Author: Karly Grant
June is often a time of celebration. From graduations, end of a school year, Father’s Day and the beginning of wedding season, there is often one party after another. In my family there are several birthdays and retirements as I have always been surrounded by educators. All of these milestones are absolutely deserving of recognition, the accomplishments honored, and an acknowledgment of the hard work it took to get there. However, I would argue that it is equally as important to celebrate the victories, blessings, and accomplishments in life that may not be as planned or anticipated in our lives.
Life has not been easy lately as I’ve seen plans that I have made seemingly unravel around me. Things that I anticipated celebrating simply haven’t happened. However, God has remained faithful in showing me the small victories hidden in every day. He has used these disappointments to pave the way for His plans to find life down the road.
For example, I recently started a new job. A job for a company that I didn’t plan to work, in a state that I didn’t plan to be in, and at a different time than I would have liked. On paper, this new path I’m walking is the exact opposite of what I had planned. However, with this job comes opportunity down the road that I hadn’t anticipated, which may actually make my eventual move an easier process. I can celebrate the fact that God is opening doors, even if they are different than the doors that I have been trying to pry open myself.
As I have been rejoicing in these unexpected celebrations, I can’t help but think of women in the Bible who found themselves also celebrating things they may not have anticipated or that worked out completely differently than they planned.
The mother of Jesus. I have never walked in her shoes, who has, but I doubt that as a child she dreamed of growing up and immaculately conceiving as a teenager, which led her to give birth in a stable to the Messiah.
Even when we dream big, we can’t out dream God. His dream is likely grander than anything we have ever dreamed for ourselves. Mary didn’t plan this life and was understandably terrified as the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Yet it didn’t take her long to trust God and celebrate. Luke 1:46-55 tells of Mary’s song which begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46b-47 ESV). Mary rejoiced even when things didn’t go as planned.
Let’s go back in time to another example of a woman rejoicing about pregnancy. Genesis tells the story of Sarah and Abraham. God had promised that Abraham’s offspring would become a great nation, yet Sarah found herself in her 90s with no children. She was so set in her own understanding of God’s plan that she laughed when she heard that it had been prophesied that she would give birth in her old age. She doubted God, as any of us would in that situation. Yet her laughter was turned to celebration when she named her son Isaac which means “he will laugh.” Genesis 21:6-7 records her response, “And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
While childbearing was a common theme for women in the Bible and often seen as a sign of God’s favor on these women, God uses women such as Esther to show you don’t have to pop out a baby to be powerful. Esther’s bravery brought about celebrations that she never could have anticipated. When her own people were being threatened with death, she entered the palace and became the queen. She boldly approached the king, which could have led to her death, and pled for the lives of her people to be spared. Esther trusted God and believed Mordecai’s encouragement, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV)
She confidently went to the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16, ESV). Esther was shown favor and her people were eventually saved from the fear of death. Esther became a leader in the land as a female, and that was a huge thing to celebrate. Even though God is not mentioned at all in the book of Esther, it is clear that He was using people in this story, and especially an orphaned girl who seemed to have no hope, to show that He gives strength and boldness to those who serve Him. Not only was Esther’s life spared, but so were many others, and we still learn from her story today. She only saw the beginning of the celebration that came from her faith and boldness.
Mary, Sarah, and Esther are all examples of women laying down their own plans and living out God’s, and this is worth celebrating. Not only in the lives of these biblical characters, but also in our own lives. I have seen His faithfulness in my own life and trust that it will continue. Celebration doesn’t always come in the form of long-awaited successes or recognition. Sometimes there are blessings that God simply offers us that we can’t strive for, things to celebrate that only He can provide. I am grateful to serve a God who sees where I’m at, knows what is best for me, and shows me how to celebrate what He celebrates.