Editor’s Note: Today, as you read or listen to Psalm 23, we hope this reflection piece from Sarah Lloyd reminds you of the incredible character of our God.
By Sarah Lloyd
My name is Sarah. My parents chose to include the “h” in my name as a visual reminder of the biblical story told in the portion of Genesis we’ve studied this week. Before focusing on Hagar through our current study, I regarded Sarah as the protagonist of these chapters. I didn’t see Hagar’s story as anything more than a blip in the broad narrative, a cautionary tale of Sarah’s failure to patiently believe God. And yet, as Hagar’s account illustrates, we serve a God who sees every person, whether or not they are considered essential to the plot.
In the book of Genesis, God did not need to include Hagar’s story at all, and He certainly didn’t need to record the narrative of her flight into the wilderness. It would have sufficed to simply state that Hagar bore Abram a son (16:15) immediately following Sarai’s plan (16:3). Many other places in the Bible skim over the drama of bearing children, and Abram’s own lineage is listed briefly this way in Genesis 11. No life stories are given with each man’s name, and most of the women aren’t mentioned at all. Why, then, does God give us Hagar’s name and the detail of her two wilderness encounters with the angel of the Lord? It would be easy to overlook Hagar’s emotions and lack of power, paying attention only to Abram and Sarai. To me, these eleven verses show that God notices and cares for the details of our lives, even when we feel overlooked and used by the more powerful people in our lives.
The truth is that God sees the details of my story even when I’m powerless, when I don’t feel like a main character in the broad story but rather the recipient of the consequences resulting from another’s choices. I may not like the decisions or actions of elected leaders at a local or national level, those in charge at church or school, and even the people closest to me, but I can rest in the fact that God sees every harsh circumstance and injustice I suffer. As the angel told Hagar, “The Lord has given heed to your affliction” (Genesis 16:11). He may not remove my affliction, and He may never make it better. But He sees it all, and He will give me strength to return to a harsh situation and submit to the authority of others, even those acting outside God’s will.
When I remember that God sees and hears me, I can move from a life ruled by fear and despair to a life in which I respond in obedience to what God shows me in the midst of my own distress. I can ask myself the angel’s question to Hagar in Genesis 21:17: “What is the matter with you? Do not fear, for God has heard.” The command is not “Do not fear, for God will fix your problem.” As we read today in Psalm 23, I will fear no evil because the Good Shepherd is with me even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not because I am spared from all evil. He never promises me an easy or peaceful life, but He does set a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He leads me beside still waters, even in the midst of the wilderness or when I’m fleeing a harsh situation. He restores and satisfies my soul like nothing else can.
Will I choose today to focus on God’s character rather than my fears? Will I ask Him to open my eyes and show me the next step, committing to obey without demanding the resolution of a situation that has sent me into such distress?
Hagar never got to live as the esteemed mother of Abraham’s firstborn son. Until the day she died, it seems like Sarah “won.” Sometimes, that is our reality. God’s ways are not our ways, and although God did not grant Hagar what we would consider a happily ever after, He did see, hear, and take care of her. He took note of her and did for her as He had promised: Ishmael became a great nation. God will also do for me as He has promised: as my Shepherd, His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, even in a world of turmoil and conflict.