Part 2 of 3
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV, 1984)
(1) I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.(2) He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand(3) He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Ceramic Beauty or Cracked Pot
I love blue and white china. In the States I have a collection from all over the world: a set of Thai candlesticks as a gift from my sister, a vase from my visit to China, a Russian container from a friend who went on a mission trip, and some blue and white napkin rings from the Philippines. All of them are precious, not because of their innate monetary value, but because of their memories and because of the precious hands of those who have given them to me.
Some of you may have tried to turn a hunk of clay into a ceramic beauty. I have not had the opportunity, but I am interested in the process, especially as it relates to our topic today. To my inexperienced eye, there appear to be three key components to pottery-making: the quality of the clay, the precision of the wheel, and the control of the temperature. What I want to focus on today is the heating process that makes a ceramic beauty.
When a pot is placed within a kiln, it is mostly dry, but not completely. There are still water particles trapped between the clay particles. As the clay is heated, the water evaporates, but if it is heated too quickly, the pot will crack. Additionally, if the pot is cooled too quickly, it may also crack. The right temperature must be obtained for the water to evaporate, for the carbon and sulfur to be burnt off correctly, for the silica oxide to change structure properly, for aluminum silicate to form, bonding the material, for the clay to mature, and for the Cristobalite to cool safely, keeping the pot from exploding (see www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-temperature-changes-clay for more details). In short, the heat is crucial to whether a pottery piece will become a ceramic beauty or a cracked pot.
A Brief Review
If you are just joining me, we are in the middle of a mini-series called Lessons From the Pit, detailing a journey I have traveled with the Lord for the last five years. God has taught me many lessons while in a pit of deadness, many errors in my thinking and flaws in my faith. The first lesson I shared with you was that trusting with the head is very different from trusting with the heart. For me, this lesson was a journey into rediscovering real faith.
This week, I will share with you a second lesson I have learned. It is all about suffering and deliverance, pain and redemption, trauma and revelation. In short, this lesson spans my long trek of discovering hope. I pray that you will be encouraged as we delve into a story in the Old Testament which has become very special to me.
Lesson Two From the Pit
There is a difference between being “broke” and being “broken.”
Over my years in Asia, I have discovered a very strange phenomenon which occurs to stretchy objects: they break quite quickly. Rubber objects always tend to lose their elasticity. Trampolines, which are made of some sort of bouncy material, will begin to sag. I had a small one literally droop to the floor after a few years of use. Clothes employing some type of elastic waistband will literally make a noise as they “unbend” to disproportionate sizes. What perturbs me the most, however, is when I reach for something that has had a rubber band on it, like my Thai vocabulary cards. Typically, the rubber band has either adhered to my paper or it snaps the very moment I pick it up.
Why does this happen? It happens because of a heat source. Heat and humidity are part and parcel in the tropics and they are lethal to elasticity. The high temperatures seem to change the molecular structure, or at least weaken it internally, and what is left is something that no longer functions as it was designed. It becomes completely useless except to be thrown out.
There is a parallel to our spiritual walk, in case you are wondering. Many times, we believers encounter some heat or a little bit of spiritual humidity. Instead of flexing with it in faith, instead of allowing it to bend us before Sovereignty; instead of surrendering to its stretching purpose in our lives, which is our spiritual design, we simply break. We snap our belief moorings and begin to drift. And what happens then is catastrophic, for we begin to blame God and others for our uselessness and aimlessness. Take these real-life examples…
- A man begins to spend more and more time at the office. This causes the wife to feel incredibly lonely and she seeks solace in the arms of another man. The marriage snaps under the strain of infidelity humidity and each partner is “broke.”
- A child becomes sick. Both parents go into survival mode to endure the length of the child’s suffering until eventually, the husband cannot take it anymore and begins to find relief in pornography. The family sags under the weight of adversity humidity and each member is “broke.”
- A devoted leader takes on more and more responsibility at his ministry, but as he does so, criticism from his co-workers begins to rise as well. No longer are meetings a place of the Spirit, but of dissension as people take sides and argue. That ministry is crippled under the power of disunity humidity and each godly participant is “broke.”
I use the word “broke” here as a synonym for crippled. When you and I respond to suffering in ways that are not biblical, not God-honoring, not spiritually-stretching, we break. That is why you find so many marriages in tatters. So many churches dismembered. So many children walking the path of the living dead. And the church does not know what to do with all of this hurt and pain, but praise God, He does.
He never wants any of these former scenarios to happen. Yet, since Eden, this world has been “broke.” But you and I are not to break; we are to thrive in the midst of our suffering. The fact is: we were created to flex and bend under the weight of trauma. Listen to God’s prescription to this “broke” world: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5).
