Esther: Seasons of Transition
How have times of transition drawn you into a closer relationship with and dependence upon God?
Just as we cannot control the seasons of our life, Esther was not in control of the circumstances that marked her seasons. Yet God knew her seasons in the palace were not by chance, and her purpose there would become clear. Take comfort this week that what looks like coincidence is God working. Trust that a fulfilled life results when we learn how to celebrate the good that God can bring in every season of transition.
About This Journey
Much can happen during transition, and in the journey between change and acceptance, we can get stuck in the struggle to want everything settled—now! Taking the time to see God in the midst of the transition is important. Recognizing He is setting the pace, even when you cannot see Him, is the best reassurance.
This Week's Readings
Esther – Seasons of Transition
So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.-Esther 2:8-11
You only have to look at my front door to know the season. A decorative wreath clearly communicates spring, summer, fall, or winter. Throughout the year, the seasons come and go with distinctive conditions of temperature and length of day. These God-ordained changes mark the movement of time in nature.
Seasons in a person’s life are not so easy to define or designate. Institutions, people, or circumstances can all initiate a new season in your life. Institutions like the military may define a season when, based on your husband’s age they say, “The season of your service is over, thank you very much.” A wound on a battlefield can bring an unexpected season for you and your family with a beginning and end that you cannot predict by the days on the calendar. Financial circumstances can introduce a new season, whether by an unexpected windfall of gain, or an unexpected downturn of loss. A PCS move or a new job can initiate a new season for you. New additions to your family, a child starting school, or leaving for college—are all situations that can define a season of life.
If we looked at Esther’s front door we could determine the season she was experiencing, not from the color of her door hanging but from the presence and actions of her uncle Mordecai. While Esther was in a season of preparation to meet the king, Mordecai was daily at the front door of the harem court to see how she was and to make sure all was well. When Queen Esther was in a comfortable season of feasting, Mordecai’s place at the front door allowed him to overhear a plot against the king that he passed on to Esther allowing her to gain favor from the ruler. Later, Mordecai’s presence at the front door, while dressed in sackcloth, signaled the coming of an unwelcomed and alarming season of risk and potential death for Esther and the Jews.
Just as we cannot control the seasons of our life, Esther was not in control of the circumstances that marked her seasons. Take some time to read all nine chapters of the book of Esther—it is quite a story! This young Jewish woman ended up in the harem of the King of Persia. Through a type of ancient beauty pageant, the king chose her to be his new queen without knowing her nationality. Could God use a Jewish girl in a pagan palace? Esther’s seasons in the palace were not by chance, and her purpose there would become clear.
Just as spring seems to pass quickly and winter seems to drag on forever, some seasons of life may feel rushed while other seasons wear out their welcome. We cannot control when they start and when they end, but we can rest assured that God can bring purpose to each season. A fulfilled life results when we learn how to celebrate the good that God can bring in every season of life.
Seasons of life are not necessarily a result of age, but of circumstance. How would you describe your current season? Depending on the circumstances, entering a new season can be intimidating. Rather than dread a future season, determine to live with purpose in every season. Consider these questions when you navigate a new season:
What are the lessons to be learned in this season?
What are the blessings for which I should be grateful in this season?
What opportunities can I find to serve others in this season?
What does God want me to leave behind in this season?
Lord, help me to discern your purpose for the season of life in which I find myself. Like the psalmist, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57:2). Amen.
I’ve Got Rhythm
If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.” So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”-Esther 3:9-11
“What is your goal for this year?” asked my friend. I chuckle now over my intensely serious response, “Balance. I want to have balance in my life.” I’m not sure what my younger thirtysomething mind and heart considered balance, but my older (and a bit wiser) self realizes that balance is an unattainable goal.
Margaret Feinberg offers a spot-on reason for balance as an unrealistic objective: “Sometimes life picks up speed without warning or slows down unexpectedly. Sometimes we’re pulled in many directions all at once. Sometimes we find ourselves pushed by our schedules, commitments, and unexpected needs in life. And any sense of balance is lost.”
