COVID Anniversary: What Esther Teaches Christians about Fear
Since March of 2020, Americans have observed the crippling effects of fear on a nation. Twelve months have passed since many of us have seen close family and friends in person. We have witnessed depression and anxiety skyrocket. Satan deals in fear, and the last twelve months have proven to be his year to shine.
Fear is a natural human emotion. It sparks the fight or flight response, protecting people from harm. Anxiety often attacks when we flip on the news and watch the ticker numbers climb at the bottom of the television screen, alerting viewers that COVID cases continue to rise. Social-media apps that share mostly bad news feed into our fears. Time spent with people who constantly remind us that the world is dangerous, and that death lurks nearby, further our sense of dread.
Fear itself is not sinful; wallowing in fear is. Scripture commands followers of Christ to avoid wallowing.
Like many of my fellow Americans, I have allowed myself to wallow in fear, not related to a virus, but rather to a weakening democratic republic, as I witness persecution of Christians increase and religious liberty stripped away.
In December 2020, I prayed that, somehow, Jesus would make life easier and more normal in 2021. Before I could finish that prayer, I knew in my heart that “easy” and “normal” would not be possible in the coming year. In fact, as a Bible-believing Christ follower, I realized that 2021 would be far worse for followers of Christ than 2020.
Believers in the West have enjoyed centuries of religious freedom, but it some of these freedoms are being stripped away. We know that the Church will face persecution in the Last Days – the beginning of the birth pains described in Mark 13:8. These birth pains are increasing in speed and intensity.
Across North America, pastors have faced fines of thousands of dollars and arrest for remaining open in defiance of government restrictions. H.R. 5, the so-called Equality Act, threatens legal ramifications against “religious institutions such as private religious schools and colleges, and churches, synagogues, and other Judeo-Christian ministry organizations” that adhere to the standards of scripture. And this is only the beginning of persecution against Western Christians.
Recently, during my quiet time with the Lord, a statement popped into my head just as despondence threatened to overwhelm me: You were born for such a time as this.
“Excuse me. Repeat that, please?”
You were born for such a time as this.
For such a time as this? When free speech is dying? When America seems broken beyond repair? When tensions are reaching a boiling point in the Middle East? A time of pandemics, wars, and rumors of war?
Yes. You were born for such a time as this.
In Esther 4:14, these famous words hailed from Mordecai’s mouth as Esther quaked at the thought of approaching a king on behalf of her people: “…if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther, who was tragically orphaned and taken in by her older cousin, Mordecai, experienced her share of tragedy. Her people lived in exile, scattered throughout Persia. Esther was taken, likely against her will, to live in the king’s harem until she was abused by the king. Next, she was moved to another harem. Eventually, she learned of the king’s decree that all Jews were to be eradicated. King Xerxes had no idea Esther was one of them.
Childhood Sunday-school accounts captured Esther as calm and dignified. But realistically, she must have been terrified. She had no control over the events around her until she heard Mordecai’s critical words: “for such a time as this.”
Most likely, Esther asked God at the height of her fears, “Why me? Why now?” Surely these questions have crossed the minds of many believers over the last twelve months. As the worldwide Church endures increasing persecution, we wonder what our place is in all of this. Why you? Why me?
Because we were born for such a time as this.
We were born to spread truth to a darkening world.
We were born to expose and oppose false teachers who seek to divide and confuse the body of Christ.
We were born to raise our children and grandchildren in biblical truth.
We were born to stand apart from the crowd and resist the mainstream in word and deed.
Christians in the West are soft. We are not used to standing up for our faith in life-or-death situations. Unlike Christian converts in China, North Korea and Iran, Western Christians have traditionally enjoyed overwhelming freedom. Maybe we have experienced push back in universities or work settings. Perhaps we have been ridiculed by friends, family members, or strangers upon hearing our beliefs. But true persecution – as experienced by believers around the globe – is unfamiliar to today’s Western believers.
The truth is, following Jesus was never supposed to be easy. Jesus reminded his apostles in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The same is true for His disciples in modern Western civilization.
We don’t know why God chose to put us on the earth during these days. As believers, we will endure persecution. We should take solace in the fact that our existence in this time and place was orchestrated by the Creator Himself. He will equip us with the tools that we need to survive what’s coming and bless us for our faithfulness if we cling to Him.
Kathleen Bustamante is a freelance writer and college writing instructor in Portland, Oregon whose work has been published in The American Conservative, American Thinker, Real Clear Religion, World News Daily, James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Woman Alive, and The War Cry.