These verses call us to a higher plane of living than “broke.” I submit to you that we are called to be broken. A “broke” person responds with anger and bitterness to a trauma. A broken person responds with humility and grace. “Broke” people blame others; broken people take responsibility for their actions at the foot of the cross. Those who leave the church in a righteous huff over small incidentals are “broke;” those who stay and work relationships through, despite much personal sacrifice, are truly broken.
Broken people rejoice in sufferings and they persevere to the glorious end. Broken people develop godly character and they hope, above all, in God. Broken people experience the pouring out of God’s love in their hearts and they are very familiar with the One who dwells within them, the precious Holy Spirit. Brokenness is God’s answer to trauma. It is the God-honoring ability to bend and stretch and yield in the way we were designed. Dear one, brokenness is the way of Jesus.
The very One who had the nature of God knew His place. He was not equal to God and so He bent His head. He bowed His will and made Himself nothing. He stretched Divinity downward into the very nature of a servant and He took on the earth-suit of man. Then He surrendered even more and humbled Himself – barely able to fit His divinity into human likeness – even to death on a cross, the ultimate mortality humidity. Jesus became broken for you and for me. (My paraphrase of Phil. 2:5-8.)
Folks, there is a world of difference between being “broke” and being broken. I know, because I have lived now in both camps. I have endured trauma and have become incredibly crippled in my walk with God and God has had to do some refining. It has been very painful, but I am learning the secret of trauma: brokenness. And now, I walk more carefully, more reverently, more flexibly.
The question that should come to your mind right about now is ‘how’? How does one properly respond to trauma? How does one move from “broke” to broken, from crippled to empowered? How do you and I respond to suffering in a way that is freeing and does not lead to further bondage? How do we work within our design to grow and mature into a ceramic beauty instead of a cracked pot?
The answer is simple. The Lord gave me the answer this last year as I was floundering in my own suffering, and it is easily remembered by the acronym T.R.U.E. “T” stands for – you guessed it – trauma. What follows then is revelation (R), understanding (U), and finally, embracing (E). The answer is simple, as I stated already, but the application is supremely difficult. Frankly, it is an application which will take a lifetime to flesh out.
What has helped me to know how to practically carry this theoretical formula out is an incredible story God brought to my attention in Genesis 16. You may be very familiar with Hagar’s story, but I pray that the Lord would open up your hearts to see timeless truths that might invigorate your walk with the Lord for the rest of your life. Hagar’s road begins with suffering and marches straight on to brokenness. It is a pilgrimage of revelation, understanding and finally, embracing. More than that, it is a journey of humility, a broken road leading straight to Glory.
Hagar’s story begins in the middle of another, more prominent, person’s story; actually, two more prominent people. You will know them as Abraham and Sarai, who are, themselves, in the middle of a bit of trauma. You see, they were supposed to become the parents of many nations, but to this date, they were childless. Abram’s call in Genesis 12:2-3 begins with a revelation from God that he would be a great nation and that all peoples on the earth would be blessed through him. Abraham understood God and embraced his good plan…for a while.
Many years passed and along with them, the impact of the voice of God. Genesis 15:2 shows some doubts creeping into Abraham’s faith, but God assuaged them with more revelation (see Gen. 15:4-21). Genesis 15:6 tells us that “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This is long-hand, biblical talk for “Okay God, I will humble myself before your great plan.”
The rogue factor in parenting with belief is that it takes two. Scripture does not record that Sarai was afforded the same revelation as Abraham. And so in chapter 16, our story begins with a horrible fact: “Sarai had borne him no children” (v1). Notice how traumatic this fact was for Sarai. She began to blame the Lord for her barren womb. Here we see some self-pity humidity. Not only was there anger toward God, but she took matters into her own hands, offering her slave, Hagar, to Abram in an effort to force a pregnancy to fulfill God’s prophecy. Her actions show an authority humidity.
Why Abram agreed to this, the great man of believing righteousness, is beyond me, but he gave in to his nagging wife. Hagar slept with the chieftain and became pregnant, launching a great fertility humidity in that crippled family. Hagar began to look down on Sarai, despising her, Scripture says (v4). Thus began the enmity humidity. Sarai blamed Abram for her seat of trauma and Abram abdicated his spiritual responsibility, giving in to the disunity humidity. Sarai began to mistreat Hagar; the Message calls it “abuse” (v6) and Hagar fled from the home of Abram. The bigotry humidity became outright trauma and she ran for her safety, and possibly even, her life.
