genesis 16: return

Interesting, hard chapter in the story. So many emotions and dynamics going on.

Sarai’s desperation for a child. The injustice against Hagar. Abram’s unwillingness to mediate, with his “do what you want with her” attitude. Hagar’s contempt for a woman who would have her bear a child she would then have to hand over. Sarai’s mistreatment of Hagar and Hagar’s desperate escape to the desert.

We see the frailty of humanity. The weakness of fallen people trying to get what they want from this life.

And only the names have changed. Humanity is still frail, still fallen, still trying to grab life on their own terms.

But now I’m going to step on toes, I think.

Hagar was clearly a victim, being mistreated and some would even say, abused. And no matter how much we don’t want to, we must hear what the Lord says to her –

“Return to your mistress and submit to her.” (vs. 9)

I will tread lightly, but I will still tread here. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve heard the word “return and submit” and let me tell you, we’re talking about hard to the bone words to hear.

As much as we don’t want to say it or believe it, scripture makes it very clear that sometimes (please do not read the word ‘always’ there) God calls us to return to or remain in a situation of mistreatment.

“What about physical abuse?” I don’t know, ask God. “What about the kids?” I don’t know, ask God. “What about…” I don’t know, ask God. There’s no formula. God doesn’t have the exact same plan for everyone’s life. Your final destination and mine may be the same, but the journey there will look different. This is why we must seek God for ourselves, with a heart of obedience. All I’m saying is that we cannot hold onto a false belief that says God does not ever want us to suffer mistreatment, and therefore we are entitled to run from it.  

Wrestle it out with God. Kick and scream and dig in your heels. But at some point, we all have to deal with the truth that God does not view our sufferings through our lens. His lens is eternity and divine purpose. Ours is usually self-preservation, comfort, and control, mixed with a sense of entitlement and a right to be happy.

He is the God who hears you. He is the God who sees you. He is the God who loves you. But He is also the God who is looking at your situation from within eternity.

And sometimes (not always), He will tell us to return to what we’re running from.

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