, that makes her even more human and just like us.
We don’t know the end of our story either. When some trial comes in our life, and we don’t know the outcome, we have nothing else to do but lean on God and our faith. Just like Esther.
This concept has been so much in my thoughts lately. It seems like everywhere I look, there are people – friends, family members, people I read about on Facebook – going through some hard times. And I mean hard. I see their pain, their grief, and I feel it with them. And I find myself wondering how its all going to work out. How they are going to get through it. I know that sometimes things in this life can hurt so much. The trials, the pain, the grief – all of it doesn’t make sense. And it may never make sense this side of heaven. That’s when God reminds me of Esther.
She didn’t understand things either. Why was she taken from her happy home one day, never to return. Why was she chosen out of all the other women to be queen. Why did she have to keep her Jewish heritage a secret? Why was she so lonely in the palace? Why was she going to have to risk her life for her people? Why did all this happen? Why? How would it end?
I’m sure all those thoughts went through her mind and heart. But in the end, she went with her faith. She didn’t become resentful or angry or bitter. She didn’t turn her back on her faith or God. She knew that He knows best, and she stayed true to that. And God brought her through it all. Was it easy? No way. Was it over in a day? Nope. Her trial started when she was taken from her home and only seemed to get worse. But did God show Himself true to her? Yes. Did He give her strength to get through? You betcha.
So I guess what I am trying to say is this. Life is hard. But God is good. Trials come into our lives. But God is always there. Hurt, pain, grief, and confusion all occur in our life. But God takes care of us. We just have to lean on Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to get us through. Sometimes my heart is very heavy for people who are going through some very difficult times. Things are happening to friends, family members, and even personally that I plain just don’t understand. But I am encouraged to know this. That God is good. He is always there. And He will take care of us. He knows the end of our story even though we don’t. Just like He did for Esther.