Ever feel overlooked, unnoticed, or invisible? I know, I have, too. As a student in grade school, I longed to make a difference. I wanted to be a high achiever, to earn rewards and get good grades. The bottom line: I wanted to be accepted, feel secure and make a significant difference. I believed the lie that I was “worthless, no-good and would never amount to anything.” I did what I was told yet failed anyway. To try and escape the pain and humiliation, for a while I ran from the wholesome values I’d been taught as a child and began dabbling in the worlds’ ways to help me fit in. Although I was raised in a Christian home with a good father and mother, I wanted something different. Being poor was no fun, I wanted what everybody else seemed to have. Like the prodigal son, I grew tired of the farm life with no frills or excitement. I wanted more and I wanted it now.
In Genesis 16, we discover a story like mine, in the life of Hagar, the servant of Abram and Sarai. As was the custom of the day, barren Sarai had chosen Hagar to bear Abram’s child. Hagar was now pregnant and Sarai, was bitterly jealous, critical and abusive. Hagar’s challenges had been brought on by other people’s choices. Hagar thought her only options were to run away from her situation. She couldn’t wait to escape. Hagar was despised, mistreated, and abandoned. So, Hagar ran away. Like many of us, instead of facing her circumstances, she chose to run. When she left the security of food and shelter for unknown territory and anonymity, she found she could not run away from herself.
Lost in the desert, Hagar was overcome with hunger and agonized over the baby in her womb. The wilderness was terrifying. Physically exhausted and emotionally spent, she collapsed by a spring in the desert. Imagine, this young woman, tired and exhausted, laying on the hot, dry sand, crying under the only shade she could find –maybe a small cactus. It was in that unlikely place the angel of the Lord found Hagar. She had not been able to escape herself and, of course, she couldn’t run away from God. In Genesis 16:8, A voice asked, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” It was the angel of the Lord!
Looking up and covering her eyes from the angel’s radiance, Hagar cried, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel told Hagar to go back, to return and face Sarai and submit to her. Listening intently, with awe and wonder, Hagar couldn’t believe what she heard next! In Genesis 16:10,11, “The angel said, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count …You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” Hagar couldn’t believe it! It was a blessing and a promise about the future of her unborn child. Hagar experienced God.
Genesis 16:13 offers up the consequences of Hagar’s encounter with God: “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” She called the Lord “El Roi—the One who sees me” and Hagar named the place of the God-sighting, Beer Lahai Roi. God had seen Hagar’s pain and heard her cries. “El Roi” is the name of God, which means “The God Who Sees.” El Roi saw barren Sarai convince Abram to have a child with Hagar, her Egyptian servant. El Roi saw the abuses Hagar experienced at the hands of jealous Sarai. El Roi saw Hagar flee into the desert doomed to die. El Roi revealed Himself, prophesying the nation to come from the birth of her son, Ishmael. In Genesis 16:13, “I have seen the One who sees me.”
There was a time in my life when, like Hagar, I ran from God. At age 18, already a chain smoker, weekend drinker, married, with a pregnant wife and a dead-end job. I was working in Construction as a laborer with little hope for advancement. I was asked to allow a prayer group to use my mobile home from a community prayer meeting. My wife was a Christian, but only went to church. During the meeting, the leader called me out and how it rang in my ears, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I couldn’t get the words out of my mind. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” I expected the guy, to rebuke me for my lifestyle because I had been raised in church. Like Hagar of Old, I was shocked to hear about God’s plan for my life. He didn’t tell me to change anything about my appearance, attitudes or lifestyle, he helped me to see what God saw. These believers showed me what love looks like. I began to believe God's love could forgive and cover all my sin. I didn’t have to clean up my act before coming to God; He loved me passionately just the way I was. A few days later, I read a Christian tract and embraced the message. Submitting to the overwhelming love of God, I allowed His abundant love to cover my multitude of sins. At nineteen years old, I committed and submitted my life to Christ, and He hasn’t let go of me!
I had run from God long enough, and now God gave me another chance, to walk closely in fellowship with Him. God offered me grace, He welcomed me into the family of God with no questions asked. Not only did God welcome me into the family of God, He gave me a place of honor – sees me as a saint who sometimes sins, He sees me as adopted not an outsider, He sees me as restored, not a reject. Maybe you have been running from God? If not you, then maybe you know someone who is? Whatever the case, don’t give up because while you are running from a mess, you might just find a master. A God who sees you and knows you by name. He knows where you are, where you come from and where you are going. Keep looking up because God will find you. May God’ grace find you today!