Where Is God?
by Chris Altrock
Some friends of mine recently experienced the loss of their unborn daughter. It was a dark time for their family. Yet, unexpectedly, the father shared with me, “More than at any other point in my life, I’ve experienced God’s presence and comfort.” Another family I’m close to watched their treasured possessions turn to ash in a massive home fire. A year after the flames, I asked the mom about the experience. “God,” she said, “was so present through all of it.”
These are remarkable people who are living out the kind of faith found in the book of Esther. No matter what’s in front of you, God’s always behind you. Even in the gloom of smoke and ash, God is present and active.
Esther faced what my friends faced—and much more. As a young girl, Esther lost her parents. She was relocated to a foreign nation whose conduct and creeds clashed with hers. Esther was kidnapped by a king and forced to participate in his quest for a queen. And once she became queen, Esther faced a formidable foe whose racism and nationalism motivated a plan to murder every Jew. Yet even in this darkness, Esther saw the divine.
Yet we don’t really want lives like my friends’ lives and Esther’s life. What most of us prefer is an Exodus kind of life, a life where God is front and center, acting in ways that can’t be missed, speaking in tones that can always be heard. The sun always shines. The clouds never gather. It’s the kind of life promised by Christianity’s prosperity gospel, where mighty miracles are delivered daily and every prayer is answered with a yes.
Despite our desire for an Exodus life, what we often receive is an Esther life. It’s a life where God is backstage, acting in ways that are difficult to discern, speaking in tones that are hard to hear. Yet it’s a life where God’s still busy—behind the scenes. It’s a life where God is present even in His apparent absence.
Esther introduces us to a brave, gritty, and tenacious faith that believes, even in home wrecks and heartaches, even in inequality and injustice, even in the face of murder and mayhem, we can find the hand of God.
Through Esther’s story, we learn how to thrive even when it seems like God is hiding. This book beckons us to look behind Esther, beyond the easily evident bigotry and butchery, which are front and center in Esther’s pages. We are invited to find the God in the background, the One present in the midst of all the mess. By reflecting on Esther, we learn to discern the God backstage, to bring God back into focus.
We do this by adopting habits that enable us to reenchant our world. These twelve practices empower us to rediscover God, to see Him around corners, to encounter Him in spots where we’ve failed or forgotten to look. Each chapter in Behind Esther explores a different one of these practices.
Esther’s story is the perfect story for today’s world, and, perhaps, for your life. It’s a story that teaches us how to discover God in the darkness, how to find God in the fog, how to share in God’s slow work in the world—a work unnoticed by some, yet a work so powerful that, by the end of Esther’s story, it saves an entire nation and kicks off a party to end all parties. No matter where you find yourself today, in the end, you’ll find that God has always been behind you, and soon, you’ll be throwing a party as well.
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