If you like novels, I have one for you that is completely covered in one single chapter of Scripture, 1 Samuel 25. In 44 verses, you have an action novel, a drama, a thriller and finally a romance novel. Only in the Bible can you get all that in one chapter!
For some reason, I missed all this in my many readings of the Bible until one day it all unfolded for me, as I hope it will for you. Why do you need to know about a woman named Abigail? You need to know this story because it will help you navigate the most challenging relationships in your life. Abigail is dealing with an angry, abusive spouse on one hand, an offended warrior and future king on the other, all the while trying to protect and nurture her own household and family. This IS that spot between a rock and a hard place, and Abigail is in that spot.
Here's the short version. The future king, David, that young warrior destined to king of Israel is roaming the countryside with his band of soldiers. They happen upon the grazing land of Nabal, who is Abigail’s husband – who by all account is foolish, selfish, and arrogant. When David sees an opportunity to rest and feed his men, Nabal pushes back, refusing to help them and even disrespecting David, the conflict is ON. Neither will back down. As David and his men rush toward Nabal’s house, breathing fire and threats, Abigail is told of what’s about to happen, and realizes that she ALONE can prevent the bloodshed.
What would you do if you were in Abigail’s place? This is like the clash of two titans. Something bad is going to take place – it’s inevitable UNLESS Abigail steps up. If you’ve ever been around an angry person or BEEN one - if you’ve ever felt insulted and disrespected or been PRESENT when it happened – OR if you’ve tried to protect others around you from people who are hell-bent on destruction, you’ll take so much away from this story that will help you in life.
I love this story because Abigail’s character comes through so clearly. She takes responsibility. Someone has to! Nabal and David have lost their minds and are not thinking about the destruction ahead, but Abigail sees it. Sometimes, it rests on us to act in such a way that defuses the situation. I know – it’s not FAIR that she’s placed in this position, but there are times we don’t have the luxury of debating fairness. Abigail must intervene. That takes faith.
She also shows respect. Since neither man is respecting the other, Abigail senses this is important. It’s easy to see how she gives respect to David in their interaction and it’s the starting place for lowering his anger. Since Nabal will NOT respect David, Abigail does.
She also exercises restraint when no one else will. Someone has to be calm in an explosive moment and that restraint allows her to consider what’s at risk.
She also brings God into the conversation. As Oswald Chambers famously said, “Once we lose sight of God, we become reckless.” Everyone in this story is reckless except Abigail! Listen carefully to how she counsels David on his way to destroy Nabal’s house. “As the Lord lives…the Lord has restrained you…for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you.” (v. 26-28). Get this: Abigail keeps the future king from sabotaging his future with her restraint and her appeal. She’s looking out for him. She’s making sure he thinks about God. You can never go wrong doing that.
When Nabal finds out about her intervention on his behalf, he collapses and within days is dead.
The timeline of this story is fast and furious, as life tends to be. God shows up just in time, as He tends to do. He’s never really early from our perspective, but you certainly cannot accuse him of being late, either. God does just what is necessary to redeem this intense, sin-filled situation. Isn’t that kind of what God does? He redeems things.
God has worked through Abigail and has deterred catastrophe. He uses her words to remind David about Himself and His future plans for David’s household. Abigail has protected her household from death, and finally has a season of peace and silence.
Her huge questions about her future are answered when David later sends for her to be his queen. The details of this romance – this marriage – are not in the text, but the significance of what has taken place is so encouraging. God can redeem ANY situation in your life. Even when the players around you are toxic and angry, God is at work. May He surprise you in how He completes YOUR story!
After Darkness, Light
I’m pretty sure many of us have been in a dark place, where things don’t make sense spiritually and emotionally. People have sometimes called a place like this, “a dark night of the soul.” It’s where fear, disappointment, and discouragement meet together to knock us off our feet – sometimes for long periods of time. This darkness is not necessarily about circumstances, and it’s not about the presence of enemies in our lives. It’s often not physical at all – it sometimes happens during the greatest times of our lives, circumstantially – but this darkness has the ability to drown all the great things of life out.
My wife and I actually battled this kind of discouragement a few years into our marriage, and we wondered if God was even aware of where we were and what we were going through. We would come to call this depression – and we didn’t know much about it until it became personal to us. We later learned that it affects more people than almost any other kind of mental ailment. The World Health Organization calls it, “The leading cause of disability in the world.” It’s very real to many, and it was certainly real to us.
