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So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt. – Genesis 21:15-21
I tried to watch a video of the daredevil who annihilated his car while trying to set a new record jump. It was apparently a major catastrophe. After seeing some of the stills, I’m glad I wasn’t able to find the video of the actual crash. Most people will rubber neck as they pass an accident on the side of the road. But most of us don’t want to see all the gore. Sufficient to the moment is the impression thereof.
Hagar didn’t want to watch her child die. She put him 100 yards away just so she wouldn’t have to watch him die. It’s as though the reality isn’t as harsh if we don’t actually see it happen. But our failure to see does not erase the suffering. Our unwillingness to watch does not deaden the pain of those who are suffering. It deadens our pain. It preserves our hearts. It keeps us from having to take another’s pain into our hearts. It allows us to go on our merry way without being bogged down in the brokenness, pain, and suffering of everyone in the world. We simply cannot absorb it all.
But that’s exactly what God does. He absorbs the pain of the whole world. When others are looking away, he is paying close attention. When people are forgotten he remembers. When children are dying, mothers are crying, and people are denying it all, he leans in. He sees. He embraces. He acts.
In this case he sees Ishmael and Hagar and opens Hagar’s eyes to a well of water which revives Ishmael. He encourages Hagar, also, by promising that Ishmael’s descendants will be a great nation as well. Muslims believe that Ishmael is a prophet.
How does all this fit together? I don’t know. But I do know that all this is not confusing to God. How he will use Ishmael and his becoming great nation for his glory and purposes, I am not able to discern – even now thousands of years later. Perhaps some will want to look into these things. But not me. And it’s not a matter of heartlessness, it’s a matter of brain power! And a discernment of what is necessary and edifying to my faith.
Sufficient unto me is the truth that God does not turn his head or heart from pain and suffering. He does not ignore difficult and distressing situations. He draws near. And 2000 years ago he took on all of that in his Son, Jesus. Jesus embraced the pain, suffering, sickness, and sin of the world. He also experienced it himself. And although God forsook him at his darkest hour, the true hero of our faith, Jesus, still called out to his Father, “My God, My God…”
We too often judge God’s goodness based on what we see or do not see. But we’re all too selective in our perception. We don’t have a whole world view. We don’t see it all. But God does. And what God sees moves him. That means he sees you. He sees me. He notices. He loves. He cares. He acts.