“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)
I have to admit, I am a planner. Sometimes, I even have plans in case my original plans don’t work. Even though I do not realistically expect those plans to work as I planned, I take comfort in these plans. In some ways I feel prepared for anything that comes my way. This helps me to face all of the unexpected trials that accompany having young children. However, there are also times when I simply get annoyed with my family when they are not on board with my plan. The fact is, so much of my life is out of my control. So what do we do when we are faced with situations that are out of our control? In the Online Bible Study I am currently doing, author Karen Ehman points to Esther as the perfect example of how to surrender control to God.
Esther’s story is quite phenomenal. Esther was an orphan, adopted by her uncle, Mordecai. After King Ahasuerus deposes the former queen, he is looking for a new queen, and instructs that all beautiful young virgins be brought to the harem under the charge of Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of women. Ester, who was fair and beautiful was also brought under Hegai’s charge. She pleased him and won his favor. Esther was quickly moved to the best place in the king’s harem. Esther won the king’s devotion and became queen in the deposed queen’s place. Uncle Mordecai discovered a plot to assassinate the king and told Esther so that his life might be saved. Esther did as she was told by her uncle and Mordecai’s actions were recorded in the history. However, Mordecai, as a Jew, in turn made Haman, the king’s chief official, angry, and he plotted to exterminate all the Jews in the city. Mordecai and the other Jews are obviously distraught and eventually plead with Esther to go to the king on their behalf.
So what does Esther do in such a situation? She does not simply barge into the king and insist on Haman’s head. She does not give up, seeing the situation as hopeless. Esther could not simply tell the king, only those the king called for by name or held out his scepter to could approach him, and Esther had not been called in more than thirty days. This seemed like a death sentence to Esther, especially given the fate of the previous queen. However, Esther had faith in God. Esther 4:16 shows us Esther’s response to this crisis. “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Esther did exactly as she said she would. As a result, the Jews were saved, Mordecai was honored for his earlier actions of saving the king and Haman ends up being hanged for his actions and throwing himself at Esther in a way that led the king to believe he was assaulting her. This is an amazing and miraculous story. Many of us will not face something of this magnitude, but we all face situations beyond our control.
How did Esther respond to the crisis? Sure, she was scared, but she did not immediately react to the situation in front of her. Instead, she did four things.
1) Esther consulted wise counsel, in this case Mordecai. She trusted Mordecai in spiritual matters and he was able to tell her the consequences of her doing nothing. (See Esther 4:9-14.) It is important that we have people in our life who are willing to speak with us honestly and openly to aid us in making wise and godly decisions.
2) Esther prayed. I doubt this was simply a prayer for deliverance, although I am sure her pleadings were a part of her prayers. Instead, Esther sought the Lord’s leading and guidance in this situation. Her own strength fell far short of what was needed, but God provided in abundance. Do you consult God when you face things out of your control? God’s voice in our hearts is an important guide to making decisions in the face of crisis, especially given our human tendencies towards fight or flight in the midst of hardship.
3) Esther fasted. In this situation Esther, the Jews, and her handmaidens fasted from food and drink, but it does not have to be food or drink you fast from. Fasting is meant to bring our focus back to God and studying his Word, so perhaps you need a fast from email, social media, girls night out or anything that would allow you focus and time with God. (Again notice Esther’s use of godly fellowship with her fellow Jews and her handmaidens. She is not in this alone. God has given her fellow travelers in this earthly life.)
4) Esther acted. This is perhaps the most important part of Esther’s story. Esther heard God’s command for her and allowed God to give her the strength to attempt the unthinkable. Esther did not make excuses why she could not or should not. She stepped up in faith, knowing that God would provide in His strength. However, she also did not overstep her bounds. She did not listen to what God said and then some. She was obedient to God and God was able to use Esther in a mighty way.
I hope you will take a closer look at the book of Esther. It is an amazing picture of how obedience, faith and even our beauty help to accomplish God’s will. This story gives us even greater reason to follow the commands given us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Would you like to join our Online Bible Study as we take the 48-hour Joyful~Praying~Thankful Challenge? Hop on over to Melissa Taylor’s blog to see the details.