She was alone. She was afraid. She had been abandoned.
The story of Hagar is one of the most precious stories in the entire Bible. Her story can also serve to confuse us, but not as much as it serves to encourage us. Hagar was one of Abraham’s handmaids and she gave him something his wife Sarah could not; she gave him a son. They, together, named their son Ishmael. Ishmael, to this day, is mostly accepted as the “father of Arabic nations”. He was a result of Abraham’s decision to take his life in his own hands. He’d been promised that his descendants would be more than the stars in the sky.
But day after day, month after month, year after year, Abraham’s wife Sarah remained barren. So, in a step that was not indicative of Abraham’s signature faith, his decision led to the birth of Ishmael. The birth of this son was anti-climatic until God’s actual plan to make Abraham the Father of all of us became reality.
The birth of Isaac meant that both Hagar and Ishmael would be sent out, literally, into the wilderness. Alone. Hot. Hungry. She put Ishmael under the shade of a tree, but stayed close enough to hear him when he cried.
I imagine that Hagar felt alone. She kind of was alone. Not unlike many of us, our vision is dimmed to blindness when pain of rejection or consequence threatens to overtake us.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.” Psalm 139: 7-10
We know that our creator KNEW us before the foundations of the world. We know that he MADE us exactly like He wanted us, and that the reflection in mirrors can’t begin to explain how much he values His creation. When He looks at us, He is looking at His reflection, because He made us in His image. We don’t often reflect that image because we don’t really believe either of these two things, that he KNEW us or that He MADE us in His own image. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
The last part of this beautiful Psalm is the lesson that He is EVERYWHERE with us. We cannot hide from His presence. This is a fact that most the time is comforting to us, but sometimes can lead to a crisis of faith.
I wonder if Hagar felt like He was there when she got sent into the wilderness with her child. I wonder how any of you feel about His constant presence when you think about any number of horrible things that happen to either you or to somebody that you love.
It’s hard to believe and know that there isn’t anywhere I can go without Him being there. It begs to question:
“Where WERE You?!”
This is a question I have asked so many times. I don’t ask them out loud, in front of people, I wouldn’t want people to think my God impotent. But when the day slows down and the voices of others are gone, this is a battle I have fought for a good portion of the last decade.
As I was fighting this battle a few months ago, I did ask that question out loud, and suddenly I knew the answer to my question:
“Right there, I was right there”
This defies logic. Hagar must have felt the same. Why would He just watch? And suddenly I remember that He was also there when His son paid the ultimate price for our sin. Right there, He was right there, the entire time.
The story of the crucifixion of Jesus is a little easier to understand how God was there and that He did not intervene. After all, the death of Jesus saved the whole world.
My dark moments where He seems absent aren’t world changing like the crucifixion of Jesus. My dark moments are filled with deep fog of weight on my chest with my brain firing off questions to God as quickly as my anxiety overtakes me.
It’s hard to reconcile the truth of this part of Psalm 139 with the unconditional, precious love of God.
Hagar had to feel the same. And then it happened.
An angel appeared to Hagar and the words of the angel are some of my favorite in the entire Bible:
“I am the God who sees you”
There is no doubt that Hagar blamed herself and her poor decisions for her situation. We are no different, even though sometimes that simply isn’t true. Sometimes the dark times, the heavy fog happens for reasons beyond our comprehension. It’s easy to become bitter at an all -powerful God Who knew us before the foundations of the world and Who made us in His image. If He is that powerful, why, why won’t he lift the heavy fog of pain, rejection, fear, illness, or financial hardship? The truth of the matter is that list is endless. If He is everywhere, then WHY, why do these things happen?
“If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become right around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for the darkness is as light to you.”-Psalm 139 11-12
It’s my perception of the darkness.
It’s your perception of the darkness.
Because He is everywhere, the dark is not really dark, because it is made light to us. I often think about the precious promise of Him being everywhere. While it has served to discourage me from time to time, mostly I am leaning on His promise that He will never leave me; He will never forsake me. So no matter what life throws at me, He is the God Who sees me.
Just like Hagar, He makes His presence known dark times. Hagar didn’t live the rest of her days without pain or even in the best of circumstances. But God showed Himself faithful that day, and He proves Himself faithful to us every single day.
It’s our perception of the dark.
It’s our perception of “good”.
And then, we spend all of our lives attempting to answer the age- old question:
“How can a loving God allow this to happen?”
Or, we could look for Him. We can look for Him in every part of life. We can remember that while we are on this planet to enjoy His creation, our lives are about eternity. Our lives are about the day we stand before Him. Our decisions should be driven by our love for our Creator, Who knew us before the foundations of the world- Who created us in His image and Who is everywhere.
Because He is the God Who sees us. And He loves you more than you can ever imagine.
I love weddings and I really love watching the groom’s face as he watches his bride walk down the aisle.
You know what? YOU are HIS bride and He delights over you just like an expectant groom delights over his bride to be. I struggle to accept that He can love me this much.
And then I remember…
Before the foundations of the world.
In His image.
He is with me everywhere.
He calls me his beloved. He doesn’t love any part of His creation more than He loves you.
And guess what?
There is no stain on you my child.
You are more important to Him than your comfort or your lack of emotional or physical pain. He is creating in you a peculiar sense of glory. Pain doesn’t make sense and cliches like “everything happens for a reason” serves little to comfort us sometimes. But what is comforting is that He doesn’t love anything more than you.
“You are my beloved, you’re my bride to sing over you is my delight, come away with me my love. Under my mercy come and wait til we are standing face to face. I see no stain on you my child. You are beautiful to me, so beautiful to me..”
“Beloved” Kari Jobe.
Photo is of the painting “Hagar” featured in the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City.