Disappointment. Jealousy. A lack of control. Loneliness. Confusion. Any of these feel all too familiar? Any of these describe a season you’re walking through right now? God’s Word is full of stories of humans experiencing these same things. And we have much to learn about the character of God and our response to him as he shows up to the hurting and struggling. Take a deep breath and ask God to open your eyes to this story. He has something here for YOU.
Remember the story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar? The promise of offspring had not come like Abram expected. Sarai’s hope was deferred, and she was heartsick with the disappointment of feeling like his promise fell through the cracks. “The Lord has kept me from having children” she said to Abram. Sarai started to believe that God was actually withholding good, and her vision of God began to blur. She became lost in a self-destructive cycle of manhandling as she no longer felt seen by her God, and lost sight of him in the process. So she brought Hagar to Abram, deciding that was the only way to have a baby. She took two pieces she felt she could control, two people in her life, forced them together, and hoped that THIS would be the promise and miracle her heart needed. But it wasn’t. Ishmael wasn’t God’s promise, and her jealousy and control sent pregnant Hagar into the desert.
Hagar became so mistreated by Sarai that she fled to the desert, scared and alone, just to escape her reality. While on the run, an angel of God appeared to her near a fountain and told Hagar to return home. “Where are coming from, and where are you going?” the angel asked her. He then told her to return home and left her with a beautiful promise about her offspring. “Have I just seen the one who sees me?”, she whispered with a new kind of hope.
“She [Hagar] 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.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [the”well of the Living One who sees me”]. (Genesis 16:13-14) This was probably Hagar’s first encounter with the Lord, and she gave him a new name. The only time this special name was used in the Bible was when she said “You are El Roi— the God who sees me.” So she returned home, having seen, and being seen by HER God. That changes everything, doesn’t it?
Fast-forward a few years, and God hadn’t forgotten about Sarai either! He saw her, as he always had, and he fulfilled his promise. In a surprising turn of events, as an old lady, he brought Sarai a baby boy who they named Isaac. This was the child of the covenant. The one God had planned on making into a great nation! But in the thrill of hope that came with Isaac, the sting of rejection only got worse for Hagar and Ishmael. Sarai, sensitive and offended, demanded that Hagar and her son be sent back into that desert, and this time, not to return. A tearful Abraham sent them away with a little bit of food and water. Days later when that water ran out, Hagar tucked Isaac under a little bush in some shade, and walked a little distance away, and began to sob… A sob that can only express the depth of a human soul that has been crushed. A soul who no longer feels seen. As she wrestled with her inevitable fate of death in the desert, Ishmael began to weep as well. And God was right there. An angel came to them again in this same desert, and again, brought hope and encouragement. “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.” (Genesis 21:17-19)
Again, El Roi saw. Again, the Lord heard. And again when Hagar saw the Lord, her own eyes were opened. This time to a well of sustaining life for she and her small son.
Only our God can redeem and restore the most messy, tangled up, man-handled mistakes we are capable of making. But he doesn’t just fix us, he sees us. He sees every time our hearts leap in excitement and anticipation, every time we forget his promises and hurt one another, and every time our souls are crushed by the heat of a dry and lonely desert. He sees when our feet are steady and secure and when we are walking on what feels like quicksand. He restores our souls in the paths of righteousness for his name sake. And EVEN when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can fear no evil. Because he is with us, he goes before us, and he sees us. (Psalm 23)
This life is a very mixed bag of joys and sorrows. I’ve been Sarai and Hagar all in a day. The one who man-handles and the one who feels forgotten and abandoned. But El Roi sees, doesn’t he? The miracle in the “being seen” is that our eyes are opened to see him as he is. He will never leave or forsake us. (Joshua 1:9) He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23) He is actually our good Father, our shield, and no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
Hope. Identity. Life. Clarity. May these become your reality as you get to know El Roi, the God who sees you… right now in your joy, or in your hopelessness. There are no bounds to the love and care he has for his children. Where it seems man-made mistakes ruin and harm, God brings redemption and new beginnings. His ways can’t be thwarted and although our impatience and confusion cloud our perspective, he always sees. There is no greater source of hope. May we see the one who sees us, friends.