I don’t know if you have read the book of Esther recently, but we have been walking in it for a number of weeks and it is a stellar walk.
Therein we find that although God is not mentioned, not one time, God is there. Again and again — in a king’s sleepless night (ch 6), in the words of Haman’s family rightly predicting his downfall (ch 6), in a poor girl-become-queen’s decisions (ch 4,5,6,7), in stifling arrogance (ch 1,2, 7 & 8), in the defeat of enemies (ch 9), in ongoing celebrations (ch 9 and 10) — God worked, God moved, as “no one could stand against them,” and as the Jewish defenders “took no plunder” God was there in ways unseen and yet visible.
Sometimes in our daily lives we can be unclear on God’s action, and like the Jews in the story we need to learn what it might look like to stand “in the presence of enemies,” to stand “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (eg: people) but against powers and principalities (Ephesians 6). Thus saying, the largest battles may well be interior.
Saying that I realize that many of our cultural battles seem to involve people — but even shooters have hearts that have been injured, maligned, hurt, neglected and they are people motivated by interior hurts. Their interior battles get manifested in horrific ways. This is not to lessen the losses, whatsoever– pain is pain. And this area of gun violence needs a separate post, but still, if the interior battles could be fought, if the heart could be reached, it would change the actions.
All of us have experienced: Prayers that remain unanswered as we have been praying them, situations unchanged, hurts unabated. This book is one place we can see again on display this very basic fact that God is at work and keeps His promises even when we cannot see God at work. In this book, God is fighting on behalf of a people behind the scenes in ways that leave us staggered and amazed. This is how God works, oftentimes, behind the scenes. Sometimes we don’t “see” God at work, yet that doesn’t mean God is absent. It might just mean we are looking in the wrong direction.
I have seen this in healing prayer so many times.
There comes a time when I am walking someone back into a specific, hurtful memory when I will ask them to “look for Jesus in the memory,” and I often have to remind them, “you might need to turn around.”
I’ll never forget one woman who gasped when she beheld Jesus behind her. All through the years, she had believed God had abandoned her in her pain, at that moment, when her dad was there, below her on the stairwell, yelling at her, full throttle, but there was Jesus behind her.
She gasped, tears came to her eyes, and we walked through the new story, looking to what Jesus was doing, and listening to what he was speaking to her heart. Suddenly the painful occurrence shifted, the blackness removed, and with the memory changed, it altered her future. Seeing Jesus was there made all the difference.
In your life, friend, no matter what you might be encountering, I can promise that Jesus is there, at work, wooing you to Himself even in the midst of circumstances that remain unaltered. Don’t stare at circumstances, or at the pain that is unrelenting, instead gaze at Jesus, look to the One who has not left you alone in that place, that valley. He is with you. I know it.
The book of Esther makes this testimony as well. Although God’s name is never mentioned, not once, God is at work. He is fulfilling the prophecy given to the Prophet Zechariah (2:8) in which God promised not to leave unpunished anyone who wronged the Jewish people who are the “apple of His eye.”
Whatever has held us in bondage, wherever we are in exile, even there, God will move and act as well. This is not the promise that everything will be easy in life, nope. Jesus never said that. Indeed, Jesus promised that “in this world, you will have trouble,” (John 16:33), using the word for tribulation or persecution! But Jesus promised never to leave or forsake you and me (Hebrews 13:5). He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 20:28). He promised that He would use everything, even the hardest things for the good of you and me both (Romans 8:28). Yep, that’s you.
When tough things are happening — and we live in times when there are many tough things — turn toward Him not away from Him and look, look, look for what God is doing.