At Bible study last week (thank goodness for Zoom!), we read Esther 5. If you’re not familiar with Esther, she was a Jewish woman who became queen to King Ahasuerus. At this point in the book, Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, warned Esther that a man named Haman had devised a plan against the Jews and instructed her to go to the king to plead for his favor and help.
This request from Mordecai worried Esther because there was a rule in the kingdom that anyone who went to the king without being called could be put to death. The king hadn’t summoned her in thirty days, and she didn’t want to risk the potential consequences of going to him without him asking for her. Eventually Mordecai responds:
“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”” – Esther 4:13-14 (NASB)
I don’t let myself read ahead for Bible study because I don’t want my mind coming up with an overly thought out answer throughout the week. This week was no different, and what came next in chapter 5 turned out to be so perfectly timed for right now while many of us are separated from each other. Esther heeds Mordecai’s words and goes to the king in spite of her initial fears. The king’s response?
“Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.”” – Esther 5:3 (NASB)
Here Esther was afraid the king might kill her, but his immediate response was to ask her what was wrong and offer her half the kingdom. Her fears told her there was a chance she would die, but the reality was that the king was ready to welcome her in and accept her. What a relief!
Esther goes on to ask the king to come with Haman to a banquet she prepared for them, with the intention of speaking to the king about Haman’s plan there. Interestingly, these chapters don’t just record Esther’s fears and feelings about herself, they also record Haman’s pride and inflated idea of himself too:
“Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman also said, “Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king.”” – Esther 5:11-12 (NASB)
Here Haman was thinking he was the coolest thing since sliced bread, bragging that even Queen Esther had invited only him to attend her banquet for the king. The reality this time was that he was being set up to be called out.
While we’re all physically separated, it’s easy to feel emotionally separated too. Especially as email and text overtake in-person conversations, there is so much that doesn’t get communicated when you’re not face to face.
I smiled reading this as God started to speak relief to some of the thoughts that had been running through my mind as I adjusted to being separated from people. Those are some of the lies our minds tell us:
- “They don’t want to hear from you.”
- “They’re already catching up with a lot of other people, don’t bug them.”
- “You’re overreacting. They’ll think you’re dramatic.”
- ”You’re under-reacting. They’ll think you’re insensitive.”
- Or even “You are alone in this.”
The truth? We all need each other and we’re all learning how to handle changes as they come. Most people are actually pretty happy to get a new message or phone call right now. When people are isolated, it’s encouraging to hear that someone is thinking of them.
Even still, I didn’t learn. The next morning (not even 24 hours later), I woke up to someone talking to me. I hadn’t been breathing well and really hadn’t slept well in a couple weeks, so as I opened my eyes half-asleep, I thought the person was yelling at me. In my head she was saying it was my fault and I needed to figure it out, but I fell asleep again before I could say anything.
I walked around for two days – two. days. – thinking she was mad at me until I finally asked. Turns out, she had been asking me if I was ok and feeling any better… A bit different from the “reality” my mind had convinced me of.
My takeaway from Bible study (and something I got to re-learn in the days after) was that our feelings can be deceptive. Especially when we are separated from other people, those lies often seek to isolate us even further until we’re too discouraged to reach out to people. Even short conversations and check-ins can remind us of the sweet friends and family that we will be reunited with soon enough.
I’ve been reminded of 1 Peter 5:7-8 as we’re learning how to overcome physical isolation:
“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:7-8 (NASB)
Isolation can weaken us if we’re not staying focused on God’s truth. And as we become more discouraged, it can be easier for the devil to plant fear or magnify stressors that existed beforehand. While we’re not all around each other as much, it’s also going to take more discipline paying attention to what we’re thinking on and believing.
We find stability as we learn to trust God with our feelings and base our perspectives of ourselves on Him. He gives us a foundation to stand on even in the moments when it feels like everything else is unsteady. Whether you have learned to be content and thankful in your current situation or you are struggling to stay positive, be encouraged that you are not alone. Our current situations, whatever they may be, have an end date, and we’ll all get through it… together. 🙂
Here’s to our journey!
A simple prayer for the journey:
Please teach me how to get better at looking to You for the truth, so I can be less distracted by fears and more focused on Your direction.