DYSFUNCTION - Week of June 19th

By Judy Nichols

June 19, 2016


    When things aren’t working right in our lives, it’s difficult to see what God is doing. It’s even hard to imagine His being there at all. In our woundedness we feel alone and our only thought is to escape the situation.

    This was the case for Hagar, Sarai’s maid. God had promised Abram and Sarai a child but, after waiting ten years, Sarai evidently became impatient. Taking matters into her own hands, she suggested to Abram that perhaps her maid Hagar could be a surrogate and provide the promised child. Abram assents and takes Hagar as a wife. She becomes pregnant and then looks with contempt on Sarai.

    Wounded, Sarai blames Abram. How dysfunctional is that? She incites him to sin and then blames him for the consequences. Abram seems no less dysfunctional, in that, rather than being the mature head of the household or trying to make peace, he just tells Sarai to do whatever she wants to Hagar.

    Accordingly, Sarai treats her harshly and she runs away. The angel of the Lord meets her and questions her as to where she has come from and where she is going. She says she is fleeing from her mistress Sarai but never says where she is going. How true it is that when we are hoping to escape some negative circumstance, we only want to get away with no idea of where we would go or where that choice will lead us.

    The angel tells Hagar to return, to go back to her unpleasant situation and submit to Sarai. We do not know if Sarai continued to treat her badly, but I suspect their relationship was less than optimal. (Later, after Isaac is born, Sarai demands that Abram send Hagar and her son away so that Isaac will be his only heir.)

    Even the angel’s promise to multiply her offspring was little consolation in that moment, especially considering his description of the character of the son she would bear: "a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him." Not only does she have to go back and endure Sarai’s ill treatment, but she also knows life as this child’s mother is not going to be easy.

    Hagar "called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘you are a God who sees,’ for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’ (Gen. 13:16)." It is indeed a blessing to know that God sees us in our troubles, that He is not absent, but at work in the midst of our circumstances.

    My ESV Bible has an alternate translation of that verse, that I also like very much. It reads, "Would I have looked here for the one who sees me?" In our desperation to escape our trials, we rarely think to look for God in the midst of them. Perhaps He has granted us the capacity to feel alone so that we will seek Him. Maybe He allows us to feel pain or loss or grief so that we will look not for ways to escape them, but for the presence of the One who comforts, heals, and fills all in all.

© Judy Nichols 2016

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