7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8And 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… 11 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… 13 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 16:7-8,11,13
I feel I need to begin by sharing something with you dear sisters. I am a runner. Lacing up those running shoes and taking off, free as a bird, is something I do on a regular basis. It’s one of the many ways I deal with the stress in my life and the problems that seem to follow me around like a lost puppy. I do love a good run, but I have to confess it’s not the healthy kind. So, if you were envisioning one of the Spandex clad joggers, gracefully running with strength and endurance, freeze that frame for a second! Replace the thought with something more like our servant girl Hagar, making a run for the desert to get away from the problems she was having with Sarai. Or, my personal favorite is the image of Elijah tucking up his cloak after a huge victory and running for who knows how long, only to run in fear out into the desert to jump into a pit of despair. That ladies, is the kind of running you’ll find on my exercise routine, and that is also one of the reasons this story of the servant girl Hagar so touches my heart.
This encounter Hagar has with God begins with “The Angel of the LORD found Hagar.” Now, we know that Hagar was never lost to God; He knew where she was, but in this moment, He draws near to her, appears to her, and asks her where she is going? God already knows. God already sees. He knows and sees all things. Yet as Hagar is running from the life that God has ordained for her, El Roi ~ the God who sees ~ is inviting Hagar to catch a glimpse of what she is doing and giving her an opportunity to return to the path God has set out for her.
I love that when I become full of fear, or doubt, or even when it is anger and frustration that causes me to run and hide, my God will come and find me. Psalm 139:7-10 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Our God not only sees, He holds us with His strong right hand. He continues to guide us even as we are veering dangerously off course. I believe that the more our hearts are breaking, the more our Father desires to “find” us and bring us back into His loving arms ~ back into fellowship where we can experience His never ending love and peace again.
Over and over, I have found my Father faithful. Over and over I have sensed my sweet Jesus luring me back into His arms, wanting to lovingly put back together the pieces of my broken and hurting heart. Over and over my God has opened my eyes to see Him in the middle of my desert seasons, revealing to me, that the only One who sees my misery, is also the One who loves me enough to seek me out of my wandering and carry me back home.
Hagar encountered that seeking and overwhelming love of God that day alone in the desert. She had left behind all that was familiar. She must have felt betrayed by Sarai and was probably angry and most likely full of fear. What would she do? Who would help her care for her unborn child? But God did not leave her. He revealed Himself to her, and when she saw who God was, she exclaimed, “You are the God who sees me,” and she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me!”
Hagar would meet El Roi in the desert on another occasion. This time she was not running, but sent away by her master. Out of water, she feared for her son’s life, and left him under a bush not wanting to watch him die. But God would again show Himself to her in her time of need. Genesis 21:17-19 says, “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.”
I often wonder if Hagar would have not seen the well had she not had the faith to believe the promises of God for her and her son. As a mom, trusting God with the very lives of our children can be one of the greatest challenges of our faith. The prospect of God desiring for us to let go of control over the little ones we hold most dear will cause even the best of us to roll up our cloaks and high-tail it into the desert looking for a place to hide. This is the place where God has found me this evening: hiding in fear, not trusting His promises for my children. Do I have the faith to see the well of water that my God is offering to my son? Can I see the path He has laid out for my daughter before even He created the world? I don’t see it yet, and my heart is full of fear.
There are so many challenges to face and so many things unknown. I feel overwhelmed and so alone, but even in this place, I see my God. He has come to bring me out of the desert once more, inviting me to trust what I cannot see, and believe that my El Roi sees even the things I do not understand. God always sees, and His promises are always true. Even with a hand shaking with fear, I will choose to reach for His Mighty Hand and return home under the shelter of His wing. He is forever faithful, and I know that as I release my grip on my children, trusting their lives to Him just as Hagar had to do with Ishmael, He will come to them and provide for them, too, and I will praise his Name!
“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3
And who knows? Maybe if I stop wasting so much energy trying to run and hide, I might just be able to lace up those running shoes and run the race God has laid out before me ~ shining the mighty light of Jesus along the way. Don’t you just love our God? I do.