Esther’s Prayer

A few weeks ago, one of the daily readings was about the story of Esther. I was so excited to see that because Esther is probably one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. Her story has always stuck with me because I felt that she was a strong woman who was strong in her faith. I’ve always admired her relationship with God and even once tried to imitate her by taking three days for prayer before making a big life decision.

However, reading the story for the first time in awhile, I saw it in a new light:

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
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.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”
(Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25)

I could see just how much anguish she was in and how fervently she prayed. That last line, “turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness,“ really got to me. Instead of just praying for happiness, she also prayed for wholeness. Without wholeness, happiness becomes fleeting. Wholeness is what we really want. Wholeness makes us complete.

During Mass this morning I thought about this. I thought about the craziness my life had been lately. I thought about the ups and the downs. Sometimes it seemed like a lot of downs. I knew that I needed to pray for wholeness a lot more than happiness.

“Lord, make me whole,” I prayed. “Make me whole.”

 

5 Ways to Trust in God (and Really Mean it)

bahala na

In Filipino culture, we have a saying, Bahala na, meaning, “it’s up to God.” When you encounter a situation in which you no longer have control, you shrug your shoulders, shake your head, and sigh a great, “Bahala na!” It’s up to God now!

It’s a great expression and one that I find myself using when I become so frustrated at life, or upset when things aren’t going my way. It helps me take a step back and realize that God is ultimately the one in control. Trusting in God does not mean you are confident God will bring about YOUR plan, it is about trusting that God HAS a plan and that it is wonderful (even if you don’t know it yet).

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah 29-11

That sounds great! But how does one really, “put trust in God” completely? Sometimes it might mean holding on, persevering through. Yet, other times it might mean letting go, giving something up. Often, we might think we are putting our trust in God but then still feel guided solely by our anxiety and fears.

What does it look like, exactly, to put trust in God completely? As a human being with limitations and fears that hold me back, I cannot answer that question fully. What I can offer are a few suggestions on what I’ve found helpful in developing more trust in God.

I don’t want to just say, “bahala na.” I want to really mean it.

 

how to trust god

5 Ways to trust in God (and really mean it):

1. Give Thanks

What makes your life beautiful? Who brings beauty to your life?

November is the typical time of year where everybody takes the time to remember the things they are grateful for. Cue warm fuzzy feelings. Imagine if you could do that every day, not just the holiday season. Filling your soul with a sense of gratitude and appreciation helps you to recognize the blessings you have and how God has been working in your life, even when you might not have realized it at first. Capture those moments and bask in the glow.

give thanks

2. Look Backwards

I have struggled at times with my faith and my relationship with God. I have even wrestled with belief and the existence of God. But when I look back on the events that have played out in my life, I can see how God has been a guiding hand through everything. Ever noticed the love of an elderly couple that has grown through the longevity of the relationship? When they both look back on their life shared together they can see how each supported and was supported, and it provides a deeper sense of appreciation and love for the other person. Looking back on my relationship with God is like that. It is only when I recognize how God has been moving my life in challenging but growth-filled ways I can understand the magnitude of God’s love. On days when I begin to doubt the presence of God working in my life, I look back at the ways God has brought me to where I am today and I find comfort in what I see.

3. Pray Hard

When you need a good heart-to-heart conversation or are seeking advice about a personal issue, who do you call first? A random friend on facebook that you met once? Of course not! Your call your closest, most trusted friends. And why is that? Because you have gradually built a strong relationship with them over the years and your level of trust has grown. Why wouldn’t it be the same with God? You can’t expect to give your complete trust in God when you have not even begun to develop a relationship with God. Trust then, is not something you do, but rather a result of a deep rooted faith in God and a relationship that has grown stronger over time.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

rooted tree

4. Work Hard

To some, the Filipino expression, Bahala na, takes on a negative connotation. The criticism is that the expression signifies one of laziness or apathy – an excuse to not do anything because “God is already in control.” Instead of working to change a situation for the better or finding a positive solution, the best thing is just to resign a “bahala na,” and not do anything at all. If God wanted the situation to change, God would make something happen to change it, right?

But real faith is not apathetic. While some might live life with that mentality, a majority of people express trust in God because they wholeheartedly believe in the mysterious workings of God. Trusting in God does not signify laziness nor does it mean you are calling it quits. It also doesn’t always mean sitting still. God can’t work in your life unless you are working hard in your life to do your absolute best. If you have talent, use it. If you have been given opportunities you were seeking, take them.

“If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

~ Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily 2013

5. Play Hard

Remember to relax and enjoy life too. Trusting in God doesn’t mean you live life with sombre faces. Find joy in laughter. Appreciate the genuineness of a friendship. Seek out the presence of a beloved a family member. Take inspiration from nature and enjoy the beauty of creation that God gave us.

Accepting that you can’t always control everything in your life is a good thing. Sometimes you do need to just sit still and let God work in your life.

happiness

Appreciate blessings, recognize how God has been working in your life, build your relationship stronger, work to the best of your ability, and don’t forget to enjoy the gifts God has given you. Have patience that God’s awesome plan for you will be revealed slowly over time.

Bahala na!

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

This article was originally posted in the Words of Witness Blog