The Humility of Preparation: Esther’s Story

 “[He is] always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, [pleading] that you may [as persons of ripe character and clear conviction] stand firm and mature [in spiritual growth], convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God.”

– Colossians 4:12

 

Oh, how I love the Lord.  No matter what your season looks like, when it’s with Him, it’s better.  He is truly a good, good Father – always teaching, and always loving, and when He makes us go through humbling growth processes, it doesn’t mean He is mad at us!  He is simply preparing us so He can increase our capacity and fully accomplish His will for our lives.  I’ve recently been asking the Lord to teach me how to navigate through my process, and He reminded me of Esther – the classic example of a godly woman who obeyed Him and was used mightily to help save her people.  She not only honored God ultimately, but throughout her entire journey, and I believe He wants us to take the very same steps in order to prepare according to His will.

So, what did Esther’s preparation look like?

The Bible describes Esther as “beautiful and lovely”, well before she was ever chosen to be taken to the king’s palace (Esther 2:7).  We don’t know if she actually wanted to be there or not, but once she arrived there, Esther immediately humbled herself by submitting to the year-long process of getting ready to meet the king.  She obtained the favor of Hegai, her supervisor, and was quickly given the things for her purification, her portion of food, seven maids, and the best apartment in the harem.  When she finally had the chance she had been preparing for, she laid down her own desires and “required nothing but what Hegai the king’s attendant…suggested” (Esther 2:15).  So, Esther met the king, was chosen as queen, and the rest is history!  Sounds quick and easy, right?!  I’m not so sure.  Let’s take a look at how she handled her preparation season, and imagine it as if we were in it…

 

  1. Esther humbled herself

The first thing we see in this story is that Esther humbled herself and submitted to the immediate process in front of her – the growing season God had placed her in.  Though she came into this situation already considered beautiful and lovely, she didn’t scoff and think, “Nope.  I’m too good for this.  I know who I am.  If the king doesn’t like me as I am, then what is the point?”  She accepted the fact that she needed to be prepared.  She embraced the humility of her “getting ready” season because she realized that there was someone higher that she was placed there to please, and that someone was God!  God knew that Esther needed to grow in humility in order to be strong enough to lay her life down if necessary, so He did not disdain placing her in this year-long season of patience, submission, and personal growth.

Relating this to us: as people who are called by God, our goal should be to ready ourselves in order to be chosen by Him.  However, to be chosen by Him means submitting to the process of His choosing as well.  You see, there is a humility in getting ready the way the Lord wants you to be ready.  Like Esther, you may already be considered “ready” for your next season in the eyes of the world, but it is only the Lord’s eyes that truly count.  He wants to purify us to the core.  If we don’t prepare and purify our hearts by submitting to His process with humility, we won’t be able to receive all that He has for us.  If we think we are ready for more, and we are wondering why He isn’t moving us forward yet, it may be because He is still wanting to work some things out inside of us that we are unaware of (see Field of Dreams blog about partnering with the Lord in what He’s doing in you!).  However, it could also be that He is proud of the way in which you are submitting already – and He is using you as an example exactly where you are.  🙂  Both seasons are valid and can equally be God’s will!  Either way, we need to follow the example of Esther who modeled how to humbly submit to God’s process for as long as it takes.

 

  1. Esther grew in favor with God and man (and in love for them)

In addition to enhancing her outward appearance through the year-long beauty treatments, throughout the book of Esther, the author repeatedly mentions that Esther gained the favor of those around her.  When she gained the king’s attendant’s favor by most likely simply being kind and honoring to him, he blessed her more than all the women, and after Esther was chosen as queen, the king was so elated to bless her that he offered up to half the kingdom to her!  This shows me that not only did Esther humble herself enough to submit to her process of purification, but she also took every opportunity to learn how to love and honor those around her.  God was growing her in favor with Himself, and in favor with man – just like the process that Jesus went through!  I asked the Lord why this was so important, and He showed me Ephesians 1:7-12:

“7 In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, 8 which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding…12 so that we who first hoped in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him have been destined and appointed to] live for the praise of His glory!”

Wow.  So, through His salvation, God has given us favor so we can live for the praise of His glory, or in other words, be His representatives on the earth!  In fact, if we are truly living for the praise of His glory, God will ensure we have the most favor possible with Him and His people so we can glorify His name even more!  Growing in favor with God and man is not self-promoting or selfish, but it is a process in which we actually live our lives in such a way to say: “It’s not about me.”  If we live to love and please the Lord, we will obey Him by placing Him, and then others, before ourselves.  When we do that, the Lord grants us favor because He sees – “Now, that is a person I can honor and bless who will not let it go to their head!  They will ultimately honor and bless Me no matter what!”

