Have you ever been in desperate straits? Where the hand-holds that once existed to help you move up and out of failure, pending doom, a vice of pressures, confusion or great emotional debilitation have disappeared? Where perhaps your family is no longer a safe place to turn, where savings are gone, where the well-meaning advice from friends only goes so far and institutions that were once around to offer guidance and a safety net are no longer able to help you? Have you ever felt utterly alone in the darkness of your own fear and helplessness?
This is where Queen Esther finds herself in today’s reading. The text says she was “seized with mortal anguish.” She is on her way to persuade King Xerxes that he should not kill her people, and all she has to bank on is her historic favor with the king. There is no one to help her, and if Xerxes ignores his personal affection and instead follows Persian law, she will be executed on the spot, and all the Jews will be massacred. Talk about high stakes.
But one thing she had: “recourse to the Lord.” The Scripture says “She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God.”
These words are Lenten words. This is the prayer of Jesus in the desert, of David in the Psalter. It’s the prayer of all those blessed of God who have been stricken by circumstance, perhaps even by His call.
It takes extremes to ask boldly of our Lord. Either extreme and seemingly impossible circumstances, or extreme faith and holy trust. Our God meets both – perhaps not always in the way we think we need, and usually not on our timetable. But He delights in acting when all other safety nets are gone. His ear is bent to hear us ask for rescue.
This Lent, as you experience a time of deprivation, what comes to mind as those places where you need God to come crashing in? Is there an area of desperation in your life, of seeming intractability, that you can surrender to His redeeming power? In this season of weakness more keenly felt, I would encourage you to practice the intensity of Esther’s prayer, and to consider those choices that may be blocking you from truly meaning it. Our God promises to answer.
Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me. (Psalm 138:1). Let us invite that testimony.
Reflected by Anne Snyder