Military wives can certainly identify with the push of schedules, commitments, and life’s unexpected needs. Trying to keep all of these in perfect balance would be exhausting! No sooner would you get the plates spinning in synchronization, than something will come along to upset the momentum, and an inevitable crash happens. I suggest we replace the quest for balance with the acceptance of rhythm. Each season brings a new rhythm in which to keep time.
When the king selected Esther to be his queen, the trajectory of her life took a drastic turn. Her rhythm could have been one of others catering to her every need. I imagine royal servants on her right and left, perfectly poised to respond to any whim. She only needed to sit tight and enjoy her new life.
Esther’s life in the palace of the king caused her to enter into a rhythm she did not create. The wicked palace official Haman developed a plan to annihilate the Jews. He convinced the king that since the Jewish people did not follow the customs or appreciate the laws of the Persian king, they were of no use. The king’s signing and sealing of the decree with his signet ring set the destructive event in motion. Esther was forced into a season with a rhythm beating toward a crescendo of destruction already made law. Would she sit on the sideline and watch or would she play her part in the rhythm already in progress?
What we cannot see in this story is the obvious presence of God. In fact, the book of Esther does not mention God. Yet, God set the divine metronome beating out the rhythm for all the events in the book. What looked like coincidence in the life of Esther was God working to save a people who, generations later, would birth the Savior of the world.
How do you try to find balance in your life? What difference does it make to find the correct rhythm during your seasons of life as opposed to finding balance?
Lord, I can exhaust myself trying to balance all my schedules, relationships, and responsibilities. Help me let you set the pace for my life for this season, for this day, and always. Amen.
“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”
And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”-Esther 4:11-16
Do you notice how we often anticipate one calendar season only to tire of it quickly and pine for the next? I looked at the calendar this morning and saw in black and white that a new season is fast approaching. Crisp, cool days of autumn will soon replace the sticky hot days of summer. Why does it seem like summer is always on speed dial? Unlike retail stores that already display Christmas decorations, I want to draw out the days of autumn. (Yes, I’m one of those people who refuse to put up anything red or green until after Thanksgiving.) Then winter will arrive and feel to me like it will never end. Within its long drawn out days I will long for spring to take a short cut. Discontent finds its way into every calendar season.
I frequently find the same discontent when I reflect upon seasons of life. In such moments, I recognize my capacity to engage in time travel. Please don’t think I’m speaking of a mystical quantum-mechanics experience. No, I’m referring to my tendency to look back to the last life season, or ahead to the next season, rather than embracing fully the season of today. I can live in such hurried anticipation of new orders, a deployment ending, the age of my kids, or a negative work situation that I miss the purpose of now. My discontent and worry propel me forward in anticipation, or backward in longing.
Esther faced a defining moment which no doubt brought anxiety and a desire to travel through time to a place where responsibility was not as heavy. Mordecai discovered Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews and sent word to Esther asking her to appeal to the king on behalf of the Jews. Esther replied that the king would interpret such an act as treason. Besides, he did not even know she was a Jew.
Mordecai asked Esther to reveal her identity at the riskiest time. Up to now, Esther went along with the flow and it served her well. Her circumstances had controlled her season as she followed the path of least resistance. Suddenly she faced the decision to take responsibility for not only herself, but also her nation and rise to the occasion. She did not choose this moment—the moment chose her. Esther’s first choice may have been time travel, but she did not have that option, and neither do we. She chose option two: rise to the occasion.
Sister, we cannot afford to pine for the past or long for the future. God calls us to face each day with the determination to live out his purpose for that day. Anxiety and worry rob us of living in the present and produce discontent. They are the fuel of time travel. The Scriptures exhort us to steward the season in which we find ourselves. Just as Esther lived out her purpose in a king’s palace, God has a purpose for you to live out today. Don’t allow discontent and anxiety to thwart God’s purpose for such a time as this.
What does Jesus have to say about anxiety and worry in Matthew 6:19–25? What part have worry and anxiety played in robbing you of living in the present?
