Hey, friends! We’re journeying through Esther: Trusting God’s Plan, a six-week Bible study from Revive Our Hearts. Even if you don’t have the study, today’s post can still be a *huge* encouragement to you—especially the Women of the Bible discussion video! So grab your Bible, turn to Esther 2, and let’s dive in.
Esther was not a contestant in a beauty pageant.
I know, back in our Sunday school days, we were imagining a dream-come-true fairytale. The king was awed by Esther’s beauty and picked her to be queen! We thought it was Cinderella stuff, didn’t we? As a senior in high school, I even gave a presentation on the book of Esther, complete with the most overachieving poster board ever (the kind a teacher keeps to show as an example to future classes), and I definitely said that Esther was the winner of a beauty contest. Sisters, unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Esther was taken—not invited, but taken—into the king’s harem, along with an estimated 400 other virgins. They were given beauty treatments, but they were also forced to spend a night with the king whenever he decided to summon them. After this night, the women weren’t allowed to return home: they were kept as the king’s concubines. These women were used as sexual objects and robbed of having husbands or families of their own.
This is the not-so-beautiful situation in which Esther found herself.
Her mother and father had already died (v. 7), and she was taken from her guardian, Mordecai. She was forced to live in an unfamiliar place with an uncertain future and treated as property, rather than a woman of value.
What was Esther feeling? Fear? Anxiety? Despair? Scripture doesn’t describe the emotions she experienced, but it does tell us how the events unfolded:
When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. (2:15–17)
Despite intensely difficult circumstances, Esther remained steadfast. God was in the process of arranging the critical details that would allow the newly crowned queen to act as an advocate for the rescue of the Jewish people in Persia.
My heart has been swelling with hope this week because I’m reminded that: Even in situations that are dark and that seem completely messed up, God sees you, and He is at work for your good and His glory. So we trust Him. Because though we may not see a rescue now, we can believe in faith that our loving Father will restore and redeem and heal in His time.
He’s a God of details, and who knows how your current situation—as painful as it may be—could be a critical chapter in your story.
What’s Your Prison?
Do you feel trapped in your current situation? Does it feel like there will never be an end to your emotional pain, your health journey, or all those terrifying unknowns? Do you feel like this season has you locked in a prison—a prison where you’re rapidly losing hope and it feels like God has left you to fend for yourself?
Esther may have been in a palace, but she was imprisoned by an arrogant, power-hungry king who wasn’t afraid to get what he wanted or to kill off what he didn’t want. She had to hide her identity as a Jewish woman, and for all she knew, she could just end up living as another one of the king’s hundreds of concubines.
Centuries earlier, Joseph sat in a literal prison after Potiphar’s wife claimed he had attempted to rape her. He didn’t deserve that treatment; he was serving God and even ran from temptation when Potiphar’s wife came after him. Yet there in prison he sat . . . and sat . . . for more than two years. It was that time in prison, though, that God set the stage for Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dream—and to ultimately reunite Joseph with his family and to rescue God’s people from famine! (See Genesis 39–40.)
And in Esther’s life, God worked despite her oppressive circumstances to set the stage for the rescue of His people again. The darkness is no match for God’s power (Ps. 139:12)!
God Meant It for Good
The “prison seasons” in your life are painful. There’s no doubt about that. Pain can feel like death. But you don’t have to curl up and give up; those prisons can actually set the stage for God’s powerful work in your life.
God has not abandoned you in that prison.
God will never abandon you (Deut. 31:6).
If you’re in a “prison season” because someone else has harmed you, God also hates the sin that was committed against you.
Do not doubt that even the prison years can be used for your good and His glory.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20, emphasis added)
No matter your situation, we can cling to this truth from our lesson in Esther: Trusting God’s Plan:
You may feel trapped, with no way out, but your heavenly Father is there. The Lord watches what is happening to you and observes how you are doing. In time, God will defeat your enemy’s objectives and fulfill His holy purposes for your life.
This Pain Isn’t a Waste
In the past year, I’ve wanted to give up too many times to count. I’ve been in a dark prison season—we could even call it a dungeon season—and I’ve doubted that God was in the midst of it. I began to write off things in my life as useless, worthless, a waste. Jesus is too kind to let us go down like that, though. In His grace, He opened my eyes to His goodness, even in the dungeon. His faithfulness has been wild.
It’s stories like Esther’s and Joseph’s that infuse me with hope: God is going to use this for my good.
I haven’t seen the outcome yet. There’s no shiny bow tied on this story. It’s still in progress. But because God is who He says He is, I am choosing to trust that He is going to use the dungeon season as preparation for something beautiful and Jesus-exalting.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar space. This season feels like a waste. You’ve been wronged, hurt, attacked, disappointed, rejected, abandoned, pushed aside.
God sees you.
God’s not going to waste this prison season.
So trust Him with open hands and ask Him to write healing and goodness and gospel purpose into your story, just like He did in Esther’s life.
This week’s discussion video is so good. It’s a must-watch, a don’t-miss kind of session. (You can also listen to the podcast version here.)
Let’s make this week’s lesson personal by answering this question:
How does God’s sovereignty in the midst of Esther’s story provide perspective and encouragement for the hard things you’re facing in your own life?
Spend some time with Jesus and journal your answer; you can even thank Him for the ways He has led you through difficult circumstances already!
I’d love to wrap up this week’s lesson with a prayer.
Jesus, this world is full of brokenness and pain; we see it everywhere around us. Some days, it’s so hard to hope and to believe the truth. When we don’t see how this situation could ever be used for good, we often despair—believing that we’re alone and there’s no way out. But You are with us. You are with us in the darkness, just like Esther’s story shows us. You’ll never abandon us, and You hold the power to turn this dark situation into a testimony of Your light.
So even in these hard spaces and places, we declare our trust in You. We hope for Your goodness to come crashing through the walls of sin and pain, and we know You can redeem and heal anything for Your glory. Strengthen our hearts today, Jesus. Give us eyes to see the ways You are moving and working in our lives. We’ll praise You for it. Amen.
Join us next Wednesday for Week 3 in Esther: Trusting God’s Plan!