“I just can’t see God in this.” We all have moments when we believe our lives have veered off track and God has gone quiet. In these moments, we may feel like yelling or crying, but perhaps we should also sit quietly and wait for God to come find us. In Genesis we have the opportunity to join a woman in a desperate moment who is sought out found, and forever changed by God.
In Genesis 16, we are introduced to Sarai’s slave girl, Hagar. Sarai, who has been unable to conceive a child after many years, decides she can no longer wait on God, so she gives her slave girl to her husband, Abram. What is apparent is that Hagar’s feelings are of little consequence in this decision, and when she is successful in conceiving Abram’s child, her relationship with Sarai sours. After receiving little compassion from her husband, Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar, who then runs for her life into the wilderness.
Hagar is visited by an angel of the Lord in the wilderness, who asks her where she has come from and where she is headed. It is noteworthy that the angel calls out to Hagar saying, “‘Hagar, slave of Sarai’” (Genesis 16:8, NIV). Although the scripture introduces Hagar to us by name, we never read that her name is spoken by Sarai or Abram, who refer to her only as “slave.” Not only is she sought out by the angel of the Lord, but her humanity is restored when her name is called out. The angel of the Lord knows who Hagar is and makes it clear that this encounter is not simply by chance, but is one of careful design.
This does not mean that her life will be easy from that time on, but it does mean that her life matters
The angel then gives Hagar a message regarding her son, but not before telling her that she must go back and submit to Sarai. This must be a perplexing moment for Hagar, as she is told that she has to return to the misery she has just risked her life to escape. However, Hagar’s response to the angel of the Lord is not one of surprise, but of worship: “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).
Hagar names God! In her most desperate moment, she recognizes that God has sought her out and “sees” her! This does not mean that her life will be easy from that time on, but it does mean that her life matters. Hagar goes back, carrying with her the knowledge that, although her circumstance is complex, the message of grace given to her by the angel of the Lord is not. Hagar the slave girl carries that truth back to Abram and Sarai, a mission no one could have expected.
How often are we giving space to the Holy Spirit to speak to us? There is little room in our constantly-connected lives to sit and be quiet, but we need to create space to do so. The practice of solitude and prayer not only allows for these moments, it is a gift in the overly scheduled, loud, and busy days in which we live. When we find ourselves in desperate moments when we are struggling to see God’s plan, these are the times to listen—to be quiet in the presence of the Lord.
God has the amazing ability to find us in the wilderness and bring about radical change in us! So while we may not always “see God,” he sees us, loves us, and may just lead us out of the wilderness with a message of grace.