Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Abraham’s servant Hagar and her son Ishmael. The harsh words exchanged by jealous Sarah and her slave, the abuse, the rejection—it was so severe at one point that Hagar ran away. She had no where to run, no person to help her, but her despair and hopelessness were so great. And though she ultimately returned to Abraham and Sarah, she was cast out a few years later, exiled with her son, left to wander in the desert with no hope, no home, and almost certain death.
Twice she was persecuted and cast aside at the hands of those who claimed fellowship with God (Genesis 16:13, 21:8-21). And in her moments of greatest desperation and agony, God revealed Himself to her—twice! “I am a God Who Sees,” El Roi. Twice He rescued her, twice He comforted her; and in the end, He made from her son a great nation.
This story has resonated with me lately because my heart has been so grieved—grieved for the people who have placed such tremendous confidence in elected leaders, grieved for the confusion and hopelessness the protestors feel, grieved by the angry hurtful words tossed back and forth. It literally hurts to watch. It hurts to watch people destroy each other out of pride or fear or despair.
On one hand, I see people celebrating as though a messiah had come. I’ve heard claims that range from “everything will be set right” to “God will protect our land now.” As if a human of any caliber could set our world or our nation right. As if God were somehow obligated to overlook the atrocities committed in our land simply because of one election. As if somehow we’ve narrowly escaped His judgement. As if somehow the need to continue to call out for His mercy had passed because He’d already given it.
On the other hand, I see people hurt and despairing over rejection, exchanges of harsh words, abusive treatment, and fear of what may come to pass. In utter agony, they project what will occur with no thought for a God who works in the affairs of men, anticipating utter destruction without considering a God who loves sinful men enough to give His own life, a God who judges and destroys nations for disregarding the poor and hurting the helpless, a God who is concerned—a God who hears, a God who sees. And while there are always those who eagerly wait for an opportunity to be hurtful and evil, El Roi is not blind or powerless.
Let’s not forget that one individual cannot and should not be the source of either our hope or our despair. My Christian friends, see the window of opportunity in our land for God’s hope to shine in darkness. Let’s stop focusing on a person and continue to call out to God for mercy. Let’s stop criticizing the despair and offer hope. Let’s begin pointing to God’s light and truth and character. Let’s choose to be the eyes and ears of El Roi, the God who sees and loves!
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”