Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,[a]
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward[b] all his brothers.”
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[c] the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi[d]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
For those of you who do not know I am a military spouse. A good portion of my world is seen through the eyes of Army life. They control many aspects of our life: where we live, who we socialize with, when/if we can visit family, if we see our spouse this year… some would even say who we marry.
“If the Army wants you to have a wife then they will issue you one.” I’ve heard this joke more than once and the more I hear it the more it sounds like fact. The Army is not kind to marriages. It’s hard. I have seen this lifestyle break far more homes then I have seen it strengthen. As much as we would like to be, the Army Wife is not the number one priority for a soldier. She cannot be. His mind has to be on the mission, especially during deployments.
When John called from training and said we were going to Ft. Bliss I jumped online and immediately started viewing the tourist sites. I was excited to be moving to a border town. I had been to Venezuela and Mexico a number of times as a teen and in college and loved my time there. I couldn’t wait to spend my weekends with the kids in Mexico.
Three weeks of living at the YMCA during monsoon season with 2 toddlers and 7 months pregnant looking desperately for a home without bars and cooled with real AC as well as realizing my dreams of visiting Mexico would not happen, I had decided this place was not for me.
I was miserable at the beginning of our time here. El Paso was not what I had hoped for and military life was far off my career goals. To be honest I was blindsided when my husband said he was joining at the age of 35. I had just finished seminary and had big dreams for missions and ministry. Our daughters cancer put a hold to both our goals and he saw the army as a way to get back on track for his.
So I plastered a smile on my face, looked for the best in where we were and pressed on like any good southern girl from the Bible Belt should. But inside I was dying. I felt lost and forgotten. My life was not turning out how I had planned.
I began noticing all of the desert scenes in the Old Testament. I paid attention to the grumbling of the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years. I could visualize them for the first time covered in dust, thirsty and tired complaining to God. I saw them in the mirror. Soon I found Hagar at the well.
Whenever there is a well in a desert take notice. God is about to speak.
Sarai and Hagar
Abraham and Sarai were abusive to Hagar, using her for their purpose and abandoning her when she no longer fit into their perfect vision of home. Abraham and Sarai became impatient for God’s promise of descendants and used their power over Hagar to try to force God’s promise in to their own time table.
What I love most about the story of Hagar is that God did not leave her abandoned in the wilderness. When the people He had chosen displayed cruelty towards her, he did not forget her. He met with her.
Genesis 16:7-8 says “The angel of the Lord FOUND Hagar near a spring in the desert… And He SAID, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
It doesn’t say that Hagar found God or that she cried out to Him. It says He found her and He spoke to her. Then he asked her a question, a question he knew the answer to already. He has a way of doing that. Later in John 4 Jesus meets with another woman at a well and engages in conversation with her. Though he knows intimate details about her he allows her to reveal them. He enters into conversations with Hagar and the Samaritan woman by the well so that they can discover something essential about him.
He is a God who sees.
A God of Seeing!
The Lord spoke to Hagar and He blessed her. He promised her and her unborn child life and she named the Lord “You are a God of seeing.” He looked down and He saw her at her most desperate and He did not forget her but looked after her and cared for her.
A God of seeing! He sees us. When we feel overlooked and neglected God still sees us! He hasn’t forgotten us and He will not abandon us in our hour of need. How comforting to know that we are loved!
C.S. Lewis wrote that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is often in our pain that we cry out the loudest to him and it is often in our pain we are most willing to hear His response.
Hagar was abused and abandoned and God still saw her. He saw a woman who had suffered at the hands of His chosen Abraham and he met with her, loved her, saw her, and cared for her. She was forgotten by everyone but God.
Hagar is the first woman in the Bible to name God. And she didn’t just stop with his name, she then named her son Ishmael meaning “God hears.” This moment in time left a mark, her and her child would not be forgotten.
In Jeremiah 8:11 Jeremiah speaks of the cruelty bestowed on God’s people, he says “They treat the wound of my people/ as if it were nothing:/ ‘All is well, all is well,’ they insist,/ when in fact nothing is well.” and in verse 21 he says “because my people are crushed/ I am crushed.”
We each have our own story. Maybe it’s similar to Hagar. Maybe you’ve been abused and cast out of your home. Maybe those who call themselves “God‘s chosen” have injured you. Maybe it’s different in the details but the same in the despair and abandonment. You and I are never alone. Rest in that. Rejoice in that. Know that there is a purpose for everyone of us. Maybe it’s not the purpose we started out believing it would be but God sees us, loves us, and has a blessing for us.
I went through a period in my life where I was very angry at God. Things were not going as I had planned. After growing up a preacher’s kid, going on multiple mission trips, working for a Christian non-profit, and attending four years of seminary I expected to jump into ministry full time. I had an idea of what my life should look like, stepfordwifish with full time ministry mixed in.
Instead every door to ministry was slammed and we stared down the long difficult road of a cancer diagnosis for one of our children. I was angry. I had put God in a nice tidy box and when he did not deliver I grumbled. That’s when he found me in my desert, here in El Paso hidden in my grief and longing desperately for understanding. I felt abandoned by a God I believed no longer could see or hear me. He had refused to heal my 6 month old in the way I wanted and so I wanted nothing to do with him.
I was like Hagar in that moment, running through the desert in despair, and God found me.
He found me in in El Paso, and through the story of Lazarus in John chp 11.
I had this notion that if God loved me, if he loved my child as he claimed to, he would have protected her he would have healed her. .
Mary and Martha held similar questions when their brother Lazarus, who scripture tells us Jesus loved, died. Mary says to to Jesus “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
And in 11:35 we are told that Jesus wept. That two word verse suddenly made all the difference to me. Jesus cared. He hurt with his friends. Yes he could have made the outcome different, he could have given them and us the easy way out, but if he had Lazarus would not have been raised from the dead forshadowing the coming resurrection of Christ and God would still be contained in my nice tiny box. He is so much bigger then that and yet He still sees us, hears us, and cares for us.
He is the God of seeing who takes the time to meet with the broken by wells of water in the desert, who allows his chosen to royally mess up and still follows through on his blessings, he weeps with us in our pain, cares for us, hears us, and sees us in our beautifully broken messes.
God’s ways are not our ways. His plan is rarely ours.
I have occasionally felt like Hagar, the other wife. I often come second to the Army. My husband has no choice but to jump when called despite what we might be in the middle of or the obligations of home. Just as Abraham followed Sarai’s orders my soldier must follow the orders of the Army. Deployment rips him from our home and drives a wedge between him, myself and the children. But it is unavoidable.
I often fall into the desert of complaint like the Israelites who wandered for 40 years not being able to see the provision, only the dry dusty air.
I have occasionally felt like Mary who said “Lord if you had just been here…” I am left confused when he doesn’t show up in the way I have envisioned and I have been guilty, like Abram and Sarai of trying to force His promises into my own time table.
There are some lessons in life we have to learn over and over. I am constintely being taken back to “Be Still and Know that He is God.” I don’t need to work God into my vision, I don’t need to grumble when provision does not come as I requested, and I need to trust his time table because He is God and I am not.
We can rest, be still, in the knowledge that God sees us, hears us, and cares deeply for us.
Psalm 46 says it best
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The God of Abram, Sarai, Hagar, the Samaritan woman, and Lazarus is the God who sees us, hears us, and cares for us no matter where we are or what we have done. He calls us to be still and to trust in him.