Life is hard. Disappointments, diagnoses, loss, and suffering are an inevitable part of our story. Sometimes we can really struggle to see where God fits into the narrative.
The account of Esther gives us a fantastic source of encouragement today. Critics have pondered for centuries why the book of Esther is even in the canon of Scripture–after all, God is never mentioned in her story.
Or is He?
True, we don’t see His name, but we certainly see His hand. And that may be the most powerful lesson to come from this story about a beautiful girl who risked her life to save her people: When we live surrendered to God, He is at work even when we can’t see Him.
This is the story of God from start to finish. In the life of this young Jewish girl, we see the sovereignty, support, and salvation of God. And then we don’t hear from Esther in Scripture again. Her life pointed to the One whose story does continue.
A person who believes in luck and coincidence would be blown away by this narrative. How fortunate that so many things happen to line up just right for Esther and her people, who were on the edge of extinction because of their “intolerance” amidst a polytheistic people!
While living in exile in Persia, Esther just happened to be selected by the king to replace his wife who displeased him. Esther’s uncle Mordecai happened to uncover a plot to assassinate the king which left him in the king’s favor. The king just so happened to lie awake one night and read over the history logs detailing Mordecai’s loyalty.
All of these events led to the moment in which Esther brought her request before the king. You see, in this pluralistic society, royal officials expected to be worshiped. Mordecai, a Jew who worshiped the one true God, refused. So Haman, the king’s official, plotted to slaughter them all.
The Jewish people’s only hope to avoid annihilation lay with a young Jewish girl who had the king’s ear. Esther, whose Jewish heritage had been kept quiet, was now in a position to go before the king and ask for mercy.
“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”Esther 4:14b, NIV
Esther just happened to be in the right place at the right time to intercede with the king on behalf of her people. Right?
In truth, we know that the sovereignty of God led her to the palace. And there she was inspired to seek God’s help and step out in faith.
Now to us, this may seem like a walk in the park. All she has to do as the new queen is go to the king and say “By the way, I’m a Jew. Please don’t kill me and my family.” But, alas, times were different.
Anyone who approached the king without being invited would be executed unless he decided to extend his royal scepter and show mercy. Esther had to take that chance in order to intercede for her people.
To say this was a risk is an understatement. But Esther didn’t go to the king alone. She called on the support of her God.
“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do no eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'”Esther 4:15-16
Esther risked her life to go before the king and ask for help. But she didn’t go unprepared. Fasting was always accompanied by prayer. Esther called on the people to go before God in humility, seeking His favor and support.
The writer of Esther, I believe, leaves God’s name out intentionally to heighten the fact that He is at work behind the scenes, even when we can’t see Him. He is sovereign over circumstance and coincidence, and He is supporting us in our time of need.
Esther’s adventure may seem void of God; it was anything but. In His sovereign power, the God of the Jews was working in the midst of their crisis. He orchestrated circumstances and events to bring about the deliverance of His people.
Esther knew she was powerless to control her circumstances, but through fasting and prayer, she called on the support of the One who was not.
This beautiful account of the sovereignty and support of God concludes with the salvation of the Jewish people from extinction. The king’s favor was extended to Esther, and through a series of “fortunate” events, the evil Haman was hanged and Mordecai was honored.
The Jews were allowed to defend themselves and won the victory. We may not see “G-o-d” in Esther’s story, but He is there. And He’s in your story, too. In fact, He’s the Author of your chronicle. Even when you can’t see Him, He’s behind the scenes, working on your behalf, supporting you in your time of need, and making a way for you to know Him more.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2
We don’t serve a God who leaves us in the midst of our suffering, nor One who promises we won’t suffer. We serve a God who has also suffered, is with us in the midst of the pain, and will work in our lives for our good and His glory.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28
Even when we can’t see Him.
My friend, if you are in a time of suffering, disappointment, or pain, I pray you will look to the Author of your story. Out of our greatest pain we sometimes see Him best.
Like Esther, we too can surrender our lives into His care, trusting Him with the plot, the characters, and the outcome of our drama. When we do, our story becomes His story, and that’s an adventure that never ends.