Four Powerful Lessons on courage from the Book of Esther
So, the focus of my previous posts have been on fear and how to overcome it and I think the Book of Esther is a great story of how one woman, Esther, pushed her fear aside to help her people. But how do we do this? Once we realize that fear is a feeling that we give a thought, what do we do next? What do we do to gather the courage so that we can take the next steps? Well let’s see what Esther did. Here are 4 powerful lessons we can learn from the Book of Esther.
1. Pray + Plan
Chapter 4, verse 16 we see that after Mordecai told Esther of Haman’s plan to execute the Jews, Esther tells Mordecai:
Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat and drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. IF I MUST DIE, I MUST DIE.
Let’s break this down just a tad.
In verse 16, she tells Mordecai to “pray and fast for me.” She asked for prayers before anything else. Before she took one step forward with her plan, she prayed. How many times do we think we know how to handle certain situations and we just jump on in the pool with both feet, without stopping to ask God to lead the way? I know I do. I think that I just know what God wants me to do and I go for it without asking Him to guide me and confirm that what I would like to do is aligned with His plan. And sometimes, when I jump in with both feet, I sink right to the bottom and struggles to stay afloat with my plan.
Luckily, Esther knew that her plan is nothing without God’s guidance. She knew that she needed God and did not hesitate to ask others to pray for her. But then she doesn’t just stop there…let’s look at what she does next…
2. Be Willing To Take A Risk
IF I MUST DIE, I MUST DIE.
That line right there stood out to me and stunned me for a second. If I must die, I must die. Esther was willing to put her life on the line to do what was right. She said (my translation), I know there are consequences (remember, in chapter 4, verses 10-11, Esther tells Mordecai that anyone that goes to the king uninvited will be doomed to die) but forget the consequences, saving the lives of many is what matters the most and I am willing to die if that means that I can save lives.
There is this show that I like watching called “What would you do?” with John Quinones on ABC. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a reality show that uses hidden cameras to document how every day people behave when faced with some sort of situation that challenges their moral beliefs. In each situation, the people have the choice to either stand up for what is right or turn their head and “mind their business”. The show exploits how people react to a wide spectrum of situations- from witnessing racial or gender injustices to the smaller tests of morals (like, witnessing someone in the grocery store denting canned food items to get a discount).
I enjoy watching this show and discussing it with my fiancé. After each situation, we have the discussion of how we think we would have reacted if this had been us. There are a few situations, liked the canned food grocery store thing, that I know my reaction would be to shake my big ol head at the person and keep it moving, without saying a word of the wrong doing to management. But there are other situations, like the scenario when a person was being treated very poorly because he did not speak english, that just gets my blood boiling and veins popping so much that I just know I would have to speak up for that person.
But it is easy to think about what you would do if you were in that situation. I think to myself, would I actually say something or would I just turn away, say a prayer, and hope it all works out? If I am being honest with myself, as much as I get angry at injustice, I’m not to sure that I would stick my neck out there on the chopping block for someone else. I’d like to think that I would have the courage to do it, but would I? I think in some situations, I would try to convince myself to just pray about it all the while keeping my mouth shut and not putting myself out there to help someone in need. But like Esther, God calls us to do more than that. What is remarkable about Esther is that she just wasn’t speaking up for the behalf of the Jews. She didn’t just say a prayer or ask for prayer and kept it moving. She took action after prayers. She literally put her life on the line, stepping in front of the gun to take the bullet for her people. She asked for prayer and then went forth knowing that God would intercede should her plans not line up with His. This leads me to the next point…
3. Take Action
Ask and then go after what you want. Once you’ve made a plan and prayed on it, you will find that many opportunities seem to appear out of nowhere. Take them. A lot of people get so caught up in the planning and the praying that they do not do the next important step which is WORK for it. Take action. What is it that you need to do now to get closer to your dream? Do you want that dream career? Well, write that resume, write that cover letter, SEND it. Do you want to be fit? Eat right, exercise. You can do it and God wants you to do it but you’ve gotta WERK for it.
As a quick example, I do Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X, which is an intense ab workout and during the workout, almost towards the end, he’s motivating us and encouraging us to keep up our momentum and power through the workout and he says this:
Dreams don’t work unless you do.
Usually at this point, I’m so exhausted and struggling to make it through the workout and all I want to do is give up and go eat donuts and then he says that. And I just want to smack him and say SHUT UP TONY, YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE!!!!
But after weeks of discipline, eating right and exercising, when I start to see the tiniest but firm bulge in my midsection, I think back to what he says and I think, whoa, Tony, you are right. Dreams really don’t work unless you do.
When we decide to take action it is going to be hard and we are going to want to give up. Especially if we don’t see the results coming as fast as we like. You know what I mean- we will want to give up when we don’t see our body improving after weeks of healthy eating or we don’t get any callbacks from all the applications we sent. We will want to give up.
“What do you want Queen Esther? I will give it to you even if it is half the kingdom,” the king asks this TWICE of Queen Esther when she goes to meet with him on the third day of the fast. This king, who she though fo’sho was going to kill her for even coming to him with anything, let alone a request, has told Esther TWICE that he is willing to give her whatever it is that she wants. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Esther to go to the king and tell him that his main man, Haman, was plotting to kill her peoples. Esther was the new kid on the block. The king made Haman his second-in-command so there must have been some level of trust that the king had for Haman. So why in the world would the king even believe Esther? That was the scary part and that was the risk that Esther took.
4. Believe In The Plan
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?” (Mordecai tells Esther in Chapter 4:14).
When we don’t see the manifestation of our dreams fast enough, we may think that maybe things aren’t working out for us because it is not part of God’s will for us. But this is when we need to keep going and trust the God will direct us.
When I was driving to upstate New York to visit my mom, I had to drive through some mountains. It was dark and really foggy and I could not see too far ahead of me. I had to slow down and take my time. You know how it is when it’s foggy- you can’t see into the horizon; you can only see what is right in front of you. But if you keep on driving and continue along, the path opens up little by little, inch by inch, foot by foot, to show you where you need to go. As long as you continue along that path, doing what is right in front of you, bit by bit, you will get to your destination.
God is in every single detail of your life, lighting up your path so that you can make your way through the fog. Like in the Book of Esther, He was not specifically mentioned but He was all up in that book guiding Esther, giving Mordecai the right words to say, keeping the king up at night and giving him a book to read. You may not see Him at work right away in your life but He is there. Believe it and KEEP GOING.
We know how this story ends so I would like to summarize with this: when we pray and ask God to guide us and then take action, God will make what seems impossible POSSIBLE. But we can’t just pray and think that is all that we need to do. In the book of Esther, we are shown that we need to pray and then go do something about it. We need to pray knowing that God has got our back and NO weapon formed against us will prosper (Isaiah 54:17) for God will take any situation that is meant for evil or to harm us and WILL turn it around for our good (Genesis 50:20). This may mean that we have to take a risk, a leap of faith, fall backwards fully blindfolded and trust that God will be there to catch us. We need God. We need His guidance. We must seek His will in all we do, and He will show us which path to take (Proverbs 3:6).
So pray, go for it, and believe that:
Perhaps you were made for such a time as this.
So what are you waiting for?! Tell me, what is your dream or what plans do you have and what is one courageous step you will take to go for it?
Until next time, love like Jesus.
Image by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash
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