Every day we all face challenges that will either stump us or cause us to grow. Even if we make the wrong decision, we can still learn from it and know what to do the next time the challenge comes. But if you don’t know what to do and you choose to do nothing, what will you learn from it?
Today’s verses come out of the Book of Esther, which I was reading last night. Two sets really stood out to me:
Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.
“All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” So Hathach gave Esther’s message to Mordecai. Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 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 just such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or 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.”
Granted Esther’s situation was a little different than any that we will probably face today. She’d been taken from the life she knew and made a queen because of her beauty, and an evil man in the king’s court was trying to annihilate the Jewish people. And it fell to Esther to stop him.
But even though her situation was very different from any we will likely face anytime soon, the principles of how she acted during that time are still relevant to us today.
Before Esther even reached the king’s court, she has already built a habit of humility by obeying her cousin Mordecai. So when Mordecai told her to keep her heritage a secret, she didn’t hesitate to obey him.
Then when the plot to destroy the Jews came to light and Mordecai told her to ask the king for help, even though she hesitated out of fear, when Mordecai reminded her that God had put her in a position of authority for a reason, she did it.
Part of doing the right thing is making it into a habit so that when you face the really difficult times, it’s easier to do what you know is right even if it’s scary.
Pop culture would have us believe that courage is some mystical force we summon up out of the blue in order to face the great fears that average people shrink away from. Maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe some people are just bolder than others. But courage isn’t magical and it isn’t something that just materializes. It’s something you have to work on. It’s something you have to choose to do over and over again before it really makes any difference.
Just as it’s important to make doing the right thing a habit, doing courageous things needs to be a habit too. But courage doesn’t always present itself in the grand light the movies and books always display it. Courage is small sometimes. It’s not always attractive. And it’s not always successful – at least in the way the world would call successful.
Courage can be as small and insignificant as smiling at a homeless person. That doesn’t sound big. That doesn’t sound earth shaking. Maybe it’s not. But if you’re a shy, introverted person (like me), it’s you putting yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s you caring more about someone else than yourself. It’s you risking that in response, that person might speak to you, and when you’re an introvert, that’s terrifying. But courage is action in spite of fear, trusting that God has put you where He’s put you for a reason and will catch you when you step wrong.
Even Esther didn’t see the results of her courage until later. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 deal with her plan. She didn’t just come out and ask immediately for what she wanted. She had to prepare the king’s heart for what she was going to ask. But that meant patience.
Courage is something we all need to have. But it isn’t going to look like what the movies say it will. It’s often small, and it’s often very personal. But if you take courage and do what God is calling you to do, even if it feels small at the time, He will use your actions to do something incredible with it.
That’s what God does. He takes our small act of courage and uses it to bless a lot of people.