Anytime people get desperate, the innocent suffer.
Hagar was a foreigner and a slave. As Sarah’s maidservant, she had one job – to attend to Sarah. Biblical scholars believe Hagar was one of the servants given to Abraham in Egypt when Pharaoh took Sarah for himself (Genesis 12:16).
So here Hagar is serving Sarah when she is finds herself caught up in Sarah’s issues. You see, Sarah has a problem: she’s tired of waiting on God’s promise for a child. And in her desperation, she creates a solution – to exploit Hagar in an effort to fulfil her own desire of having children. Nowhere does it say that Hagar was consulted about how she felt about the plan. She was a foreigner and a slave, which put her at the bottom of the social ladder. This leads me to believe she had little choice in the matter.
The arrangement went along as planned and Hagar became pregnant. But what Sarah hadn’t anticipated was how Hagar would behave once she became pregnant – she began to walk around with an air of superiority over Sarah. Now before we jump on Hagar for looking down on Sarah, we have to understand where she’s coming from. She’s a slave. Even though she may have been treated well in Abraham’s household, she’s been a slave living in a foreign land. But now her future is secured because she pregnant with the seed of a prominent and wealthy man. This was a huge deal, so, like most would have done in her position, she basked in this newfound glory.
Unfortunately, many of us fall into the same trap and lose our humility when we are elevated to prestigious levels of success in life. So we can’t really knock Hagar too hard.
Sometimes while enjoying God’s blessings, we don’t realize we’re coming off as being proud; and pride can make you catch amnesia and you get so caught up in yourself, you forget that the person you’re turning your nose up at has the power to make your life miserable.
Well, it happens to the best of us…
So Sarah becomes angry about Hagar’s pregnancy and subsequent change in attitude, so she complains to Abraham who, instead of coming to Hagar’s defense and setting his house in order, washes his hands of his moral responsibility in the situation, giving Sarah permission to treat Hagar however she pleases. And so Sarah mistreats Hagar, knocking her off her high horse and back into her place as a slave. Hagar, who probably believed that Abraham would stand up for her as the expectant mother of his child, was treated so poorly she ran away to a place that doesn’t support life.
Sometimes pain can lead you to a place where nothing good can survive; a place that cannot nourish personal growth, and an environment so hostile that no one else can stand the heat – so you find yourself alone. But you stay there. You don’t like the blazing desert, but you find comfort by a spring that provides refreshment yet keeps you bound to where you are. The spring gives you an excuse to stay where you are instead of progressing to a better place in life.
“I can’t leave my abusive spouse because we have children.”
“This job compromises my beliefs and eats away at my conscience, but I need the money.”
“I can’t cut off this person who isn’t a very good influence because we grew up together, and they understand me.”
God never designed the spring to be an excuse that holds you back. He meant for it to be the blessing that gets you through the desert alive. A place where, as you pause to drink, he can reason with you and lead you back to Himself. A spring provides just enough water to sustain that which immediately surrounds it. It doesn’t support the entire desert. The spring you find in your desert will only quench a small area in your life. It provides temporary relief, but it doesn’t get you out of the scorching heat. It may cure your loneliness, keep a roof over your head, or maintain your social status, but it can’t satisfy the deep yearning in your soul.
The joy I find in Hagar’s story is that God saw the misery of a poor slave girl and sent an angel to her side in the desert — just when she thought no one cared about her. When she was alone, vulnerable, afraid, and felt everyone had let her down, God reassured her that He had seen her misery, made her a promise, and then told her to go back to her mistress.
The only way to move forward in life is to pack up all of your pain and leave the spring in faith. Then, armed with the promises of God, go back and address what led you to the desert in the first place.
Make peace with whatever you’re fleeing from. Because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself stuck by the spring, only marginally satisfied, and controlled by exponential fear — fear of moving forward, fear of going back, and the fear that the spring you’re depending on will eventually dry up.
If God could meet Hagar in a place of desolation and disappointment, He’ll find you too. Just pause for a moment and know that the God who saw Hagar is the same God who sees you.
Vimbai E. is a writer, journalist, ghostwriter and the founder of The Weight She Carries. With hundreds of articles publishing online, in print and for broadcast, her love of language and storytelling shines through every piece of writing that bears her name.