It was such a difficult time for, but we now look back on that time as a huge time of growth and victory where God met us in the dark places. And yes, we speak of this in past tense. It’s part of our history – but not part of our present experience.
Those many years ago, we didn’t know where to turn, but when we did begin to reach out to God for answers, we found hope and instruction in an Old Testament book named 1 Kings, with a verse that said, “Enough! Now, Lord, take my life.” 1 Kings 19:4.
That got our attention and the story that unfolded before and after this verse become a beacon of hope straight from the life of a man named Elijah into the frightened young adult lives that we were living those many years ago. By the way, doing a slow read through just the two chapters of 1 Kings 18 and 19 will help you anchor yourself to God in unexplainable times of darkness and confusion. And that anchor will hold, my friend.
We discovered some things about life and God in those valleys of depressing darkness.
We learned that mountaintops of victory are often followed by valleys of despair.
We learned that how we take care of ourselves contributes to our outlook and health.
We learned that the things we fear the most are often things we should fear the least!
And we learned that God often sends the help that we so desperately need…if we’re looking!
For me, the greatest part of Elijah’s story is his meeting with God on a lonely mountain, where Elijah is wanting to end it all. Without this meeting, Elijah learns NONE of the lessons I’ve just mentioned. WITH this meeting, everything changes.
I’m not afraid to emphasize this idea of meeting with God because I believe God has promised to reveal Himself to those who seek Him! It’s not an empty promise because He’s made it! And He’s faithful to fulfill in our own lives. I’m sure He will for you, as well.
When you meet with God, He’s going to change everything. That’s what Elijah’s experience teaches us, and that’s what meetings with God tend to do:
He asks questions: What are you doing here, in this condition?
He changes perspectives: Why would you be afraid and discouraged?
He gives direction: Get up and do what I’ve asked!
All through Elijah’s story, God is telling him, “I’m not done with you. I’m not done with you. I have a plan for you. It’s not over yet.”
The stories of the Bible often surprise us. We expect a certain thing or fear a certain thing, but then God turns the entire story on a certain event – or, in this case, a non-event.
Elijah was SURE that Jezebel would murder him – after all, she had promised to so and had the military clout to bring it about. In running, he was sure he wanted GOD to take his life. He was so tired and so weary. He was thinking death from any direction. He was certain death was next. That’s where this story is so fun. We often fear the most what we should fear the least.
Do you remember how Elijah died? Did Jezebel catch him? Did he meet death prematurely? Do you remember how this story goes? Well, some of you remember. Elijah doesn’t die at all. He’s caught up in a whirlwind into heaven. There’s NO record of his death, and he actually appears later in the NEW Testament.
Why? Because God is not done with Elijah, even though Elijah thought so. We wondered about that many years ago, and then discovered, “He’s not done with us.” And if you’re here, I can confidently say, “God’s Not Done With You.”
God Gives Real Hope
The dictionary defines “despair” as a loss of hope – a mindset that gives up any hope of something better happening in a circumstance, season, or life. How many times have you been there? Are you there now? Have you given up on something important to you? Do you think God is done with you in that matter?
You should read about THIS woman – Esther. Here is a woman whose story is so powerful, she has a book of the Bible named after her! That’s rare enough, but her story is one of the most unique stories in the history of storytelling. Esther is just ten chapters long and it’s better than any romance or adventure novel you’ll ever read. It’s a great investment of your time to read – and understand the HOPELESSNESS, the DOUBT and CONFUSION this woman when through – and then the incredible VICTORY and RESCUE that took place because of her.
If you’ve had all the odds stacked against you before, you’ll be familiar with Esther’s situation.
The story has a wicked king, a pagan, sexualized culture, repressive patriarch, murderous racism, and drunken revelry. And that’s just the first chapter. When the king decides he needs a new wife, he issues an edict for a nationwide search for a beautiful young virgin who will go through a process of preparation and even competition to eventually get a night with the king – which in itself is repressive and enslaving. Esther goes through all this, and the end result is that this young Jewish girl who is living in exile in Babylon becomes the queen. We have so many questions. But there’s more.
