The dark-skinned woman cups her hands to draw water from the cool spring and parch her thirst. She settles on the bank and rubs her swollen abdomen, fighting back tears.
Pregnant with her master’s child, mistreated by her mistress, she has run away into this wilderness. Would she perish here?
A voice speaks.
“Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
Startling words from an astonishing presence—the angel of the Lord! His question reveals two significant facts.
One, God knows Hagar by name (and he knows her role in the household from which she fled). Two, he wants to draw something out of her about her past—and something about her future.
(God never asks us questions to gain information. He asks us questions to prompt our own self-awareness.)
Hagar replies with all she can offer about her current situation, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.”
The angel of the Lord instructs Hagar to go back to Sarai, and he promises God will give her many offspring, beginning with a son.
Imagine the shock Hagar must have felt at this encounter.
Here she is at the lowest point in her life—and suddenly, the God of her master’s household shows up and talks to her, by name, about her past, present, and future.
Hagar’s response? She names the Lord.
She calls him “El-roi,” meaning, “God sees me.”
“In this place,” she ponders, “have I actually seen the one who sees me?” (see Genesis 16:7-16).
I read this story and think of the women who traverse the wilderness of a pregnancy crisis.
A woman in such a position can feel displaced. Her pregnant self can feel like an unwanted self.
She feels like running away from her circumstances, at least mentally and emotionally, possibly even geographically.
But God sees her.
God always sees the oppressed and marginalized. He sees those forced to the lower rungs of society. He sees those who are mistreated. He cares about what has happened to them and where they are going.
He sees their children, too, and cares about them—even before they are born.
The conception of Hagar’s son Ishmael took place under questionable circumstances. It happened due to a scheme cooked up by Sarai and Abraham to give him an heir.
This was hardly an ideal pregnancy—yet God had plans for Ishmael.
Let’s return to Hagar’s story, which is not over yet. She faces a second crisis after Sarai’s son Isaac is born and she is sent away with her boy.
Hagar ends up back in the wilderness.
This time, she runs out of water. She leaves her son under a bush and moves a bowshot away because she can’t bear to watch him die of exposure and thirst.
Then the God who sees those in need reveals Himself as the God who also hears their cry.
As Hagar and her son weep, the angel of the Lord calls to her from heaven, saying, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the boy crying from the place where he is.”
He makes another promise to her about her son’s destiny as the father of a great nation. Then God opens her eyes, and she sees a well.
Hagar and Ishmael settle in the wilderness, where the boy becomes an archer and marries the Egyptian wife his mother finds for him (see Genesis 21:8-21).
As unlikely as it must have seemed at the time, God’s promise to Hagar is fulfilled. He sees her. He hears her. He takes care of her future.
Again, I think of women who struggle with a pregnancy decision.
Life looks so impossible in that situation. But when a woman distressed by an unplanned pregnancy visits a pregnancy help center, her visit can change everything.
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That center can open her eyes to the “well” she could not see before.
She can meet people who truly see her and hear her and offer hope for her future. She may even get introduced to the God who does the same.
For the sake of women who wander in the wilderness of a pregnancy crisis, we must continue doing what we do.
I’ll close with this, from Unleashing your Courageous Compassion:
FOR HER SAKE
We are keepers of secrets locked
in hard metal files, guardians
of password-protected stories. We know
about her twenty-nine sexual partners,
the years of meth addiction, her dream
of owning a hair salon, the small apartment
she shares with her boyfriend
and his cousin.
We are bearers of burdens too great
for one to manage alone. We heft
the weight of anguish, fear, despair,
if only for an hour, so she can breathe
and think. So she can hear Wisdom
call her name, show her the way
forward. So she can know
what she carries inside.
We are the voice calling in her
wilderness, speaking truth, holding out
hope; we are an oasis slaking
her thirst, offering refuge. She will leave
on the path of her choosing. We will
bless and release, pray and believe
one day she will return,
child in hand.