There’s a lot of important stuff in these two chapters, as anybody who has ever read the Bible knows. This is where the whole middle-east mess got its start. One man. Two women. Two sons. Lots of envy and strife and junk going on. The ultimate dysfunctional family. Abraham and Sarah wanted children. Couldn’t have them. Sarah comes up with a good idea. Take my handmaiden. Have a child with her. Abraham agrees and, after some emotional drama, Ishmael is born.
Hagar could have handled it better. Could have skipped the part where she despised Sarah. Might have made a few things different. But the relationship between Sarah and Hagar is what it is — what it would have been for almost any two women in that situation. Then, suddenly, Sarah — who is, by this time too old to have children — is promised a child and eventually Isaac is born. More family drama. More dysfunction, and pretty soon Hagar finds herself banished to the desert with her child and a container of water.
16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
Here’s where it got really interesting to me. Hagar’s in the desert with her child. They have nothing. She’s been banished from her home. Her son has pretty much been disinherited from all that he was promised. The water’s gone. The child is about to die. Hagar is so distraught, she puts Ishmael under a bush and moves a distance away so she doesn’t have to watch her child die. She’s weeping–as any mother would in those circumstances.
I stopped reading at this point and really thought about what Hagar must have felt in that moment. How lost she must have felt. How frightened. How discouraged. How abandoned. How hopeless. If ever a woman was in a bleak situation, this was it.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
God hears Ismael crying, and He speaks to Hagar. What does He say?
Fear not, Hagar. I’ve heard you and your son. There’s no reason to be afraid. The woman had to be utterly terrified, and God says, “Fear not.” Even in the face of such imminent tragedy.
That realization led me to an internet search of the Bible for the phrase “fear not.” Unfortunately, the answer varies, depending on the website you choose, but God tells us not to fear somewhere between 170 and 365 times in the Bible.
If I tell my kids or grandkids something 170 times, I expect them to understand that I mean it. If we ever got all the way up to 365 times, they’d better understand that I mean it. If God tells me not to be afraid 170-365 times, maybe He means it.
Letting go of fear and trusting in God is something I’ve been working on for the past year. It’s not always easy, but I have learned that fear arises out of the knowledge that I can’t fix what’s wrong. I can’t fix it, and I don’t know what’s going to happen as a result. And you know what? That’s the whole point! There are some things I just can’t fix. There are some things we face in this life that only God can fix.
Fear not. Let go, and Let God.