There’s a villain in the story – Haman – who has a diabolical plan to kill all of the Jews (Esther’s people) and he has the clout to get it done. Esther seems to be the only person who can intervene. Now, on top of all these hopeless indicators – this is the one book of the Bible where God’s name is not mentioned. God does not speak in any recordable way in the book of Esther. We see and hear of no prophets, messengers, or angels. He is there and He seems to be silent for the moment. What a hopeless season!
All this sets the scene for an incredible series of conversations and events that lead to the rescue of Esther and her people.
You’ve heard all the famous words of this book:
“The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with Him…”
“If you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
"Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me…and then I will go in to the king, which is not accordance to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
These are climactic words that describe hard moments of decision where Esther places her life in the hands of an invisible God who seems to let His character and history do all the talking. Esther is walking in HOPE while in a HOPELESS situation, and she shows us all how to do it.
The great preacher, Ron Dunn, said, “Good and evil run on parallel tracks, and they arrive at about the same time.” I agree. And Esther sees the evil tracks before the good track becomes apparent. But that’s what living by faith is all about. It’s what we have to do when we feel hopeless.
The most FUN part of the book of Esther follows her great moment of trusting God. You MUST read this part for yourselves. After reading it, you must admit to a series of incredible coincidences, confirmed by history, or you must choose to believe that God does work silently and powerfully to weave together everything for the good of those who love Him.
It's all so fascinating to me because when I look back at my life, I see some similar things happening. Maybe I’ve just seen God do too many things that align perfectly in multiple ways in answer to prayer to believe that ANYTHING is coincidental. I’m not naïve to enough to think that great things happen without God. This story ends SO WELL, in spite of its hopeless setting.
I believe God is a God of hope -not despair. If you are alive, He’s not done with YOU or with YOUR STORY.
Esther’s message is unmistakable! God is there, even when you cannot see Him and even though you may not hear from Him. He doesn’t miss a detail. He doesn’t miss a moment.
His eye is on the sparrow – I know He watches you. He’s not done with you
The 50/20 Principle
Certain stories and movies begin with the end – and then go back to tell the story of how it all unfolded. I’m thinking of movies like Saving Private Ryan, or Forest Gump that are set up like that. It’s a weird feeling to see the end first, but I find it very helpful and interesting to see how it all gets to the conclusion -and I’m actually excited to see how it falls into place, when it doesn’t seem like it will be able to get there.
Life is like that. Understanding life is like that. The story of Joseph is precisely like that.
What if you could conclude your life by what I call the 50/20 principle? This principle is named after the verse where it’s found, Genesis 50:20. Here it is – this is what Joseph said to his brothers at the end of his life, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
What if I told you that this will be your reality? What if I said, “Whatever else you’ll experience in your life, at the end of it, you’ll be able to say, ‘God meant it for good!’” Would that help you while you walk through and wait through the story? Would that enable you to trust God with your life in a deeper way? It has helped me!
The story of Joseph is, to me, the most encouraging story in the Bible. If you’ve read the 14 chapters of Genesis 37-50, you know what I mean. It only takes a few minutes to read these chapters, but as you do, you are able to see the incredibly complex journey of his life from beginning to end.
The things he experienced make the story relatable to just about every person I know.
He was rejected by the very people who should have loved him the most.
He was hated and abandoned by his brothers – who really wanted to kill him.
He was enslaved and removed from everything that was familiar or dear to him.
He was slandered and falsely accused when he did everything right!
He was isolated and forgotten and left to rot in prison.
But God wasn’t done with Joseph!
Those low points of his life followed great times of promise – when good things were happening to Joseph. This means that his life was like a roller-coaster. His very high moments are nearly always followed by deep and dark valleys.
One of the wild things about this story (and about our lives sometimes) is that Joseph didn’t do anything to deserve the poor treatment. He was victimized in so many ways, but never allowed himself to simply BE a victim. He was treated with so much injustice, and never deserved what he experienced – but again – rose above all that with the help of God. How does that work?
Here’s how it works. Through every experience, Joseph was assured that God was WITH him, and he learned that God could use all of those painful things in his life. In fact, it’s the very awareness that God was with him that helped him get through the tough times. We see that truth several times, especially in the “prison chapter.”
It says, “But the Lord was with Joseph…” Genesis 39:21
I think this is the primary application of these 14 chapters of the life of Joseph.
