HARD TIMES THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO RUN AWAY
Sometimes life feels so hard that we just want to run away. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who’s felt like that. There’s Hagar for example. You can read about her in the Bible, in Genesis chapter 16. Hagar was a servant girl who experienced very hard times, so she decided to flee into the wilderness. More on this to follow. King David also expressed the desire to run – or fly! – away: “Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest’” (Psalm 55:5-6).
Recently I was struggling with a few things and feeling like I wanted to run away. God brought me specific encouragement as I was reading through the book of Genesis. Through His word God spoke to my heart: “I am God Almighty. Is anything too hard for me? I see, I care. I’m doing good things. Trust me, trust me.” These might be the very words your heart needs to hear as well. Let’s look at some of the ways God encourages us through Genesis 15-18 when we’re facing those hard times when you’d rather run away.
1. God uses the hard times to reveal the quality of our faith
Abraham believed God and he is held up in the Bible as a model to follow when it comes to trusting God’s promises (especially in hard times). “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This didn’t stop Abraham, however, from asking questions about the certainty of God’s promises. “But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know…?”” (Genesis 15:8). We can relate – who doesn’t want to know for sure that God will do what He said He would do. When things are tough I find myself asking, like Abraham, “Lord, how can I know that everything will turn out ok – because it doesn’t seem like it?”
When we are in hard times our faith is tested. God promised Abraham that he would have a son and that through his own son he would become the father of many nations. Abraham had to wait a long time however! It took 25 years in total before that promise was fulfilled. Besides that, Abraham was already old and his wife was past childbearing. Abraham’s trust in God was tested and in the process God revealed the quality of his faith. In the hard times God does a good thing: He exposes our faith or lack of it. The bible also uses the picture of our faith being tested or proven just as fire is used to refine gold or other metals (1 Peter 1:6-7, Isaiah 48:10, Job 23:10).
How have you been responding to hard times? What does this reveal about the object of your faith – in what or who are you trusting? How would you describe the quality of your faith and your relationship with God? What good things do you think God wants to achieve in you through these hard times?
2. God sees and God cares
Does anyone know or understand what I’m going through? Does anyone really care? Those are thoughts that trouble us during hard times. They are real and important questions. That’s what Hagar was thinking when she ran away into the wilderness.
Hagar got caught up in the middle of a tough situation when Abraham’s wife decided to take matters into her own hands. God had promised Abraham and Sarai a son, but things were taking too long. So Sarai gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham so that he could have a child by her and so ensure the birth of a male heir. This was a common custom at that time in the ancient Near East. (Just in case you’re wondering, the Bible never encourages the idea of taking more than one wife.)
Things went from bad to worse when Hagar fell pregnant and behaved in a scornful way towards her mistress. As a result Sarai responded harshly towards Hagar and made life unbearable for her. That’s when Hagar decided it was better to run away. Hagar staggers through the wilderness, completely alone, heartbroken and with no idea what the future holds. We are told that, “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness” (Genesis 16:7). Notice God finds her, she’s not even looking for Him. The angel of the Lord addresses her by name and asks her where she is going. Immediately the encounter becomes personal: someone is interested and someone wants to know her story.
Here Hagar learns that God cares for people in the most unexpected situations. The angel instructs Hagar to change her attitude and go back and be submissive to her mistress, but not before giving her hope and giving her promises about her son and her future. Hagar’s response shows how moved she was and how this encounter gave her a totally new view of God: “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me”” (Genesis 16:13). Her son is to be called “Ishmael”, which means “God hears,” and the well gets called “well of the Living One who sees me.” What powerful and encouraging words, God is the Living One who hears and who sees me.
Are you stumbling around alone and feeling like nobody cares? God notices and He is ready to meet you with His grace and reveal Himself to you personally like He did to Hagar. When life is hard there can be nothing more precious than knowing there is a God who cares and who sees what you are going through. “When we’re running for our lives or wandering through the wilderness of isolation, failure, or rejections, the discovery that God is watching is worth nearly everything”. Is God stirring your heart to want to get to know Him better – this God who sees and who cares? Have you had a personal encounter with God like Hagar?