By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
Life has a way of twisting and turning in directions we never imagined. As a corporate accountant turned homeschool mom turned missionary turned writer, I speak with some authority on this subject. And those are just my highlights.
Roadblocks, or problems, created many new opportunities in my life. For example, I married and moved in the middle of going to college. The college in my new town didn’t offer the degree I had half finished. That problem became an opportunity to pursue a degree in accounting. Another time a financial need prodded me into a job where I took advantage of training that I used later for advancement.
Those events occurred in my life before I understood how “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). Having now tucked a few years of life under my belt, I perceive that God allowed problems in my life to open doors into opportunities.
Problems bombard from all directions. Sometimes life just happens—a water leak floods your basement, the car breaks down, a loved one dies. Other times, someone else causes your problem—your employment shuttered because of mismanagement, you were a victim of crime, or your spouse leaves you. Within all these problems, God provides opportunities.
Do you wonder, though, if God’s opportunities extend to those situations where we create our own problems? Emphatically, I say, “Yes!” In fact, I think God shines brightest in times like these. Through Hosea, the prophet, God speaks of His beloved, yet wayward, people of Israel.
But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. (Hosea 2:14-15a NLT)
What a spectacular promise God made to people who had disdained Him. They refused to acknowledge His lordship and transferred their worship to other gods. Even so, God’s mercy knows no bounds. For His rebellious people—that includes you and me—God opens a “gateway of hope” in the “Valley of Trouble.” A “valley of trouble” implies those people had a plague of problems. Worse, they brought their problems with God upon themselves. Nevertheless, He planned to turn their problems into hope-filled opportunities.
Queen Esther’s Problem
Let’s turn to another person whose story God included in the Bible to glean useful information about turning problems into opportunities.
Queen Esther’s problem far outsized her authority and influence. A Jew hiding her ethnicity behind a Persian name, she learned that evil Haman had convinced her husband, the king, to sign a royal decree to cleanse the kingdom of all Jews, including her. Distressed by the edict, Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, petitioned her to intervene with the king.
The problem? The queen wasn’t allowed to approach the king unless he called for her. Waiting for a summons might consign the Jews to extinction, but going in immediately almost certainly meant a death sentence for Esther. What’s a queen to do?
Let’s follow Esther through six steps that turned her problem into opportunities.
1. Understand the full scope of the problem.
Then Esther sent for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who had been appointed as her attendant. She ordered him to go to Mordecai and find out what was troubling him and why he was in mourning. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the square in front of the palace gate. Mordecai told him the whole story, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews. He asked Hathach to show it to Esther and explain the situation to her. He also asked Hathach to direct her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. (Esther 4:5-8)
Sometimes fear or the hassle of confrontation sends us running to bury our heads in the nearest sand dune. Sooner or later, though, the winds blow the grains away, and we look up to find the problem has grown rather than diminished.
Instead of avoidance, wouldn’t it be better to learn more about the problem? Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Even as Esther hoped to stay out of the fray, she sent her servant to her uncle to investigate. He gathered all the pertinent evidence and details and reported to Queen Esther. With the facts in hand, she could decide how to deal with the problem.
Note that Esther did not minimize the problem. She admitted the awful reality of the planned genocide. In the same way, we should not downplay the severity of our problems. Nor do we need to apply spiritual platitudes that sugarcoat. We serve a big God far greater than the scope of any problem we encounter. If we understate the size of our obstacle, then we also understate the power of our God.
2. Remember the character of God.
After evaluating the information her servant gathered from Mordecai, Esther had doubts. The danger of approaching the king without a summons loomed large in her mind, so she sent a message about her fear to Mordecai. He quickly replied, reminding her in Esther 4:14, “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.”
Mordecai knew God well enough to depend on Him for deliverance from this disaster. He was also convinced that Esther should risk being part of the solution. His instruction didn’t indicate a callous disregard for her safety. On the contrary, he dearly loved his niece. That’s why he trusted her well-being to God.
Mordecai’s trust stemmed from all he remembered about God’s promises and faithfulness to generation after generation of Jews. God proved Himself to Mordecai, and He will prove Himself to you as you depend on Him to turn your problems into opportunities.
3. Embrace the blessing of being called by God.
Mordecai helps Esther overcome her fear by helping her find purpose in God. After remarking on the character of God in Esther 4:14 (NLT), he finishes by asking a question. “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
You have a purpose today for which God has been preparing you all your life. Everything is set in place by Him for today. If God presents a problem, then He also gives you the opportunity to bear His image and glory through it. Today is your destiny.
4. Prioritize a plan.
Once Esther embraced her destiny, she formulated a plan. Number one on the list? Go to God.
Esther didn’t want to take another step, certainly not one so dangerous as approaching the king, without seeking God’s presence and guidance.
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. (Esther 4:15-16a NLT)
All the Jews in town, including Esther, unified in fasting and petitioning to God for His protection and provision. Prayer wasn’t a stalling tactic for Esther. Prayer armed her for battle. Through prayer, God equipped her to act. Through prayer, God opened a door of opportunity within her problem.
5. Exhibit bravery.
“And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” (Esther 4:16b NLT)
Esther’s words sound fatalistic, but she had just fortified herself in God through prayer. She knew her life had always been in the best possible hands—God’s.
When we realize this truth for ourselves, fear melts away. We can obey His guidance because we trust His ability to turn any problem into an opportunity.
6. Follow through.
The remaining chapters of Esther tell the dramatic story of how she stepped through each part of God’s plan for her. It’s worth reading and rereading. Spoiler alert—the king extends favor to Esther, she lives and prospers, God stops the genocide, the bad guy dies, and Mordecai becomes an important palace official. God opened multiple doors of opportunity through this seemingly insurmountable problem.
God doesn’t make cookie-cutter happy endings. Your problem may not be resolved in the same way as Esther’s. Parts of your story may continue to be difficult. But you can rest assured that God will fulfill His promise of bringing a good opportunity to you through your problem. Keep an eye out for it.
Our Weaknesses Showcase God’s Strength
I began by telling of a few examples of my own problems that turned into opportunities. I didn’t know at my young age who controlled the universe. Somehow, I thought it might be me pulling all the strings. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We have no power to make “everything work together for good.” How could we possibly make something good out of the most heinous acts of sin or the most devastating of natural disasters? Only God holds that level of redemptive power through His Son Jesus.
Knowing who possesses the power, let’s be like Apostle Paul, who bragged about God’s work within his many problems. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
Will you apply what we learn about God through Esther’s example to the problem in your life today? God waits for your trust and obedience, hand already on the knob of a door of opportunity.
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.