Notice the rising heat in the opening scene of this story: self-pity, authority problems, fertility anguish, enmity between rivals, disunity in the family, and audacious bigotry. And most of these humidity fluctuations are coming from Sarai, showing us very clearly that her trauma and revelation from God were mishandled. Instead of coming to some sort of understanding and eventual embracing of God’s plan and the timing of that same plan, she broke. Out of her “crippledness,” she broke relationship with her husband, with her servant, and with her God.
This is how many believers respond to their own traumas. And I want to show you two reasons why, two underlying, hidden pits that break us if we are not aware. You see, there were a few facts in Sarai’s trauma, but this dear woman would not, or maybe could not, process all her angry feelings before her Lord in order to come into a greater understanding of His plan. So her faith broke and her real, down-deep, unprocessed feelings erupted in a volcano of destruction: lava running hot and burning up her marriage, ash falling softly, but unendingly, on the remains of God’s promises. Unendingly, I say, because Hagar’s child has sparked the Middle East trauma of our day and seismic, volcanic activity lies barely dormant under sinful repercussions.
The first reason why believers break under trauma is because of unfulfilled longings. What was Sarai’s unfulfilled longing? You guessed it: she could not have a baby and she desperately longed for a child. At almost-100 years of age, you can imagine her frustration. Every time she looked around her, there were friends with children. Genesis 11:30 calls Sarai a “barren” woman. Barren is such a negative word with hopeless ramifications, so you can easily deduce why Sarai let the barrenness of her womb ignite a bitterness in her heart.
Proverbs 30:15b-16 describes this pit of longing: “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says , ‘Enough’.” You see, Sarai was as dead as the grave physically, as thirsty as dry ground spiritually, and as insatiable as a licking fire emotionally – all because she would not allow God to fulfill her desires in His way.
You have to know that Hagar also had to have struggled with unfulfilled longings: a longing for marriage, possibly a child, but for sure, she longed for freedom. She was a slave. Her best scenario was that she would be treated well in her state of bondage. Her worst nightmare was probably a scenario that included a lot worse. Her unfulfilled longings also set her up to be crippled by her trauma.
The second reason why believers break under trauma, instead of bend, is due to broken cisterns of misplaced significance. Jeremiah speaks to this: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13). For those of you who are not civil engineers, a cistern is a pit or a well. God is saying, through Jeremiah, that you and I dig our own pits when we try to find significance in anyone or anything but God.
Some people run to money or fame to feel important. Others dig deep into their own self-sufficiency and pride to create an illusion of influence. Still other believers seek significance in people’s opinions of them or in wealth or beauty or – dare I even say it? – ministry. Broken cisterns are no respecter of persons, status, beauty, wealth or fame. Everyone, unless they have experienced the breaking, saving, disarming power of God, will struggle with misplaced significance.
Sarai thought she could finally arrive if she could just bear a son. As she waited for that child, she also waited for her hoped-for significance. Along with a barren womb came a barren attitude. In her heart, her importance to her husband, to her family, to her friends and neighbors, was bound up in this one unattainable longing: a child to carry on the family name. The illusion is heart-breaking, for this well is nothing but a broken cistern that will hold not even a drop of Living Water.
Hagar was an Egyptian slave. Commentators believe she was acquired during the famine when Abram and Sarai went down to Egypt to live. Slavery is not glamorous; it definitely does not make one feel important , yet one day, the slave was promoted to the chieftain’s bed (Gen. 16:3). In patriarchal times, a wife could elevate her slave to a secondary wife status. Imagine Hagar’s newfound sense of significance, moving from slave to wife and wonder of wonders, producing the long-sought-after heir.
All of these changes began to promote a false sense of security and significance in Hagar so she began to look down on Sarai. She developed a bad attitude, scorning and despising her mistress, all because she was proud. Why was she proud? Because, all of a sudden, she felt significant.
Just like Hagar, we need to beware. When we try to attain significance in our own power, it leads to a haughty spirit. Significance embedded in the Lord brings security and peace. A good way to examine your level of humility is to analyze what you do when you are elevated to a new position or you are demoted. Your flesh will always act with pride if you are rewarded or with a sense of injustice if you are not.
You and I have longings, some godly and some ungodly. We also have broken cisterns that we try to fill in our own strength and ways. If these desires and lack of godly significance are not yielded to God, they become bitter springs and they will spill out from us in destructive ways. We have to continually look into the Word so that our desires can be revealed to us, so that our significance can be founded in the Word, in God.
