He met her in a lonely place, by a spring in the desert. Enveloped in seclusion and running from abuse – God appeared to her in the manifestation of a human, an angel of the Lord. She was a pregnant woman abandoned and alone. She lived a life of poverty, slavery, and mistreatment at the hands of humans. But she was understood, seen, loved, and important to God. At the spring, Hagar experienced an overwhelming sense of belonging, and then she named Him El Roi, “the God who sees." 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).
Maybe you are waiting for endearing eyes to be noticed and seen. Possibly you are in a season of loneliness and experiencing the sting of rejection. Could it be that it's been more than one season of being deserted or cast aside? I'm not sure who walked out of your life or failed to give you the attention and respect you deserve, but I know how depleting the emotional toll of being abandoned can be. I understand the irrational phenomenon of being lonely as a mother even when you are never physically alone. I've, too, felt the ache of longing to be loved, heard, and accepted. Momma, there is only One who can completely satisfy this longing.
What’s your Story?
I recently watched an episode of Brené Brown: Atlas of the Heart, where Brené explained the importance of shifting from a "trying to walk in her shoes" approach to listening and then believing her story. Instead of trying to understand from our limited world view, you ask for her story, listen intently, and believe her. Brené says, "The problem is the believing part. And the problem is not believing her when she tells me her story because it either challenges what I want to be true about the world, or it challenges my idea that there's just one experience of the world, or it makes me accountable in some way that makes me uncomfortable."
Friend, unfortunately, I don't know your story. But I know the One who does, El Roi. The God who sees you. Just like we witness in the story of Hagar, a mother who is abandoned. Maybe you are walking a similar desolate path as her, and hope for lush fields has grown dim. We may not be able to sit together on the couch, but together we can look at the story of Hagar and believe her story because it is part of the Word and the Word is truth.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Who was Hagar?
We can learn a lot from the woman whose name means "forsaken.” Hagar was Sarai's Egyptian slave. Sarai (later becomes Sarah) could not conceive and grew impatient. Sarai gave her maid to Abram (Abraham) so that Hagar would conceive and she could start a family through her. When Hagar became pregnant, she held contempt for her mistress, and her mistress treated her harshly, causing Hagar to flee the house.
By all means, Hagar was treated as an object necessary only for her fertility and service – a socially marginalized woman. She was abandoned and abused by all. That is, except God. God showed up when everyone had turned their backs on her because He loved her and had a purpose for her life. This truth applies to you. You may be drowning in insignificance, but you are so significant to our Father that He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He, too, has a purpose for you.
He Sees Her
The first time, the angel of the Lord meets her at the spring. In Genesis 16: 8, He calls her by name and asks her, "Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" I always find it intriguing and sometimes a little infuriating that God asks questions when He already knows the answers. However, I understand He asks us questions to draw us closer to Him and think through things to understand ourselves better. Here, He is reflecting on Hagar's past and her future. She gives a partial answer stating where she came from but does not state where she was going. Maybe she didn't know what was next. She hadn't had time to plan a future as she ran from her past.
But God had a plan and a purpose for Hagar and the child she was carrying. The angel of the Lord commands her to return to her mistress and submit to her, but He gives her the promise of increasing her descendants so much that there will be too many to count. (Genesis 16:9-10) "You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery."
From Worse to Worst
When she obeyed the original command from God, you would think things would get better. She gives birth to Ishmael, whose name means "God hears." Then we read in Genesis 21 where God fulfills his promise to Abraham and Sarah and provides them with a son, Isaac, in their old age. Ishmael, fulfilling the mischievous personality God prophesized, mocks the son of Sarah and Abraham at a feast. Sarah considered Ishmael a threat to the secure future of his second son, Isaac. She has Abraham send Hagar and her son packing.
Diving into the story in Genesis 21:14-16, we see Hagar and Ishmael wander in the Desert of Beersheba, and when she runs out of water, she places the boy under 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.
I can only imagine her fear and despair in this desperate time. She probably felt the weight of her name "forsaken" in those moments. The promise from God certainly seemed like empty words alone in the desert. But, God…
He Hears Her
That's when God hears the cries of the boy. The second time, the angel of the Lord calls down from heaven and tells her not to be afraid; God is near. He told her to console the boy and then opened her eyes to a well -- His provision right in front of her. She went from discarded to wanted in the sun-scorched sand. God sees and hears. He cares, and then He provides. Ishmael grows up with God in the desert and becomes an archer. God fulfills His promise to Hagar, and her son became the father of the Arabian nation. She goes from no family to a fulfilled promise of many descendants.
The Truths we can Apply from Hagar's Story
Franklin Graham reminds us, "No matter what storm you face, you need to know God loves you. He has not abandoned you." God will take you from abandoned to belonging because He loves you dearly and wants you.
Even the most faithful woman will have her doubts about God's promises and goodness. Hagar saw and spoke to God, yet she gave up hope when she needed Him most. I know the feeling of being abandoned even by God, but dear friend, this is a lie because He is never far away. We read this truth in Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Sometimes we have to be alone to have our eyes opened to His provision right in front of us. In my darkest moments, alone with Jesus, he opened my eyes to the light. Know this, He cares for you and is for you. "She confidently trusts in the Lord to take care of her" (Psalm 112:7).
God is already working on your path and purpose when you can't imagine a brighter future. He has a plan for you when you can't see more than two inches in front of you. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Momma, I pray you to take these truths and promises from God to heart. Ask the questions, my friend. Ask yourself what you truly want and need. Ask God the "why." Don't be shy. Pray for something small -- like the next step and expect to hear and see Him answer. I hope a passionate flame of belief ignites in your soul, and you witness the breadcrumbs God is leaving for you to follow Him and see Him working on your behalf.
Originally published on ibelieve.com.