“What external circumstances are you using as an excuse for disobedience?” That’s the question we discussed this week in Bible study. My answer was that I don’t share my faith because I fear career repercussions if I come across as “too Christian” in a secular workplace. I tell myself I can do more good by keeping silent in the long-term than by speaking out now and risking only being there for the short-term.
Someone asked if not sharing was really that wrong. My answer was yes, but not because my silence was inherently sinful. My answer was yes because, when God calls you to something and you run the other way, that’s sin (cue Jonah). Even if everyone else is running that direction—even if God has called everyone else to run that direction— but God says, “Carolyn, not you,” and yet you keep running, that’s sin.
But why am I so afraid to obey? For a while now, God has been tapping at my heart about sharing Him with others and driving me to discomfort with where I’m standing comfortably (that is, in silence about Him and what He’s done for me, except in “church” circles). It’s a known fact that a consistent drop of water in war can drive a person to confessions of treason and murder, just to get away from the discomfort of a little drip. That’s where God has me in my unwillingness to be courageous for Him—at the point where the little tapping (not exerting all His power but leaving me to my own free will) is about to drive me to obedience.
After all, if God is so insistent that I do something, isn’t there a reason? Why would He call me to set me up for utter failure? I’m not saying I expect it to be easy and or even that I expect it to be fruitful, but the Bible says that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. So even if I never see the greater good, as long as I obey even when I fear, there will be a greater good.
That brings me back to Esther. Last week, I wrote about her actions, and this week, I planned to write about her character. I planned to write about her selflessness (although admittedly part of her bravery was for self-preservation). But I’ve changed my mind, and instead of drawing a stark line between her actions and her character, I want to talk about how they tie together, about her courage to do the impossible and where that courage came from and how to find it for ourselves, because I see a lot of Present Carolyn in what Esther could’ve been.
Let’s take a second and imagine Esther if she’d been too fearful to obey (and keep in mind that in Esther’s case, the only act required for disobedience was the act of standing still). If Esther had remained in inaction or even just procrastination, the order to kill the Jews would’ve gone out. Esther’s people (and likely Esther herself) would have died, while Haman and his followers lived. If Esther had stayed still and silent because she was comfortable in her palace room, if she’d have “pulled a Carolyn” and said, “I can do more good for God here in the palace alive than I could by risking my life going before the king,” God’s people would have been wiped out. Right there in Persia, the line of King David’s descendants would have ended. Right there in Persia, the line of the Messiah would’ve ended.
But instead, Esther chose courage. She chose to step out of her comfort zone and into the king’s presence. Courage is action, but courage is also deeply rooted in character, because it is the action of being brave and the trait of being selfless. Courage is laying down your life for your brother. Courage is a quality of Esther, but courage is also a quality of Christ.
You see, Esther’s story is significant because she was a queen who saved the Jewish people, but also because her life was a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah. Esther was an advocate for her people before King Ahasuerus, and Jesus is an advocate for us before God. Although Esther never died for her people, by stepping before the king she showed her willingness. And although Jesus did die for His people—not just the Jews but any human who believes—, He rose from the dead to stand forever in the gap between us and God.
Courage and selflessness of this magnitude never come from within ourselves. I’m the girl cowardly enough to sleep with the lights on and the dog in the bed if Matthew’s gone. I’m the girl who won’t take a sick day even when I need it because it might make me look bad to my boss. I’m the girl selfish enough to swerve around other cars to be one or two spots further ahead at the red light. I’m the girl who would rather watch Netflix all Saturday than go to Love Loud at church. By myself, I am incapable of being brave and I am incapable of being selfless.
And yet, Esther was just a girl like me. The only real difference is that she trusted in her God and took one step into the throne room, one step that risked her life but saved her people. With God on my team, I can be everything I’m not. Today I took a risk and said something “Christian” to a friend at work. It wasn’t much, but it was a step of obedience. Did I feel embarrassment or shame? No, I felt something unexpected—a sense of relief. I was finally on the team of the One who’s already won. Suddenly it hit me that this isn’t my game; it’s His. And if I’m playing by His rules, if I’m just willing to take my position on the field, the game plan and the winning are all His.
Will you be a woman like Esther who risks all comfort to be Christ’s advocate to the world? Will you follow in the footsteps of an ancient queen and step out in faith no matter how much you’re drowning in fear? All it takes is one step of obedience. All it takes is one step into His arms.