These two huge needs – unfulfilled longings and feelings of insignificance – are two of the main reasons we break when faced with trauma. God uses suffering in our lives for a good reason: He desires to conform us to the image of His Son. So He will bring along a bit of heat to expose our unfulfilled longings so they can be baked out of us. Or He will ratchet up the humidity to reveal some areas of misplaced significance so that we will turn these areas over to Him. But, if we respond out of anger or bitterness or blame or manipulation, if we do not ever face the facts and feel the feelings, if we allow the circumstances to build a wall between us and God, we will become crippled. Our faith will break and instead of emerging as ceramic beauties from our spiritual kilns, vessels sweetened by perseverance and character, we will emerge from our times of suffering more like cracked pots.
There is good news, however. All is not lost because we have a loving God. Hagar, though running through a burning desert from an abusive situation, was known by the most loving Master of all: El Roi, the God who sees. This God who knows everything, including our hearts filled with desperate longings and misplaced significance, desires to reveal to us our heart – and His – if we will just let Him.
When God came to Hagar in the desert, He revealed four important truths to her: who He was, who Hagar really was, what her motives were, and His perspective on the situation. These revelations turned Hagar’s life around and if we embrace them, they can do the same to us. Look at the myriad of revelations Hagar received.
God reveals who He is:
- He is the God who finds us (“The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” – v7).
- He is the God who speaks to us (“And he said…” – v8a)
- He is the God who cares about us enough to questions our motives (“…where have you come from and where are you going?” – v8b)
- He is the God who guides us into His will (“…Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” – v9b)
- He is the God who makes promises (“…You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” – vv11-12)
- He is the God who sees everything about us and still loves us (“…You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.” – v13)
- He is the God who keeps His promises (“So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne” – v15)
God reveals who we are:
He asked two questions of Hagar in v8: “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”… Hagar didn’t answer either question. She answered a “What are you doing?” question, though this was never asked. Instead, God was trying to move Hagar to look at her motives.
She answered in reply to God’s ‘where’ questions: “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai” (v8b). I noticed in the ESV Study Bible that Hagar’s name means “flight.” Actually the ESV Bible translates a couple of verses in this passage with that word in mind, “Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her” (v6) and “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai” (v8).
Names meant a lot in Old Testament times. Remember Jacob, the deceiver and Jabez, the pain or ‘sorrow-causer’? Their names reflected their inner character. I wonder if Hagar did a lot of fleeing, if she tended to run from her problems by way of habit. I believe that God was showing her who she really was, a person who fled, who ran from her problems. He revealed startling truth through this simple word-play: there was something wrong in Hagar’s heart.
What would God call you today if He confronted you with the truth of who you are? What character flaw would He reveal to you? Would he call you “gossiper” or “hopeless” or “jealous” or “victim mentality?” God knows our hearts even when we sometimes do not.
He revealed to Hagar that she was a runner; her mode of operation was to flee. In essence, He was asking her if her system worked for her or if there was a need for change. The obvious answer is: Yes, there is always a need for change when our identity does not match with God’s desires for us. Who we are can be changed into what God already sees us as: a masterpiece. His calling of her name and her answers in verse six and eight revealed who she was so that she could begin that work of submission.
God reveals our motives:
When someone runs all the time from their problems, I believe their underlying root problem is fear. There are two kinds of fear, one good and one quite unhealthy. There is fear that motivates you to run from a car that is barreling toward you and then there is anxiety. Anxiety is a fear that keeps you from ever crossing the street again because of what may come along and hit you, the ‘what ifs’ of life.
Hagar had a healthy fear; she had been mistreated, but I think what God was pointing out was not a healthy fear. This is the way Hagar’s thinking might have unraveled her: What if Sarai became so angry with her that she was sold to another master? What if Sarai abused her enough to damage her permanently? What if Sarai’s wrath eventually led to her baby being hurt in utero? These were not well-founded fears, but anxieties. In essence, when God spoke her name, “Hagar,” He was showing her that she was in bondage to fear. It defined her. It captured her. It paralyzed her faith. She did not run from Sarai only because of the mistreatment; she ran from her because she was a fearful person. Her motives stemmed from a root problem that God was longing to change.
God reveals His perspective on our situation:
Let’s look at the two questions God asked Hagar a little more closely. The first was “Where have you come from” (v8c)? This question revealed a perspective that Hagar could not see. She was fleeing from Sarai because Sarai was hateful to her. Hagar feared Sarai and the repercussions of her jealousy. But looking at this question from a different angle – the angle of God’s great plan – God was also asking her to reflect on the type of family from which she was running. “Think of the good,” I can hear Him saying.
Abram was a God-follower. Hagar had the great blessing of serving in a God-fearing family. She heard about God’s power. She knew of God’s promises. God was gently reminding her of the blessings she had received despite the turmoil and oppression that had become her focus. Her pain and anxiety blinded her to God’s activity.
