By Matt Capps
One of the life-truths that all of us learn in some way or another is that the pain inflicted by others can be debilitating. If you have ever been treated harshly by other people, you know exactly what I mean. The heartbreak can be devastating and even tempt us to despair.
Not too long ago, I was sitting with a friend as he recounted the story of being slandered by those he’d considered trusted friends. I’ve been there too. When the situation doesn’t resolve quickly enough for us, we can be tempted to wonder if God sees our pain or hears our prayers. It’s easy to revel in our pain and lose perspective.
Thankfully, the God of the Bible is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Genesis 16 is a good reminder of His providential care. You will remember when Sarai became impatient for God’s promised heir, she decided to take matters into her own hands by changing Hagar from a maidservant to a wife to her own husband, Abram.
However, when Abram and Hagar bore a son, tension in their household heightened. Hagar’s ability to provide Abram a son caused Sarai to look down on her and treat her harshly. Understandably, Hagar fled from Sarai.
In the midst of this turmoil, we are reminded of God’s tender love and care for those who are afflicted. The angel of the Lord encouraged Hagar to return to Abram and Sarai, and even offered her the promise that her descendants would be numerous. It is no coincidence that God named Hagar’s son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” In response to God’s kindness, Hagar “named the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are El-roi,’ for she said, ‘In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?’” God looked after Hagar, just as He does with us, even when we run.
As I reflect on the story, fleeing from the situation seems like an understandable response; it is difficult to imagine a servant confronting her master. However, we are also reminded by the apostle Paul that we are not to avenge ourselves, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19–21). The foundational belief behind this courageous command is that God sees our situation and knows our anguish. God hears us. God looks after us.
When we want to run from painful situations, we need to remember that God comforts, not by changing the circumstances of our lives, but by changing us through them, and eventually, perhaps even our attitude toward them.
When you are struggling with hardship at the hands of others, remember that God has not abandoned you, but is with you. One day you will look back on your situation and have a powerful reminder that the living God sees you—just as He saw Hagar. Let your perspective stretch beyond your current pain. Remember God’s past mercies, and remember that they are new today and every morning.
Written by Matt Capps