Together We Follow: Genesis 16

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Genesis 16 is a heartbreaking twist in the lives of Abram and Sarai. Although God had shown His faithfulness already to them, there was a promise — the promise Sarai had been waiting to see fulfilled — not yet made reality. After years and years of waiting, her arms were still empty. It isn’t hard to understand how fear, doubt, and grief filled her heart. More than anything, a child was what she wanted. More than anything, she wanted to be a mother. She wanted to see Abram hold his son, an heir to all of their love.

With the promise of God to Abram of a great number of descendants, hope was sparked in her soul after, most likely, she had nearly (if not completely) given up on the idea of motherhood. But the years kept passing by and still there was no child…and she let the spark die into ashes.

She began to doubt that this promise was meant for her. In an attempt to fix the situation, looking for a solution of her own making, she sent her maid into Abram’s arms. It was not long before Hagar had something that Sarai did not have: life growing in her womb.

Sarai was unhappy, Hagar was unhappy, and although we aren’t told how Abram felt at that moment — it seems safe enough to guess that he was unhappily in the middle of this conflict. Because Abram and Sarai made this choice, together, to ‘fix’ their problem instead of waiting on God to fulfill His word to them, everything became more complicated.

I can put myself, at least a little bit, in each of their shoes and understand how hard it must have been in that season of their lives. I have tried so many times to make things happen in my own power and ended up in a mess of regret and shame…I have doubted God’s timing…I have wondered if it was too late for me to see His purposes fulfilled in my life…I have been on the other side of someone else’s mistake, living with the hard consequences of decisions I didn’t make for myself.

But in the middle of all these doubts, bad choices, and fears…we find a beautiful moment.

Hagar ran away from Sarai’s presence, ending up in the wilderness. She was alone, pregnant, and scared…but not for long. An angel met her there because the Lord heard her affliction. In her moment of need, in her time of despair, God reached out to her and let her know that there was a plan for her, there was hope for her future.

God saw her anguish and cared about her pain…and that’s what Hagar called Him: “You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees”.

Wherever you are today – He is still the God who sees. He sees me. He sees you. He is the God who hears our cries and meets us in our wilderness.  He is the God who draws near to the broken-hearted, the God who bears our burdens on His own shoulders. He is the God who knows you by name, your life of immeasurable worth to Him. He is the God who redeems us. We might have sparks of hope and faith that we’ve left to fade into a pile of ashes  — but He is the One who blows fresh life into us, making even what was dead live again.

Friends, whatever your situation might be – He knows your affliction and He isn’t leaving you alone in it…He is our ‘very present help in time of need’.

Hagar still had a hard road ahead of her…and, sometimes, so do we. But from that day, she could walk with the knowledge that God knew her and that He cared for her…she knew that He was making a way for her life…and that’s the truth we hold, too. We are loved – and He will walk through every wilderness, every hard-to-understand season with us. On the other side, we will be able to say with certainty: The God-Who-Sees works all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Hold onto your hope.

You are not forgotten.

You are not discarded.

You are not useless.

You are not abandoned.

You are never, ever alone.

Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”

So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” And the Angel of the Lord said to her:

“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”  Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

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As Sure As the Sun (Scripture & Song for Music Monday)

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deut. 31:8

_________

“There is good news, there’s a promise that no matter where you go

you will never be alone.

In the dark, in the doubting – when you can’t feel anything,

His love remains the same.”

Music Monday: My Portion & My Strength

Dear friends,

It has been a day here. I’ve been debating whether or not I should talk about it – and I land on yes, because maybe…just maybe…you have had one of these days, too.

It hasn’t been an external battle but an in-the-heart kind of struggle…even while still being so grateful for everything in my life, I have felt unsettled today. I’ve run short on patience and frustration has come quickly, whether with our sometimes-working dishwasher, the apple juice I spilled all over the counter, or with my kids. I haven’t felt that internal peace that keeps me centered and focused…usually I try to stay present in the moment, my eyes on the long-term and not on the right this second situation…but today, the doing-things-but-not-getting-anything-done syndrome that sometimes plagues all of us is bringing me to the sit-in-the-floor-and-cry-while-pulling-my-hair-out syndrome. I have wavered between insecurity and fear, self-condemnation and regret. And, of course, since I know that I really have no reason to be out-of-sorts – and all of the things causing me irritation are truly inconsequential – I have felt guilty for all of the above short-comings. Which makes me feel worse. And brings on more of the waterworks.

It’s not a pretty cycle, y’all.

What do we do when we get caught up in a day like this? How do we stop the cycle?

The only way I know to find victory over the ‘I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I want to do’ battle that Paul describes in Romans 7 (which, honestly, he could have written specifically about me today) is by falling on our knees, God’s Word in our hands, our hearts yielding to His. When we are in trouble, we cannot delay coming to Him – we must throw up our hands and cry out for help!

Listen to what Paul says: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When our emotions try to master us, when we are weak and unprepared for the spiritual battles we face – we must call upon God, who gives us the victory through Jesus! Listen, it may be nearing the end of this Monday, but it is not time to throw in the towel on this day. You may have had a rough day, a rough weekend, a week or a month or a year that has tasted like defeat – but it is not too late to cry out to God. It is not too late to pick up that shield of faith, which will extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. It is not too late to ask Him to steady your feet with His gospel of peace, to wrap His truth around your life, to remind you that His righteousness makes your heart secure. It is not too late to wield your sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and is mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,  and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Cor. 10)

Do not close your eyes tonight without knowing that you are set free from sin and condemnation – no matter what your emotions say, no matter what accusations the enemy sends your way. What matters is what God says – and He says that you are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom.3:24) He says that therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the laws of sin and death. (Rom.8:1)

We can struggle and we can have hard days – but, friends, we cannot quit because Jesus has given us new life in Him! Paul’s words speak directly to my heart again in Philippians 3 – But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know if your body or your heart is broken, if you are fighting a battle of the mind and will or if there are people in your life causing you pain. I don’t know if it’s a circumstance you can’t change or a problem that feels impossible to solve.

But I do know this – we serve a God who is good, a God who is mighty in power. We serve a God abounding in mercy, great in His faithfulness. We serve a God to whom nothing is too hard and not even one single thing is impossible. We serve a God who equips us to stand firm against the power of darkness, sin, and the enemy, every single day. We serve a God who cares about our struggles. He comes alongside us and empowers us through His Holy Spirit – He gives us peace that surpasses understanding and the fullness of His joy…joy that can’t be taken away, joy that gives us strength.

And through it all – through it all – (even when we feel most unloveable) nothing separates us from His love.

Listen, after this day of feeling (I’m borrowing Paul’s word here) just wretched inside of this heart and head, it is the pure gift of grace that still meets me when I fall on my face before my Father…and His grace will meet you, too, wherever you are.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.

Christ Jesus who died – more than that – who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. {Don’t miss that wonder-full truth – our Savior, on these hardest of days, is praying for us!}

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:31-39)

Oh, may this truth be our hope and our confidence! May this be the joy that refreshes and renews us, that sets our feet dancing to the rhythm of His heart-beat. Our victory does not depend on us – but in whom we place our trust – the Savior who has overcome the world, the Lamb of God – Jesus – who has taken away our sin and defeated death, hell, and the grave!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The morning comes with new mercy. Let’s run on, friends.

Love,

Christie

Songs for Your Heart…

Ellie Holcomb’s music has been on repeat in this house over the past few months. I love her songs because she so often incorporates Scripture into the words…and pairing the Word with music is such a wonderful way for a heart to memorize God’s truth. Here are a few of my favorites…I hope they bring a little more of His light to your heart for this weekend.