A hopeless person can be very dangerous and we are living in a time when hope might seem to be getting increasingly scarce. Indeed, when I read or listen to the news on COVID, police brutality, partisan politics, economic woes, international instability and intrigue, police reform, along with racial tensions and observing heated exchanges between some of my neighbors, it can be challenging to keep hope vibrant and flourishing in these challenging times. But hope is very important, so let’s consider where we can get a steady supply of sturdy hope and not just empty or frothy hope.
I was reading about a less known chick in the Bible, Hagar, and her struggles to keep hope during some precarious and difficult times. When we first meet Hagar in Genesis 16, we learn that she’s an Egyptian maidservant to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. We read about Hagar because Sarah suggests that Abraham sleep with Hagar to have a baby, since Sarah seemed to be infertile. Abraham agrees to Sarah’s suggestion and Hagar gets pregnant. We don’t know much about Hagar, except that when she conceived, she wasn’t nice to Sarah, her mistress.
Sarah wasn’t going to put up with a scornful maidservant, on top of the shame of infertility, so Sarah kicked her out of the house. Hagar was forced to roam in the wilderness, without resources, food or water, while pregnant, with an uncertain future. In this situation, it’s possible that Hagar was struggling to find hope. Of course, she brought some of this crisis on herself by mistreating Sarah, but when we are struggling to find hope, it doesn’t always help to remember the possible origins of our crisis or hope-drained situation, particularly when some of our plight is self-inflicted.
Hagar gets an infusion of hope in Genesis 16:7 where it says, “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water.” During the conversation between the angel and Hagar, we see that the angel assesses Hagar’s situation and gives her the direction to return to Sarah and humble herself. As a result of this conversation, Hagar has her hope restored because she experienced the “God who sees,” as she describes in Genesis 16:13. Hagar recognized that God sees her, even in the middle of a horrible situation with her own shortcomings and failures. The same holds true for us, as well. No matter what mistakes you’ve made or what wilderness you are in, God sees us, God finds us, offers us conversation and can restore our hope through repentance and helping us re-focus on God.
This hope-challenge happens a second time for Hagar in Genesis 21, when her son Ishmael is giving Isaac (Sarah’s son) a hard time and teasing him. Again, Sarah isn’t going to put up with her maidservant’s son being mean to her son, so Sarah kicks both Hagar and Ishmael out of the house. In this situation, Abraham gives some bread and a jug of water to Hagar. In my opinion, this situation is even more heartbreaking than the first desert experience Hagar had; because now her son, Ishmael, could die from starvation and lack of water. We see that Hagar is very distraught and even possibly hopeless, based on her weeping and how she responds to Ishmael crying.
Again, God intervenes, talks with Hagar and opens her eyes to see a well of water nearby. God restores her hope and tells her about the wonderful future her son will have, along with taking care of the immediate need for water. God infused Hagar with hope in two very hopeless situations and I believe that God also wants to keep our lives infused with hope, no matter what we’ve done or what’s happening around us.
If we are going to receive a steady supply of sturdy hope, then no matter the hopeless situations that we go through, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus more than anyone or anything else. Indeed, like it says in Hebrews 12:2, let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”!