I still remember the moment. Only weeks after my 30th birthday I found myself sobbing on a girlfriend’s couch, broken that this new decade had not ushered in the change I had hoped for, prayed for, ached for. I had spent the latter years of my twenties holding out for 30 – it was after all, the year that in my mind, it all began for Jesus!
But 30 was not a magic number - significant yes, but a magic-wand erasing my heartache, no. And that day as I sobbed, something in me broke; something in me felt like I could no longer keep persevering through my pain. I wanted a different life; I wanted to run.
Hagar must have felt similarly. Given by her mistress to Abraham for the sole purpose of producing an heir, when she conceived, the rivalry between her and Sarai could not be contained. Hagar despised Sarai and Sarai resented her for carrying the child she herself had longed for. And so she mistreated her and Hagar fled. Hagar ran from her pain to the desert.
But she could not run from God. As she sat alone in the desert Genesis 16 tells us that the angel of the Lord found her and asked her:
Hagar... where have you come from, and where are you going?
God did not leave her alone in her pain - He sought her out. And He seeks us out too; finding us in our desert places. And just like He inquired of Hagar, He asks us: What are you running from? Where are you going - what are you hoping for my child?
Hagar could only answer the first question - "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she replied. So wounded was she that she couldn't see past her pain; past the problem. But God could, and He spoke His truth into her situation:
Go back to your mistress and submit to her. I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count... You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishamel (which means God hears) for the Lord has heard of your misery.
And this is the hard truth - sometimes the promise is found in our pain. Not in running from it, but in facing it; living through it. The blessing is found in submitting - in entrusting ourselves to the One who sees all. In taking up our cross and following Him.
Hagar found the strength to go back - to have her child in Abraham's household - because she encountered God in the midst of her suffering. She discovered the truth that she was seen; her pain was seen - and it mattered.
"You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."
Hagar called God el roi. This name had a double meaning: God of seeing and also God of my seeing. She was not only seen by God, but she saw Him. And seeing Him changed everything for her and her son - it made room for His promises in her pain. While Ishmael was not the son that God had intended for Abraham, in returning and allowing Abraham to name him, she secured legitimacy and blessing for his future (Gen. 17:20).
The year that I turned 30, I faced unimaginable decisions; decisions filled with so much heartache. But God found me - He saw me. And being seen by Him changed the way I saw my life; changed the way I saw my pain. It caused me to stop running and opened my eyes to see Him and His truth in the midst of it all.
Today, you matter - your pain matters. God sees it and He will not leave you alone in it. No matter where or how far you might run, He seeks you out; He considers your grief and takes it in hand (Ps. 10). Commit yourself to Him; entrust your pain to Him and let Him bring forth great promise from it.
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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