If I can believe by faith that God will take every situation – and cause it work for good…
If I can believe He is WITH me, even when I can’t see or hear him…
If I can see how He has consistently been faithful in the lives of others.
THEN I can wait through to the end, fully trusting that God will do the same in my life.
I’d remind you, if you’re a follower of Christ – He is with you, JUST as He was with Joseph. In fact, I’d go much further than that. God is MORE with you than He was with Joseph. He is IN you fulfilling the promise of Jesus to give you the Holy Spirit. He will never leave you or abandon you. Believe that.
Knowing God’s WITH you, helps you know God’s not DONE with you.
Even in those dark times when you can’t feel him or see him or hear Him. He’s there. He knows where you are, and He is weaving your story to have the same testimony as Joseph’s. He wants you to trust that He will get you there – and allow Him to shape you on your journey.
You can say with Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Unless you’re at the very end of your life – unless you’re taking your very last breath as you hear these words, I believe this with all my heart, God’s Not Done With You.
Your Past Need Not Define You
I love comeback stories. Most of us do. The plot lines are always similar. Bad things have happened, maybe from the beginning. Someone is counted out, and no believes in their future. Tragedy happens and sets a journey back – and then, all of a sudden, the picture changes. A cataclysmic event starts a new season and direction – and before we know it, everything is different.
Spiritually speaking, we sometimes feel that our past holds us back so badly, there is no real future. We think we’ve done something God cannot get past. We may feel He’s done with us.
Have you been there?
If so, this book is for you. God’s Not Done With You is filled with biblical comeback stories – where the main characters wondered if God was finished with them. I love that there are so many that we can come to know who now have the testimony that God was NOT finished with them.
We begin with one of the biggest. The life of Moses. Most of us know who Moses is, but did you know his life is told in three seasons? Just about everyone knows about season 1, where he was put in a wicker basket on the Nile and rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter. That’s told in just 15 verses in Exodus 2.
Most of us know about season 3, where God uses Moses to set the Israelites free. It’s an amazing lesson in history and in the power of a Sovereign God, but there an interesting interlude in between.
Are you aware of season 2? The one in the middle? This is what I call the 40-year dark season of Moses’ life, where he is on the backside of the desert. He has committed murder in an angry retaliation for the mistreatment of his people but has to run for his life.
“But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.” Exodus 2:15
Nobody makes movies about this season. It’s too dark and painful. Overcome with regret and sorrow, Moses is wandering alone. He remembers that God had rescued him as an infant, and he recalls favor from the Lord, but now I think he’s too discouraged and regretful to see what God has next. I’m convinced this is a season of many tears. Eventually, Moses lands in a place where no one else can find him. But God knows where he is. And God knows how to get his attention.
Most of us have done things we regret. Sometimes we’ve acted out in anger. I know I have. I wish I could take words back, remove the effects of actions I’ve taken, people I’ve hurt. Anger can ruin, but God can rescue. I learn this from Moses’ life!
There’s a bigger picture going on in Moses’ life that he’s completely unaware of. He doesn’t see that God is still going to use him. He’s doesn’t know that he’s being prepared for bigger things than he’s ever imagined. WHAT IF we could see that every dark season has a redemptive piece to it where God is going to use what we don’t think He can use?
New seasons begin with new encounters. That’s what the burning bush is all about. God is getting Moses’ attention and he’s going to give him a new assignment.
“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush…”. Exodus 3:2
Think about what that experience must have been like for Moses. Wouldn’t you have turned aside to look at the bush, just like Moses did? There are so many things the scripture teaches us this encounter with God – but they are better caught than taught.
What God teaches Moses, He yearns to teach us, but we have to give Him our attention. And Moses does it right – you must read it for yourself in Exodus 3.
However, there is one thing I want to urge you to do right now. Allow me to PUSH you, to URGE you to have a new encounter with God and allow Him to speak into your future – no matter what your past is like. Don’t look for a burning bush – look for His written words in the Bible. Don’t wait for the backside of the desert. Open your heart and mind to Him now.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned. In my years, I rarely remember what other people say to me in the way of direction and advice. But I never forget what I hear God say to me in my most difficult and dark times. And every time He speaks, it’s the beginning of something powerful.
It might be that right here and now, God is making you aware that He’s not done with you. Stick around to experience what God has planned.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.