Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Care packages are the best. During our time in Africa , we’d take monthly trips out of the bush, to the city for a time of rest and refreshment. On the way, we’d make a stop at the post office in the neighbouring town, which would sometimes yield a beautiful, brown, bubble-wrapped envelope, containing goodies like peanut m&ms, beef jerky, packets of juice powder, and a ziploc bag with Kraft Dinner. Odd requests to be sure, but in all the notes and goodies, we found great joy and comfort.
During weighty, challenging seasons, these little envelopes packed with love were God’s provision for us, encouraging our hearts and minds, by reminding us of those who sent it, and their care for us.
We can miss seeing the Lord’s good gifts in the middle of our suffering or in the distraction of the chaos around us. Our eyes fixed on the problems or challenges we are facing, it takes time and effort to train our eyes to see the good in our circumstances-maybe sometimes we won’t see it at all. Each step of the way we are learning to depend on and trust the Lord. For, “the young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps 34:10). Consider the circumstances Esther found herself in.
Stuck in Unwanted Circumstances
In Esther 2, we begin with a glimpse of the king’s mediocre sense of remorse, as he remembers the situation with his queen, and her punishment. Was he lonely? Wallowing in self-pity? Or feeling guilt about his decision?
True remorse would lead to restitution. Instead, we see him confer again with his foolish advisors who devise a plan to take young women into a beauty pageant of sorts, to be used for the king’s pleasure, and to be kept as his possession.
Horrific to say the least.
Next, we are introduced to Mordecai, a Jew living in Susa, which is interesting because at this time the Jews are returning to Jerusalem, and temple has been rebuilt-placing it during the events of the book of Ezra, but before Nehemiah-yet here he is, still in Persia.
He took in his cousin Esther after her parents died, and scripture notes she is particularly beautiful; this draws the attention of the king’s men, and she finds herself among the young women taken into custody.
After what happened with Queen Vashti, it’s unlikely becoming a queen is the dream for these young ladies. Yet here the Lord is orchestrating events to preserve his people and punish his enemies. Even in the harem, inside the ugliest circumstances, God is at work. Esther is winning the favour of those around her, including from the king himself, not because of who she is, but because of who God is.
God’s Provision of Care
Looking back on her life, we see how God provides her with Mordecai after the death of her parents, who raised and cared for her as his own daughter.
During the months in hospital when my daughter was sick, the Lord brought specific people into my life, for specific purposes; a generous gift to meet a financial need, a word of encouragement to soothe my heart, a warm meal to sustain my family at home. I didn’t always see the impact at the time, but their messages, love and care became markers along our family’s journey.
In times of struggle and suffering, who are the people God puts on your path?
God’s Provision of Favour
The Lord grants Esther favour with those in charge, then, ultimately, of the king; putting her in place, crowned as the new queen. Again, this likely wasn’t her goal or her aspiration, but it was certainly the Lord’s.
We find ourselves confused about our own life circumstances at times, wondering why illness arrives, why we didn’t get the job, or why things became difficult, but in every situation God is working all things for the glory of his name and for our good. Esther reminds us that horrific, painful things happen in this world, but that God’s love and care extend toward us even when it’s not what we expect or what we can see. It’s a journey of believing he is who he says he is.
When you’ve experienced difficult circumstances, how have you seen God’s favour?
God’s Provision of Grace
There was a secret.
Mordecai instructs Esther not to reveal her identity as a Jew.
There may be reasons for this, we aren’t sure from the passage, but as we read Esther we notice no mention of worship or prayer. There’s also no mention of returning with the other exiles to Jerusalem, as the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had instructed them once their time in exile was over.
In spite of their concealment, their lack of worship, and their lack of obedience, the Lord is graciously using them to preserve his people.
It may be difficult to come to terms with, but we are not perfect people. We wrestle with sin daily. The wonder of the gospel is he continues to give us grace sufficient for each day and every circumstance (2 Cor 12:9), his mercies are new every morning and his faithfulness is great (Lam 3:22-23).
We remember the promise, given through the prophet Jeremiah, intended for God’s people, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). It’s not easy to see in the moment, but this is why we learn from Esther’s story, to embolden our faith and trust in who God is, as the Lord who provides, even in our most challenging times. We remember foremost while we were sinners, stuck in darkness and sin, God provides the sacrifice for our sin, his son Jesus, to restore us and bring us us into his family, with new life and an eternal hope.
The provision of Jesus is enough for us, for now and eternity. It’s truth we can bank on. And when the storms of life rage on, and we are tempted to rely on ourselves, we remember even though we are not perfect, his plan is.