Think about it: God wanted Esther to be in the palace so she could save her people and give Him glory.  If she was worried and fearful about growing in favor with man by becoming queen, she would have completely missed out on the opportunity that God had hand-picked her for!  On the other hand, if she was selfish once she got to the palace, she would have ignored her Uncle Mordecai’s request of her to go before the king, her people wouldn’t have been saved by her influence, and not to mention she could have lost her own life in trying to preserve it!  Because Esther prepared her heart and character in her preparation season by growing in love for other people, she was ready when the Lord called her to lay her life down for them.  Her choice to ultimately go before the king even though she could have been killed took all the courage she had, but God had grown her so much in love for Him and His people that she could not imagine disobeying, and He had also grown her in favor so that His will could be fulfilled.

 

  1. Esther laid her desires down to pick up her king’s

The final way in which Esther humbled herself in her preparation season was in choosing what to bring with her into the king’s chamber.  To give a little context, the book of Esther actually began when the previous queen, Vashti, rebelled against the king’s desires.  She, just like Esther, had been given the royal preparation and placement in the palace as queen, but she lost it all due to not being willing to forsake her own desires and honor her king’s.  On the other hand, so many girls other than Esther went through the year-long purification process, but they were not chosen.  Could it be that they were unwilling to be teachable or to learn from the king’s attendant what it was the king actually desired?  To put it in terms that relate to us, could it be that they had not yet learned to submit to the Holy Spirit, their parents, and their leaders, and instead chose to do/say/have whatever they personally wanted instead?  They may have forgotten that the goal was not what they wanted, but what the king wanted.  The goal was to marry the king.

One of the greatest things that we can learn from a waiting season or preparation process like Esther’s is how to lay down our desires for the Lord’s.  When we come to know Him more – which is what a waiting season allows us the time for – we discover that His desires were actually what we wanted all along.  We can now come to Him with honesty and say, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  To think that He loves us enough to actually give us the time and space to learn and grow into what is best for us!  He has in mind for us even greater glory than we can fathom, and He is strengthening our character so that we can stand, no matter what happens.  He wants us to humble ourselves, like Esther, to submit to the process He has us in and to choose to lay down our own desires for His greater ones.  Our goal is to marry our King.  🙂

 

In conclusion, preparing to walk further into God’s will for us…yes, it is humbling, yes, it is stretching, yes, it can be a long road, but it is marked by intimacy with the Father, a greater understanding of ourselves, and the confidence that His love makes it worth it all.  As long as it takes, getting ready the way God wants grows us in humility, in favor with God and man, and in learning how to lay down our desires for His.  Just like Esther, God desires that we be so reliant on Him that, when given the opportunity to do something for His Kingdom, we will not cower and shrink back, but instead, even through our fear, we will stand with boldness, courage, and obedience.  The longer your preparation season, the more He is preparing you for.

Will you submit to the humility of preparation like Esther?

 

Blog Pic: Prayer Garden at St. Benedict’s Convent in Dumfries, Scotland

Rejection is a Lie

Unraveling pain through letting the Lord in to heal it is a process.  Once we surrender He can heal it all in one go, but I really believe that we still need to submit to the process of letting Him change the way we think about the pain in addition to how we feel in order to FULLY heal.

What does that look like?  It looks like facing exactly what you’ve experienced and felt head on.  You see, when it comes to pain, there are good days and bad days.  Many people think that the way to heal is to ignore the pain and wait for the good days, but that is actually denial, and a way to keep yourself from fully healing!  Good days don’t mean that we don’t still have some painful residue in our hearts that needs to be dealt with, and bad days can be made even worse if we do not confront the ways we feel with the Lord according to His Word.  One way to do this is, when you feel pain about something, immediately ask the Lord: Why am I feeling this way right now, and what do You have to say about it?

I want to share about a time in which I practiced this with the Lord according to what I was feeling in the moment, which was specifically the feeling of rejection.  He spoke these exact words into my spirit to combat it:

“Isn’t it time you took off the lie that you’ve been rejected?”

Wow.  I thought of that all day after He said it, but I needed Him to clarify what He meant.  You see, how was my feeling rejected a lie if I actually was rejected?  Well, that night, I felt the Lord telling me to read an extremely familiar passage in Isaiah.  I’ve read it so many times that my Bible literally flips open to it now, so I definitely remembered what it said.  However, this time, God showed me something that I never noticed before:

‘“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God” (Isaiah 54:6).

