Have you ever suffered because of someone else’s bad choices?
It’s bad enough when we suffer the consequences of our own failures, but when we have to pay the price for someone else’s sin, it’s hard not to grow bitter.
Maybe your spouse was unfaithful, a child was rebellious, an employer cheated you, or a church member abused you.
The suffering we endure at the hands of others can cause us to retaliate in anger or turn away from God altogether. We may become so afraid of being hurt again, that we begin to make choices not in line with God’s Word.
And at times we may feel totally unseen, unheard, and forgotten by God.
Hagar must surely have known how that felt.
An Egyptian slave to Abraham and Sarah, Hagar was the pawn used to try to make God’s promise come to pass.
You see, Abraham had been promised by God that he would be the father of many nations and that through him all the world would be blessed. But he was an old man, and Sarah was barren (Genesis 15:1-6).
After ten years of waiting for God’s promise to materialize, Sarah did what many of us would do–she took matters in her own hands.
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.'”Genesis 16:1-2, NIV 84
In Abraham and Sarah’s culture, having a male heir wasn’t just convenient–it was essential for having any stake in society. Knowing that many Assyrian and Babylonian customs allowed for a servant to be a surrogate, Sarah suggested allowing her slave, Hagar, to sleep with her husband in hopes of her becoming pregnant and giving them the child they were waiting for.
The problem is that wasn’t God’s plan or in keeping with His promise. In her impatience with God’s timing, Sarah looked for a solution of her own. Hagar just got caught in the middle.
When Hagar did become pregnant, she began to despise her mistress (Genesis 16:4b). Now, I’m not sure what kind of relationship they had to begin with, but I feel in my woman-ness that they were friends, even though Hagar was a slave.
In all their travels away from home to a foreign land, I imagine having another woman around to talk to would have forged a relationship between the two of them.
And besides, Sarah was allowing Hagar to sleep with her husband. She must have felt at lease some measure of trust in her.
But Hagar began to feel proud. She forgot her place as a slave and began to make Sarah feel bad for not being able to get pregnant. In the midst of this drama, Hagar became prideful.
And we’ve done it, too. We’ve been hurt and confused, and instead of running to God, we’ve grown angry, prideful, or bitter.
So Sarah blamed and complained to Abraham.
“‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.'”Genesis 16:5
Abraham didn’t stand up for Hagar in the least (He did have to live with Sarah), and he let Sarah do what she wanted with Hagar. So Sarah began to mistreat her (Genesis 16:6).
Having been used and abused, and knowing what awaited her when this child would be born, Hagar ran away.
Have you ever felt like just running away from those who have mistreated you? Perhaps you still bear a painful reminder of the wrong done to you, and you just don’t know how to deal with it anymore. Maybe you feel a little like Hagar.
You are heard.
In the wilderness of her wandering, God was there. He met her right where she was and made her think about where she had been and where she was going (Genesis 16:7-8).
“Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.'”Genesis 16:9-10
He sent her back to submit to Sarah because there was no life for Hagar and her child except through repentance and surrender.
Hagar may have been outside God’s plan, but she was not outside His love.
You are seen.
Even when we struggle with the wrongs done to us to the point of walking outside His will, He still loves us.
Though this illegitimate child was not the child of the promise to Abraham, God was still with him and promised to bless him, because He heard of her misery.
“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 the One who sees me.'”Genesis 16:13
You are not forgotten. God hears you. God sees you. God promises you.
You are promised.
Even when we fail, even when we don’t get it right, He still hears our cries of misery. He still sees our pain. And He still has a promise for us.
All we have to do is turn back and surrender.
Hagar’s story didn’t end there. Her son Ishmael, which means “God hears,” grew and became antagonistic toward Isaac, the son of the promise (Genesis 21:8-9). Ishmael knew that although he was the firstborn, he wasn’t the true heir.
In Sarah’s ongoing jealousy, she encouraged Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21:10). Since she had her own son, she no longer needed to hold onto the mess she had made.
So God assured Abraham he would care for them (Genesis 21:11-13). Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, but they were never outside God’s love, protection, or provision.
“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.'”Genesis 21:17-18
Ishmael grew and became an archer, married a woman from Egypt (Hagar’s home country), and went on to become a nation, just as God had promised (Genesis 21:20-21).
You are loved.
No matter the wrong that was done to you, you have a choice in how you respond. You can allow the bitterness to keep you outside the will of God, or you can turn back to God and submit to His authority.
He hears you. He sees you. He has not forgotten you.
God still loves you and He still has a promise for you.
Will you trust Him with it?