When God Shows up in Our Desperation and Heartache
By Jessika Sanders
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’” –Genesis 16:13 NIV
In an instant, the beautiful house of cards I had built, stacked so high, so perfectly placed, and so picture-worthy, came tumbling down. I put on a brave face for my three year old as I tried to pick up the pieces and rebuild some sort of makeshift shelter. I wanted to shield her, to protect her from what was happening—even if it meant holding my tears at bay. Once nightfall came and she was tucked into bed, I staggered to our tiny bathroom, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I carefully lowered my pregnant frame to the cold tile floor. I never thought I’d find myself here—at rock bottom. Totally alone, with only my worries and fears, I came undone. My body erupted in sobs as my soul cried out in anguish—that night I became a single mom.
How could I go on? How could I be a single mother? I had no job—how would I provide for my daughter and the child in my womb? When I left him I would have no home—how would I raise children homeless? Where would I go? How could I bear this scarlet letter of divorce? Would I be alone forever? Who would ever want me and all my baggage?
With each spiraling thought, the devil pulled me deeper into the dark abyss, licking his lips in eager anticipation. But as I began to cry and beg for help from a god I didn’t know, a single ray of light began to break through the darkness. But before I could give it much thought, the storm of my emotions had ravaged me into exhaustion. I fell asleep on the cold floor only to awake the next morning with a strange peace. My life had just fallen apart, I was about to face adversity and uncertainty head on, yet I had peace. What?
It took me about a month and half to realize exactly what happened that night. As I look back now, some 5 years later, I find such comfort and such encouragement in the story of Hagar.
In Genesis 16 we find Hagar in a situation not all that different from mine and maybe even yours. Hagar was desperate. She was tired of being used and mistreated; so she ran away sacrificing what food, shelter, and protection she had. In verse 7 we read that Hagar was found near a spring in the desert. I wonder, was she weary from traveling? Did she collapse to her knees next to the spring, thirsty for water that would revive her soul? Was she ready to give up? Was she contemplating drowning her sorrows? We don’t know exactly what Hagar was thinking or feeling, but we do know this: just as God met me on the bathroom floor, He met Hagar at a spring in the middle of the desert.
Despite how hopeless and alone she might have felt, an angel of the Lord confirmed Hagar was both seen and heard by our ever-present God. The angel provided guidance and encouragement that would sustain her in the years to come. She would live; and her “descendants [would] be too numerous to count.” And then, right in the middle of what probably felt like a royal mess, the incredible happened. The Egyptian slave girl was changed. Verse 13 tells us, “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.’” Because He saw her, because He came down to her in her time of need—Hagar believed. An Egyptian girl who most likely worshiped sun gods, saw Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth! And get this—He saw her, too. He saw her because she mattered. And just as she mattered, I also mattered. And just as I mattered, you matter, too.
Hagar’s belief and faith in the God who saw her, gave her a solid foundation to stand on when things got worse. In Genesis 21 Hagar ventured into the desert yet again, but this time not by choice. Verse 14 reads, “Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy.” I imagine the weight on her shoulders as the water sloshed with each laborious step as she trudged through the sandy desert. I imagine the weight of her circumstances as she journeyed into the unknown, still needing to care for her son. I imagine the fear and dread when she ran out of water. Surely Hagar knew she and her son didn’t stand a chance to the elements—the scorching sun or the stifling heat. In Genesis 21:15-16 we read, “When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.” But the compassionate God who saw her all those years before, once again showed up in her time of need. God repeated His promise that her son would not die but that He would “make him into a great nation.” And in that moment, the God who saw also became the God who provided. Verse 19 tells us, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” But God didn’t stop there. He didn’t just provide for the present need; He provided His constant presence. The section of Genesis 21 ends with evidence of God’s character, “God was with the boy as he grew up.” And we know if He was with the boy, He was surely with Hagar, too.
Friend, whatever desert season you’re walking through in motherhood right now—infertility, loss, discord, uncertainty, infidelity—God sees you. He doesn’t just stand by, either. He isn’t a spectator God. He may not appear to you like He did for Hagar, but you can be sure He shows up. His presence can be felt on bathroom floors, in hospital rooms, in loads of laundry, in the chopping and cutting of dinner prep, and in the darkness of night. You are not alone. He is with you and promises never to leave you. No matter how hopeless your situation might look or feel, He will care for you and provide for your needs. If He did it for Hagar, and He did for me, why not you?
A former educator and cheerleader, Jessika has always found joy in helping and encouraging others. With vulnerability and authenticity, she writes about journeying through the desert seasons of life and points her readers to the unfailing word of God. You can subscribe to her blog or follow her on Facebook. And for more hope-filled devotions, check out her devotion published in the Proverbs31 Ministries book, Hope When Your Heart Is Heavy in the P31 bookstore.