Lord, forgive me when I look with longing to the way things were in the past or the way I want them to be in the future. Teach me how to live in the present with ever increasing joy and gratitude. Amen.
Return to Your Roots
So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?”-Esther 7:1-5
Did you notice the bombshell Esther dropped in her speech to the king? Up to this time, her ethnicity was a secret. Only her uncle Mordecai knew she was a Jew. Five years had passed since Esther became queen. Do you think she thought she would ever return to her Jewish roots? We cannot know the answer, but we know that by identifying herself with the Jewish people Esther took a huge risk that could have resulted in her death.
I never had a desire to reconnect with my Tennessee roots. To revise an outdated phrase—I had been there, done that, and I did not want a new tee-shirt. Upon military retirement, guess where a job opened for my husband that perfectly fit his skill set and experience? Yep, my hometown in Tennessee!
Few of us face such a monumental risk as Esther when we reconnect with our roots. My life or the continuance of my family line was not at stake when I returned to Tennessee. Yet returning to my roots brought unexpected challenges. In some ways, it felt like death to a way of life.
I do not want to trivialize this crisis point in Esther’s story by comparing it to my own struggle of returning to my roots. But there are some principles to apply. Returning to my roots was associated with a risk of not being able to fulfill my aspirations and dreams. I felt like I was going backward instead of forward. More importantly, I was uncertain my return to Tennessee was in God’s timetable at the start of a new season of life.
At a minimum, Esther’s identification with her Jewish roots could have meant a complete lifestyle change.. The king could easily have escorted her out the gates of the palace. At a maximum, Esther’s announcement could have labeled her for destruction along with the Jewish people.
Whether relocating to your hometown or a new city, transitioning out of the known lifestyle of the military into an uncertain way of life has inherent risks. Though it is important to evaluate the risks involved with a major change, it is more important to discern what the will of God is for you. Esther was willing to accept the risks associated with her Jewish roots. She believed her place in the palace, at that time, was for a purpose greater than herself.
When has thinking “I thought things would be different” fueled discontent in your life? How did you navigate that season of life?
Lord, thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for the circumstances that have brought me to this place. Help me trust that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Amen.
A Brave Choice Remembered
Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.-Esther 9:16-19
“Brenda, you are part of our institutional history,” were the unforgettable words spoken to me about my involvement in a military organization. At forty years old, I was just told I was historical. Now, I could have interpreted the words to mean I was a relic whose time had passed, but I choose to accept the affirmation for my earlier decision to participate wholeheartedly in an organization I valued. I was part of a leadership team whose contributions over the years had been institutionalized to the extent that they would continue to make a positive difference for those who would follow.
Esther was still a young woman when she made the choice to put her life at risk, identify with her people, and confront her enemy. Her action resulted in the Jewish people celebrating a victory over potential destruction, which they then institutionalized. Jews still commemorate Esther’s choice in the festival of Purim. Esther 9:27–29 makes the celebration of this event a holy obligation, not just an optional observance, from that time forward. Jews worldwide maintain their obligation to celebrate Purim as days when God gave them relief from their enemies, turned their sorrow into gladness, and their mourning into joy.
What would have happened if Esther’s choice had been different? Her circumstances forced a choice between saving her people and protecting herself. God might have raised up someone else to bring deliverance and we would not remember her. But she made a hard and wise choice in an uncertain season.
Each season of life brings opportunities to make contributions that benefit others. I must weigh my decisions today in light of the consequences of tomorrow, both for others and for myself. Only God knows if the seasons to follow will validate my choices of today.
We celebrate Esther’s choice to identify with God’s people. The most important choice we can make is to identify ourselves with God’s people by accepting Jesus as our Savior. That choice will make a difference in every season of life. Now, that is something to celebrate!
How have you seen choices someone made as a young woman affect them in a negative or positive way in later years? What can you learn from such examples? What has God done for you in this season of your life that you can celebrate?
Lord, help me make wise choices today that will have a positive impact on the future. Make me brave in every season of life. Amen.
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