Do you know the story of Hagar in the Bible?
She was a slave girl whose value was overlooked. She felt unseen by the people around her.
Yet, her story speaks volumes about the nature and character of God.
Though she felt mistreated, discarded and unseen, her story is now known and told by millions around the world, many generations later.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ll let you read excerpts of Hagar’s story first.
Before that, I’ll give you some context: Abram had received a promise from God that he would have countless descendants. Yet he had no children. He and his wife, Sarai, were in their old age and hadn’t had any luck yet. So, they put matters into their own hands. They did what others in their time did when a wife was barren – they used a slave to conceive a child.
That slave was Hagar.
Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
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 16:6-13 (NIV)
Whether we admit it or not, we all desire to be seen and heard.
But no one can fully satisfy that desire other than God. He sees us, He hears us, He knows us. More importantly, He loves us.
When others overlook you, God sees you. When others tune you out, God hears you.
He calls you by name
God will only call you by your true name and true calling.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Isaiah 43:1-2 (NLT)
Which is what He does with Hagar in her encounter with the angel of the Lord in Genesis 16. You’ll notice the angel doesn’t just call her “Hagar” but also adds “slave of Sarai”. That was the position God had called her to and yet she was fleeing from it. Looking at her circumstances – being forced to sleep with Abram, becoming pregnant with a child that would be taken from her, and being mistreated by her mistress – I would probably do the same!
But, in this case, she was running from what God had called her to do. She was giving up because it got hard.
Does that strike a chord in your own spirit?
Maybe God called you to a particular position – at home, work, church, in your community – and you stepped into it in faith. But it hasn’t been easy.
The opposition seems too much at times. The pressure has mounted to the point where you feel like you have no choice but to give up, to “run away”.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:9 (NLT)
Trusting God’s purpose and timing
I’ve been there. Several years ago, I was neck deep in the corporate world. I had accelerated quickly in the first few years straight out of university but by the time I got to the people management level, I became a target.
My work environment was far from a safe space. I came up against opposition after opposition. My promotion was delayed for reasons that made no sense. I was deliberately excluded by my peers. Though I’m someone who barely experiences FOMO (fear of missing out), it hurt. To show up every day at work took courage. And that courage was dwindling – fast.
I remember going to God and saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to stay in a workplace where I’m not appreciated.” In response, He told me to stick it out, that the time to leave had not yet come.
Meanwhile, a friend from high school, who I hadn’t spoken to in years, sends me a message on Facebook. She shared a dream she had where I was telling her I’d left my job to follow God’s call. In the dream, she was encouraging me and saying nothing is more fulfilling than being where God wants you to be.
I thought, surely this is a sign to quit my job! Again, I got a “not yet” from God.
Fast forward to over a year later and in my last few months at that job, I had more God conversations with my boss than I’d ever had in the seven years prior. I invited her to the Easter service at my church, she came and rededicated her life to Jesus!
It was shortly after that when God released me from that workplace – my assignment was fulfilled.
Imagine if I’d ignored God’s red light and decided to follow my own desires in my own time. When it comes to following and surrendering to God’s plan, there are souls on the line!
Even when it gets challenging, God uses the challenge to accomplish His purpose.
Now, back to Hagar.
When God intervenes
Hagar was no stranger to challenging circumstances. She knew what hardship felt like.
But in her running, she was interrupted by God. He couldn’t sit on the sidelines and watch her run away from the discomfort of responsibility, to what she thought was the comfort of home but would only destroy her.
In telling Hagar to go back to her mistress Sarai, God was instructing her to choose humility over pride. Calling over comfort. His will over her desires.
Hagar’s destiny was re-routed by a divine encounter.
The thing is, the journey doesn’t always look like that. God doesn’t always intervene when we’re going down the wrong road. Sometimes, He does. But many times, He gives us the choice of which way to go. Under the pressure and the persecution, will you run away or will you run to God?
When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.
Psalm 118:5 (NIV)
In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free.
Psalm 118:5 (NLT)
God sees. God hears. God answers.