Does God even care about me? I mean, really? I get that He is big beyond what I can imagine. He is all-knowing, every where, He designed the world with a plan and a purpose and that He is unfathomably glorious. I understand that submitting to Him means wrapping my mind around the concept that I am submitting to the idea that even if it means my own ruin, I want God’s glory.
I want God’s glory. I absolutely want to be where that is, because every time I’ve experienced those moments where life plays out to bring Him the most glory, I am never disappointed and never caught by the costs it took to get there. But approaching those moments, there is a lot of this question. “Where are you?!?! Do You see me? Can You hear me? I want You, Your glory, and I’m willing to go through whatever that takes, but seriously right now….where are you?”
From that first moment in the garden where man falls and God speaks that question into our world “Where are you?” asking Adam and Eve to be aware that now there is separation between man and God, and asking man to be self aware to examine what we’ve done and what has happened to cause that separation, we’ve been screaming it back at Him. Whether we are hiding from God like Adam or whether we are standing surrounded by death like Mary and Martha outside of Lazarus’s tomb, this is where our hearts go.
Where are you, God? Do you even care about what I’m facing? Have I done something to make you ignore me? Do you even care?
And this is where we find Hagar, once again finding herself at the most desperate place. Let’s read from Genesis 21: 9-21.
Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.
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.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
This is legitimately one of the hardest passages in the whole Bible for me. Right here in this story that fascinates me so I find God allowing Hagar to once again be mistreated and cast out, and the advice He gives Abraham to encourage him to do this to her, to do this deed which would have been illegal, to ruin her, is more or less “It’s alright, because I get my glory through Isaac. I’ll take care of Ishmael, too.” It’s that middle sentence that catches me up so much that I can hardly hear that He sandwiches the message between comfort and a promise.
Hagar is cast out and with her, Ishmael. They travel again out into the desert, one foot after the other walking towards death. When they can’t take another step, when they are at utter ruin, Hagar hides the boy, from the sun and from her sight and she sobs. Her only thought is to make his death slightly less painful and to make it invisible, to disappear into what she came from. She rose from the unknown and she is prepared to die in the same way, a life unnoticed, a death unnoticed. She doesn’t speak to the God who saw her. She doesn’t cry out to the God who named her son as a reminder that He hears. She can’t even bring herself to address God at all.
That silent moment is a rare despair. It goes so far beyond “Where are you?” and “Do you care?” It is the deep fear taken root that you already believe there is no point even bringing it up to god, because He isn’t listening, no matter what you’ve believed about Him for years. It is a despair that walks around the edges of the room when death enters or alongside the path that extreme victimization travels.
What happens next should answer our questioning. What happens should remain as scripture that we can return to again and again when we don’t know if God cares.
For years I have wondered, and it’s not a pretty question, I know it, but if God is all knowing, if He knew that from Hagar, from Ishmael would come people who would persecute His people for generation upon generation, and from this mother and son would come a religion which would stand against His people, why does He save them? If what brings God glory is Isaac, if Ishmael was born out of Abraham’s doubt and Sarah’s control issues and the victimization of an unknown slave girl, why preserve them? It is an ugly question. There’s no two ways around it, but it comes to my mind when I read this passage, every time.
Their past is dirty. Their future is messy. They are willing to become invisible again. But God saves them and allows their story to play out. Why?
Because, first, He promised He would. He gave His word in the first place that Hagar would be free and that Ishmael would be the father of nations. He gave that promise knowing the big picture of human history and the intimate details of Hagar and Ishmael’s lives. He gave that promise knowing that there would be a moment that Hagar would be so grieved she would not cry out to Him, only sob wordlessly. He gives His word already knowing He will not take it back, because He is already in those moments when we question His promises. We say, “Do you still mean it now?” He says “I did, because I already knew.”
Secondly, and certainly equally importantly to our ability to take God at His word, is because, not only does God sees at Beer Lahai Roi, not only does He remind her God hears through Ishmael, but God sees HER. God hears HIM.
It is amazing and mind blowing to know that God sees and hears everything, but what makes a difference in our putting one foot in front of the other as we walk towards what is certain ruin, what calls us back to our feet when when we have given up is that God sees you. God hears you. There is no one so damaged that God will be able to turn His eye.
Time and time again, God steps in and pulls people from the edge and gives them hope and a future. Don’t miss this, not everyone is spared. Not every life is preserved. But when we trust in Jesus, we lay claim to a hope and a future greater than another 100 years on Earth. That’s very hard to comprehend when we sit begging for the life of a loved one or for our own life, but I trust it’s true, because He’s promised it, just like He promised to see Hagar, just like He promised to hear Ishmael.
But there are times we are given more days. There are moments we walk away from hospital beds where our hearts are torn out while we watch those we love fill with deadly fluid connected to life by wires and beeps, only to wake up the next day to find they are still with us and are improving against all odds. There is reason to hope, my friend, even when you can’t stand to look death in the eye anymore, He can.
No matter what you’ve come from and no matter what lies ahead of you.
No matter who has wronged you or cast you aside.
No matter if you are certain you aren’t apart of God’s big picture.
No matter if you’d rather just be invisible.
He sees you. He will rescue you. He will come.
- When have you been so broken that you haven’t been able to form the words to tell Him about it?
- How did He rescue you?