What distinguishes a survivor from a warrior?
According to the dictionary, a survivor is defined as ‘a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.’ Whereas, a warrior is defined as ‘a brave or experienced soldier or fighter.’
I will look at two biblical women to explain what differentiates a survivor from a warrior. Let’s look at Naomi first.
Ruth 1: 6-13:
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.’
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’
But Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!’
Naomi lost her husband as well as both her sons, she was the sole survivor from her family, except for her daughters-in-law.
- She was severely aggrieved, she did not want her daughters-in- law to accompany her on her journey as she wanted to be alone.
- Naomi accepted the lot that was dealt to her, she accepted the fact that she no longer had a husband or sons.
- In the tone in which she spoke, it is evident that she felt defeated.
- Naomi even went as far as changing her name from Naomi to Mara, because she felt the Lord had dealt bitterly with her.
Secondly, I will look at Esther in the book of Esther, Chapter 4.
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, ‘All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.’
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For 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 your royal position for such a time as this?’
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’
So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.
When Esther learned that Haman set out a decree in the king’s name to have the Jews, her people, killed; she responded as follows:
- She sent garments to clothe Mordecai since it was unacceptable to come into the king’s gate with sackcloth.
- When Mordecai refused the garments, Esther sent someone to enquire why he would not accept it.
- Esther realised what awaits should she go to the king’s inner court and he does not hold out his scepter towards her.
- She called on Mordecai and all the other Jews to fast with her.
- She ultimately made the sacrifice to go to the king’s inner court without knowing whether he would hold out his scepter or not.
There is a stark difference between how these two women responded to the situations that befell them. Naomi wept, she tried to isolate herself from her daughters-in-law and she accepted her fate as a widow and childless mother. Furthermore, Naomi took the hand that was dealt to her on as part of her identity when she changed her name from Naomi to Mara.
These are character traits of survivors. Many a times when situations occur in our lives, we tend to make it part of our identity. It becomes part of what defines us as a person and more often than not, it changes our character the way Naomi changed to Mara.
As much as you made it out alive, you made it out alive and weaker. Alive and changed into Mara. Alive and fearful. It’s good to make it out alive, but should we allow the situation to define us and should we just accept it as our fate and move on?
No! You don’t need to, you can choose to live the warrior life. Esther on the other hand, when she learned of her people’s fate, she put plans into action. When Mordecai did not accept the garments she sent, she had a backup plan to enquire why. She knew there had to be something more to Mordecai being in sackcloth and refusing to wear acceptable garments. She pressed and pushed to get to the root cause of the issue at hand.
Once she knew what the root cause of Mordecai’s weeping was, she heard his counsel to go to the king and make supplication for the Jews, her people. She realised what the risk was to enter the king’s court without being summoned by him, so she requested Mordecai and all the Jews to fast with her. She did not isolate herself; instead, she drew on the strength from her brothers and sisters, because she knew her next action would require great sacrifice.
So, survivors, take action today and become warriors. You can be a warrior instead of a survivor, by making calculated and conscience decisions. By not taking your situation on as part of your identity and by not isolating yourself. I am not saying disregard your pain, there are great lessons to be learned from it, but do not let it overtake your identity.
Like Esther, speak up, let your voice be heard and save yourself.