By Lisa Leahy
We’ve been studying Esther in Women’s Bible Study. It’s been stunning to see God’s sovereign hand directing the lives of each person in the story, including a young adopted Jewish girl, her uncle and a pagan king. I wonder at how God’s power is so often with the weak, marginalized and powerless, and how he uses them to further his kingdom.
In Chapter 4, Esther is forced to make a decision. She can choose to keep quiet about her Jewish identity and hope for the best in the cushy life of the king’s court, risking execution if she is found out. Or, she can risk her life to save her people by approaching the king without invitation on their behalf. In the end, she chooses to reveal that she is a Jew and takes a stand on behalf of her people. But she has to be forced to choose between two evils before she decides to reveal her true identity.
Our small group was asked, “Where has God had to hem you in in order to help you reaffirm your identity as his follower?” The answers my friends shared were beautiful and encouraging. One woman has experienced excruciating pain on a daily basis for an entire year, forcing her to give up a ministry that she has loved and isolating her from church and fellowship. But Jesus has become her main source of comfort. The fellowship she has with him and with those who have cared for her has deepened her relationship with Him, and she is deeply grateful for the ways Jesus has revealed himself to her in her pain. The softness, humility and gratitude in her voice was remarkable, because she was clearly suffering even as she spoke.
Others shared in the same vein. Struggles with being forced to let go of their agenda at work, dealing with their own heart issues in the midst of single parenting and separation from a spouse, trusting God in a change of season of life. Even though each person would have never chosen their trial, they had come to know Jesus better, and experienced his goodness and mercy in a deeper way. Each expressed gratitude for the trial and what it showed them about their Savior.
God could seem completely absent in the story of Esther because his name is never mentioned, and yet he is working powerfully in ways nobody imagines. Appearances are never ever what they seem. It’s the same in our lives when we are going through difficult times. We may not see any relief on the horizon, but by faith, we can know that God is working on our behalf to teach us and refine us and conform us to his image and likeness.
On Good Friday, we take time to consider the road Jesus took to Calvary and his crucifixion. God may seem absent as Jesus hangs on the cross and even cries out to his Father. But God’s agenda is being played out most powerfully there, even though nobody realizes it at the time. Jesus was accomplishing his most incredible and glorious act on behalf of mankind – our salvation. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21.
And, Jesus didn’t have to be coerced to do God’s will, like we often do by the loving discipline of our Father. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Jesus left heaven and CHOSE to become weak and powerless in order to display the supreme power and goodness of his Father, because he loved us. On the cross he conquered our sin, restored us to his Father, and gave us eternal life. This is why we can endure life’s trials with hope, and why we can speak the way we did at Bible study, giving glory to Jesus, who suffered for us.
As we approach Good Friday, may we be sobered and singularly indebted to our Savior. And may we pray unceasingly to live in light of his sacrifice for us. May our faith in him deepen and may he make us more obedient to his will.
“I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11.