[box] Read chapter 7 in Journeys of Faithfulness. [/box] This week, we began our first chapter on Esther. Esther, the beautiful. Esther, the chosen. Esther, the brave. If any woman exemplified both humility and power, she was it.
My guess, however, is that she wasn't brought up that way. Until she was taken into the palace, she probably was just like any other young Jewish girl growing up in exile. She probably had a home she helped to care for, her uncle Mordecai's family that she loved, surroundings that were comfortable. Like other Jewish girls, she may have been hoping to find love, even in an arranged marriage. Most likely, she did not set her sights on being the queen of a pagan king.
I had never thought much about Esther's former life, so Sarah's view that Esther struggled with being in King Xerxes' palace was a new one for me. I think we are often so focused on the fact that she had daily spa and beauty treatments for a year (who wouldn't want that?) to think that maybe, just maybe, she really didn't want to be there.
Have you ever been in that kind of situation too?
Like Esther, many of us older folk can think of the "good 'ol days" when life was simpler, easier, whatever. For me, I have found myself bemoaning how much more time I had before Anah came to write, read, create. For others, it may be the life you had before cancer invaded your home, before your husband lost his job, before you had to start caring for your aging parents. For you younger readers, perhaps it is before you met your difficult roommate, before you ended that relationship you thought would end in marriage, or even before you started your first 9 to 5 job.
And when we get into those kinds of situations, it is easy to start getting disgruntled or even bitter and angry. I know I did. It is easy to let our grief for the days gone by cloud our perspective on what we face today. As I looked at my daily existence, I felt depressed, like I was trapped in a cage---one that I chose, no less---and could not get out.
But sometimes, we do not have that choice. Illnesses, accidents, or maybe being taken against your will into the king's palace thrusts us into a situation or circumstance that we would never have chosen on our own. In those choiceless moments, do we still have a choice?
Yes, I think we do.
Sarah makes this insightful comment:
“We know from Scripture that Esther found favor in the eyes of her keepers, so she must have kept a kind and tender heart. She had lost everything from her old life, but instead of shriveling up in a ball, she made the choice to live, to love, and to seek and obey the will of her Lord.” (p. 134, emphasis mine)
The choice we have is to
obey His will
It's so easy to feel like the victim, isn't it? Poor me. No one has it as bad as I do. If only life was different.
If I learned anything from Esther this week, it was this: in situations where I feel like I have no choice, I need to remember that I can either let my circumstances kill me or I can drag life---His life---into my circumstances. By His grace, mercy and power, I have all I need to bring His life into the situation I find myself in.
As I shared with the girls this past Sunday, Esther did a few preliminary things. First, she mourned the life she lost. I'm not talking about being stoic and pretending your loss didn't affect you. The real trick is not staying there. I know I let myself just focus on all that I had lost: my freedom, my future, my dreams. And not surprisingly, I felt very dejected and hopeless. That is where the next step comes in: thank God for the life you had. Thank Him for the days of health, the dreams, the hopes, the memories of a happier time. Gratitude does a healing work in our hearts that we cannot comprehend.
And when we have worked through these things, then we are able to take a deep breath, look reality square in the face, and move forward. There still are days when I regress and go back to my pity party, but I am finding more often than not, I am less likely to stay there.
So now, I am on the long, slow journey of learning how to accept my life as it stands today. And you know what? I am realizing that when I was so focused on what I had lost, I was totally unable to see what good God has in store for me as a result of this change. Only when I was willing to move forward could I begin to see the gifts He has in store for me. He is helping me to realize that what I am going through now may open up doors for future ministry and influence that I could never have in my old life.
I'll close with Sarah's well-written conclusion:
“Sometimes, loving God looks very different from what you think it will. Sometimes God asks you to live a life, or even a phase of life, that feels like the opposite of everything you hoped or wanted. Sometimes there are people so difficult to relate to you think God is punishing you, or a job so ill-suited to your passion that you feel persecuted just to do it.
“Yet God knows the plans He has for us. God knows when a young girl is in training to be a queen, or a teenage shepherd is on his way to ruling a kingdom. When faced with a desert time you don’t understand, you have a momentous decision ahead of you. You can do as I did at first and hunch down in a despairing little heap and refuse to look life in the face. Or you can do what I think Esther (and so many others in the Bible did) and face your new circumstances with a fight.” (p. 133)
Are you in a season of life that you don't want to be in? Do you need to mourn your past? What can you thank God for as you reflect on what you have lost?
How do your difficult circumstances influence your perspective of God? Is it in line with the truth of His Word? If not, what truths do you need to focus on? What difference could they make in your life?
What is one way you can drag life into your circumstances today, through the power of His Spirit?