Circumstances can be a means in which faith in God is either steadied or shaken. The story below shows us that even the household of the Father of Faith at times can become a victim of circumstance:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai, his wife, took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “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. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 13 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.” (Genesis 16:1-13)
Abram is without an heir, but God has promised him one of his own flesh. So far no explanation has been given as to how this will be achieved. Unfortunately, Sarai is a realist for she is barren and old, and surrogacy was the common place answer in those times. Although this seems forced on Hagar, this was a privilege beyond her social station. Seemingly the situation points to Ishmael becoming Abram’s heir. This would mean that after Abrams death, Hagar would replace Sarai as the matriarch of the house, it is no wonder Sarai was threatened by Hagar.
Like most of us, Sarai and Hagar were not able to control the actions of each other. Our sense of justice screams out that we’ve been wronged, yet, we face the reality that the human experience favours the wealthy and powerful.
This factor of abuse by others or trying to manufacture a future against a hostile environment is prevalent today. A victim mentality is seen in the three responses of our story’s protagonists: Hagar flees, Sarai fights and Abram shirks his responsibility. This attitude is fostered and passed down to Hagar’s offspring. The Biblical prophecy God gave over Ishmael dictates that the Father of Islam would be a man of struggles.
The Kingdom of God does not require us to fight independently on God’s behalf to make his promises come true. It compels us to wait on God and participate in the way he asks us to. When God has promised us a future, we must be determined to pray the blessing rather than to force the outcome. Abram should have, reassured Sarai to wait on God. Instead, he allows an abuse of a vulnerable woman to take place. Sometimes strong personalities need to be confronted in the protection of the weak.
God challenges Hagar to return and submit to the very person who had been abusive to her. Hagar is not a victim of circumstance, she trusts in God. On his instruction, alone she becomes willing to return to her unfortunate situation. The victim mentality can only be defeated in our lives when we are aware that God is involved in our future and able to intervene. Hagar eventually does leave the household with her son. However, she leaves it as a free woman with a future guaranteed by God and in a place of victory. If she had remained on the run as a victim, she would have died as a pregnant runaway slave to a future of her own choosing and not God’s. God does not want you to be a victim of life which ends in death, he is calling you to chose the side of victory.
God also intervenes for Abram and Sarai in his own timing. God waits till even Abram is physically incapable of producing children. The miracle birth of Isaac from both Abraham and Sarah’s inability to provide a future for themselves states that the people of God, have a future full laughter even in the darkest of circumstances.