Monday, November 4, 2013

Tucked within the first pages of the Bible is a powerful little story perfect for teenage girls.  It's oozing with drama, girl problems, and heart issues that describe many of our daily lives!

This little story highlights a Biblical wallflower--a girl that nobody saw, who's life was unfair and seemingly insignificant. Her life got so dramatic and painful that she runs away. 

Ever heard of Hagar? The Biblical loser, if you will. 

Would you jump into her story with me this week?  Let's watch her abandon depression for hope, aimlessness for purpose, and hurt for life-changing love. I think you might see a lot of yourself in her.

Hagar’s story begins in Genesis, chapter 16.  

Hagar is a young Egyptian woman, and was Sarah’s slave. To understand Hagar's story, you also need to understand Sarah's situation.  Sarah was the wife of Abraham--a VERY important man in the Bible.  Hagar is a nobody.  She’s a foreign, female, slave. That’s three strikes.  Her day’s purpose was as simple as doing what she was told.  (Ever felt like that?!)  She didn’t belong or fit in with Abraham’s family.  (Ever feel like you don't fit in?!)  She was taken from her family, and from her culture that was familiar to her.    Hagar wasn’t important to those around her, she held no status, wasn’t popular.   

Simply put--Sarah is the popular girl,  Hagar is kinda the loser. Getting it?  Good, let's move on.

Hagar comes onto the scene about 10 years after Sarah was promised a child from God-but still, Sarah has no baby. Sarah is in a dark place right now. Each year had made it harder to believe God’s promise that she would have children. And finally, as if she begins drowning in her doubt, she decides to do things her own way.  Sarah, 80 year-old Sarah, glances over at her Egyptian maid, Hagar.  Hagar is young, dark, and beautiful. And she looks way more fertile than Sarah.  Hagar looks like a solution to Sarah’s problem. So, Sarah grabs her by the arm and goes to Abraham and says,  “Here.  Get her pregnant.  Then we can have a kid.  Then God’s promises can happen.”

Can you hear the despair in her voice?  The forfeit of hope?

As weird as this idea sounds, know that was a custom then.  Since the maid, Hagar, was the property of Abraham and Sarah, if she had a child with Abraham, then the kid was considered Abraham’s and Sarah’s. It was a way of manipulating the system. Weird, I know. But it worked, Hagar got pregnant.

Think of a time that you were hopeless, a time when God’s promises were no longer believable. Write them down in the space below:

Was there “Sunday School promises” that you heard when you were young that you no longer believe?  Is it hard to believe that God loves you?  Is it hard to believe that his love and purpose for your life is enough?

Well, the drama begins. Things between Sarah and Hagar get tense. And the bitterness begins to grow. (Ever been bitter towards someone? It can consume us, huh?!) Hagar couldn’t hide her bitterness from Sarah.  Which ticked Sarah off, so she begins bullying Hagar. So Hagar runs away. She probably didn’t have much of a plan, but she knew she just couldn’t handle life in Canaan anymore.  

She couldn’t handle being unloved, unseen, and beat up.

Have you ever been there? (Often, it’s a lot more subtle and private than Hagar’s situation)

So Hagar--pregnant, hurting Hagar--hurries out into the vast desert, perhaps hoping she’s on a road that leads her home to Egypt.  And she stops to rest at a well, maybe hoping to find some direction, to formulate some plan for her life. She’s resting by this spring of water, in the wilderness, throwing a well deserved pity party. But now God enters the scene:

The Bible says this:  The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.  And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarah, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

The angel of the Lord finds her.  And speaks to her. Oh to hear her thoughts at this time! This God, that she thought was just for Abraham, had come after HER?   Did she matter? Why would Abraham’s God come after HER?  He says, “Hagar, Sarah’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?”
I wondered if her face warmed with redness, and she darted her eyes away, studying the sand. Somehow she knows that it’s a rhetorical question, that this heavenly being already knew the answer. That she has no plan, no hope, just a lot of emotion. She fails to articulate some great answer. So she simply tells him that she is running away from Sarah.

The nobody, the wallflower, the used and abused slave girl, he had found HER.   She was worthy of a search and rescue mission! She definitely wasn’t out in the desert looking for the God of Abraham. But because this angel, who came to the wilderness, looking for her, this angel who found her, she felt hope.

At this point in the story, Hagar names God.  (She's the only woman in the Bible to do this!) She calls him "El Roi", which means "the God who sees."  She didn't know God, she wasn't a super-Christian.  But God saw her because he loved her, and that was all she needed.

The angel tells her to return to Sarah. But he folllows the command to return with promises!  Hagar had probably heard talk of many promises, but all saved for her masters. But He hands HER a list of promises, just like she had watched with Abraham.  He promises her a son, and many descendants. He promises that he will give heed to her hurts.  And it is near this spring of water in the desert that Hagar replaces hurt with healing, aimlessness for purpose, and depression for hope.

Which of those phrases hits home with you?  Which of those replacements are most needed in your heart right now? 

Girls, are you running away from anything right now? Has the world's pressure or labels on you overwhelmed you? Have hurts, or bad decisions, led you into an emotional or spiritual desert? 

Girls, when Hagar realized that God saw her, it changed her life.  He saw her, and he understood what she was feeling, what she had been going through.  When nobody else understands you, look at the God who sees you. 

God will come after you.  YOU are worthy of a search and rescue mission.  You are loved far more than you can comprehend.  Wether you are a "super Christian" that is tired of feeling alone in a big school full of haters, or a "wild child" who has never really seen the God who sees you---you are loved.  You are seen.  

The God who made you, sees you.  The God who sees you, understands you. The God who understands you (and your drama!) , loves you. Stay tuned this week for more of Hagar's story--it's just getting started!  

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