Genesis 21 paints a stark contrast between two women: Sarah is rejoicing in a season of answered prayer while Hagar is experiencing the pain of rejection. Yet God is faithful to them both, and as Hagar finds herself back in the desert, we are reminded that God never abandons us.
Sometimes life throws us curve balls, taking us down roads we never wanted to go down. The answers to our prayers look different to what we hoped for, and in the wilderness of unmet expectation, disappointment weighs heavy. Feeling empty, alone, and helpless, we believe the lie that it’s the end of our story. But God. When God enters the scene, His presence changes everything, and we realise that what felt like the end is only just the beginning.
In Genesis 21, we find Hagar back in a familiar place. Feeling afresh the sting of rejection, Abraham has banished her and her son Ishmael to the desert of Beersheba. With their water supplies gone, she is sobbing, brokenhearted at the thought of having to watch her child die. But God, full of mercy and grace, meets her in the midst of her pain. Just as He did before (Genesis 16:9-12), He lovingly opens Hagar’s eyes, reminding her He hears and will be faithful to His promises for her and Ishmael.
As much as Hagar doesn’t want to be in the wilderness, it is the place where she repeatedly encounters God. As an Egyptian servant, who more than likely grew up believing in multiple gods, the wilderness allows her to experience the one true God. Desperate situations often leave our hearts and eyes wide open to God. Sometimes it takes us being out in the middle of nowhere, alone, destitute, and poured out, in order to hear God and choose Him over everything else. It is in such times that God doesn’t have to vie for our attention. At the end of ourselves, we finally draw nearer to Him, His voice becoming crystal clear against the silence of the empty land.
God doesn’t take Hagar and Ishmael from the wilderness, though. Instead, He creates a life for them right where they are, enabling them to lean on Him in ways they wouldn’t be able to if He simply removed them from their difficult circumstances. God sustains them, provides safety, and fulfils the promises He gave to them. In all the ways Hagar feels she is lacking, the wilderness provides an abundance to her from God. There, she becomes seen, heard, and connected to the One who hears her cries when no one else will.
Oftentimes we find ourselves in the wilderness because we become too distraught to make sense of our situation. Our soul becomes parched as we try to survive on our own. We forget about the hope there is in God, and we can become blinded from seeing the true Source we need. Hagar’s outlook drastically changes when God opens her eyes to see the well of water. Where previously there was only death as an option, the well brings life to her and her son. Jesus is our well of water. Death was once our only option in the wilderness of sin, but Jesus cleanses us and brings eternal life. He gives us access to the source of living water—the Holy Spirit. Revelation 7:16-17 reminds us that “(t)hey shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” We will be saved from the wilderness of this earth by the living water forevermore because Jesus changes everything!
When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we must ask God to open our eyes to the life and hope there is in Jesus. With our eyes wide open, we will be able to drink deeply of His living water and experience the abundance of the Lord—even in desert places.
Wherever you are sitting as you read this, open your eyes and intentionally look around. What is God inviting you to see in your physical environment that you might have been overlooking? Now ask Him to do the same for you in the spiritual realm.