Favors are something I ask my friends and family for when I have a need. Just this week my sweet mother-in-law agreed to come stay with my kids for a week in November so my husband and I can get away for a few days (okay 5 long wonderful days…..). That is a great favor to give any tired parents. I also regularly pray favor for my children. I ask God to give them favor in their studies, sports, and in this world that is sometimes hard and cruel.
After my study of the book of Jeremiah over the past year, I read through Ezra this week with a new lens. After understanding the nation of Judah’s suffering, exile, and seventy years away from their homeland, the story of their return to Jerusalem is all the more sweet.
I had forgotten that after the work began under Zerubbabel, it was halted by enemies of God’s people. I can only imagine how deflating that must of have been for them. Here they had been hearing stories of how great Jerusalem had once been. They start to work on it’s restoration and barely begin to work only to be ordered to stop shortly after they began. They must have greatly questioned God as they walked through the rubble each day feeling helpless to change it.
They had God’s promises through Jeremiah. The first verse of the book of Ezra mentions Jeremiah. The time had finally arrived for restoration and rebuilding – the fulfillment of Jeremiah 29:11 – a future and a hope. Then the hope seemed crushed just as it barely began.
I felt that way this week when we realized that Abby’s hair continues to fall out. Not just the small amount of her original hair left on her head. Even the stubble that had began to grow in has been attacked by her immune system. We knew the journey of regrowing hair would take a long time. However, its deflating when set backs like this occur at the beginning of an already long process.
I too have my questions and confusion. Yet as the story of the return of the exiles continue, we find that God hadn’t abandoned them. He was working out His plan in His time. Ezra 7:7 says, “He(Ezra) came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.”
This phrase will be repeated five times through chapters seven and eight. God’s gracious hand was on Him. God doesn’t try to hide why He showed Ezra His favor. He lays it out for us in 7:10, “This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.”
Ezra didn’t just study, he applied what he knew by exercising faith in God’s protection. He also led the people to repent from clear sin that had caused the exile back in the days of Jeremiah. He had God’s favor not because he was great looking, super smart, or rich. God’s gracious hand was on him simply because He took intentional steps to know and follow His God. He also taught what he learned to others.
The work started up again and the people determined to rebuild Jerusalem. As I look for God’s gracious hand in our family, I realize His grace doesn’t always mean a problem free life. However, it does mean that I can trust Him…. even with hair that continues to fall out.
I already see good things that have happened as a result of her alopecia. Abby has learned to draw close to her God in hard times (wish I learned that lesson at 12 years of age.) She also sees the love of her family in tough times, what friends will stand beside her through the good and the bad, and that real beauty comes from the inside. So perhaps God’s work isn’t finished. He may have more to teach us. So instead of freaking out that her hair is still falling out, I will dare to hope that God is still working.
In the waiting, we will pursue what Ezra did – the study of His Word and obedience to what we find there. I can’t help but see His gracious hand of favor even in our trials. He has showered us with love from many friends and family. He has provided every need (she has two adorable wigs and so many cute hats – none of which we have had to purchase!). I can’t think of a time our family has felt so close and had so much fun together.
So while alopecia seems like anything but a favor – and I know that disease is a result of the curse – not God’s original design, I still see God’s grace in it. I pray several times a day asking God to restore her hair, but until that happens – I will pursue my God like Ezra. I will study, obey, and teach His truth and bask in His gracious hand of favor.