Did you catch that?  I’ve read this verse so many times…SO MANY TIMES, and yet I never noticed those two little words.  As if.  As if you were rejected.  What does that mean for you and me?  It means that – if you are a Christian and you’ve ever felt that someone has rejected you, and you have carried the “Rejected” label with you, you’ve actually believed a lie about yourself.  How do I know this?  Because Jesus was rejected so that I could be accepted.  Take a look with me at Isaiah 53, just one chapter before the verse I mentioned:

“…(Jesus) had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.  Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5).

Jesus RADICALLY loves me.  He loves me so much that He actually chose to come to this earth as a baby – the most humble of creation and in creation’s clothes, not His glorious ones!  He not only lived a normal life so that He could understand me in all that I feel on this earth, but He died a gruesome death and faced absolute separation from the Father in order to become one with me.  He was despised, rejected, a man of suffering, familiar with pain, held in low esteem, punished, stricken, afflicted, pierced, crushed, and wounded…for me.  Let that sink in for a minute.  That is radical love to the highest extent.  And why did He do this?  So that I, who once was rejected, though not anywhere near what He experienced, could be fully and completely accepted.  I am accepted by the Father and loved unconditionally, not for anything that I have done, but because of what He has done for me.  If He calls me accepted, how then can I be rejected?  If He went to such lengths to prove His love for me, how can I dwell in feeling rejected by people on earth?  I am not of this world.  That means that the world may reject me (in fact, Jesus said they will), but if I am already accepted, then I do not have to take that label on!

REJECTION IS A LIE.

After we are “rejected” by the people of this world, we have to take care and evaluate if we are believing things that are true: what God says, and not just how we feel.  We have all experienced this kind of pain in varying degrees, whether it was from a significant other, a friend, or a family member, but the Lord did not go to the lengths mentioned in Isaiah 53 for you to feel that way forever.  Instead, He did it so that no matter what happened in the past or will happen to you in the future, you can be free from all labels and take on His name: “Loved.”  Make sure that you do not allow what has happened to you define you, change your personality, or change your thoughts about yourself in any way.  If it does, then you can know that that is from the enemy, and not from God.  God wants to be your Source of identity, rest, satisfaction, and love – and His opinion is the only one that counts.

So, with all of that being said, I really just wanted to share a few simple steps that I took in order to hear the Lord speak to me in this area of pain.  I know He wants to do the same in you.  🙂  If you feel like you’re in a painful season, here’s some tips to process through it:

  1. Ask Him why you feel what you feel and what He thinks about it.
    • When I heard God tell me to take off the lie that I had been rejected, I was shocked. I thought, “What?!  The LIE that I’ve been rejected?  But Lord, You know how I feel!”  Yes, He does.  And He does not minimize or diminish our painful feelings at all.  However, in the midst of what we feel, He wants to speak truth to us so we can HEAL.  Sometimes, we experience pain that only the Lord can comfort, but sometimes, we put ourselves through pain by not receiving the comfort that God has already given us!  We have the power to shut down lies and false feelings that the enemy tries to use against us when we meditate on God’s truth!
  2. Confront the things you feel with the Word of God.
    • We MUST take all of our painful processing to Jesus because when we feel a sense of sorrow or pain, if we do not confront it with the truth of God’s Word about it, we can take it on as a label.  I felt I was rejected, and because of that, what I did not realize was that I began carrying around that memory as a new identity!  The Lord had to show me that if I was rejected, that was because that was not what He had for me, and I did NOT have to take the label “Rejected” into my future.  This can apply to other areas of pain as well.  For example, if you feel loneliness, you have to fight the temptation to believe the lie that you are just a “Loner.”  Or, if you feel like you’ve failed in certain areas, you must break the lie that you are a “Failure.”  You have to confront the lie that is confronting you in order to move on and let the Lord heal you!
  3. Believe that what He says about you is true.
    • When the Lord told me to take off the lie that I had been rejected, I thought about it all day long.  Could that be true – that the rejection I felt was actually just surface level?  I knew that the Lord wasn’t ignoring what had happened to me, but that He was speaking a truth that was deeper than what I had experienced.  I had to accept the label that He gave me instead: Accepted.  If He says you are accepted, YOU ARE, and that’s that!  Otherwise, what foundation are you standing on – that of your shifting feelings, or that of His everlasting love and truth?  I pray always the latter, for you and for me.  🙂

You do not have to feel bad for needing to process through the painful things that have happened to you.  The Lord created you to need Him and He will give you all the time you need!  The only way to fully heal is to partner with Him in the healing that He brings, and He is so willing to bring as much as we’re willing to receive.  🙂

 

Blog Pic: Loch Lomond in Scotland