Are you going through a dark, fearful trauma? God wants to give you a new perspective on your situation. There are treasures, riches to be mined even in the midst of the darkness you may be feeling (see Isaiah 45:2-3).
The second question is equally revealing, “Where are you going” (v8d)? This question involved her future plans. Verse 7 says that the angel found her by a spring in the desert and that it was a spring by the road leading to Shur. In case you don’t know, Shur was a 150 mile sandy desert between Palestine and Egypt. Imagine those hot, barren, debilitating miles of desert. The truth of the matter is that she would have probably died there. God knew this and halted Hagar’s headlong, impetuous, anxiety-riddled flight toward death.
The meaning of “Shur” is “wall” (ESV Strong’s). In her mind, Hagar was running home to what she considered safe. If you remember, her home was Egypt and Egypt was on the other side of that desert, but God knew she had hit a physical and a spiritual wall. Physically, she would probably have died in that wasteland, but spiritually, if she had made it home, she probably would have succumbed once again to idol worship, for the gods of Egypt were many and the pull of fear-filled appeasement would have been great.
She never answered the question about where she was going, but God foresaw the future and it looked pretty bleak. So instead of allowing her to build a “wall” between her and Him by idol worship, He chose to reveal His love and care to her. That wall of grace ended up being her salvation.
God asks you the same questions. Where have you come from? Maybe it’s a major crisis or problems in your marriage. Possibly your are facing physical ailments or the loss of your God. The facts look very bleak, but God is asking you to ponder His perspective and really look at the blessings to which you may be blinded. Godly perspective reveals that trauma is not always about the pain; sometimes it’s about the panorama of God’s goodness.
Secondly, take a look at the direction you are heading. Is it toward danger or idolatry? Have you hit a proverbial wall? You may feel stuck, blindly swimming around in a sea of facts and feelings, but that wall is actually God’s grace in your life. You will need to ascertain whether your future steps will lead you to Egypt and away from God or straight into His loving arms.
There are 4 insights in this story that God gave to Hagar in an attempt to bring her to some understanding about her situation. The first is that God knows when we are hurting and seeks us when we are running (v7). God watches our every move and when we are beside ourselves with sorrow and pain, He finds us and ministers to out hurts. Notice that God did not send an angel out to minister to Sarai or Abram. He was close to the broken-hearted Hagar and was bent on saving her crushed spirit (see Ps. 34:18).
The Lord also has a formula for our healing. This is the second insight taken from verse 9. The formula, in short, is submission. The angel told Hagar to go back and submit to Sarai. God knew she would be safe in that home, but her submission to God required her overcoming her irrational fears and trusting in God’s direction. Submitting to Sarai was Hagar’s means of submitting to God. It required a humbling of Hagar’s heart, a brokenness of spirit. God knows that our healing will always come from submitting to God and may also come from submitting to the people in our crisis. Brokenness, humility, and submission pave our glory road and bring healing to our soul.
Verse 10 highlights yet another need for understanding: God can fill our desires when we bow our hearts. After God told Hagar that she was to return to Sarai, He gave her a promise. She would have so many descendants that they would be too numerous to count. I’m sure that Hagar’s desires at that point in the desert were pretty low key: health, safety, a good delivery, maybe a decent meal, but God gave her so much more. He gave her significance and worth. He filled up her insecurity and eradicated her shame of being a slave with a promise that was on par with the patriarch. She, like Abraham, would have descendants too numerous to count. Imagine what that would mean. A wife for her son. Lots of land for all those offspring to live on. Posterity and history and lineage. God fulfilled her desire for a child, but He also lavished upon her a sense of significance, founded in His promises.
You and I can experience God’s filling when we choose to surrender. Whatever your particular unfulfilled desire or broken cistern is, God can heal it. He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). God wants to fulfill those desires in you and me, but before fulfillment comes surrender. Notice Eph. 3:14, the verses that are the prologue into the promise of v20: “For this reason I kneel before the Father…and I pray…” (v16). You and I can experience God’s filling when we choose the posture of humility and begin to humbly make requests of the Father. We must understand the need to bow in humility.
Lastly, God can build our faith (v11-12). The angel of the Lord gave Hagar a prophecy about the child in her womb. The baby was to be called Ishmael, meaning “God hears”. Every time she spoke that child’s name from his birth on, she would declare God’s truths. God wanted her to know that He had heard her misery (v11) and would always hear her from then on. She was not alone because God was looking after her (ESV Bible). The baby’s name alone would have been a rock on which she could build her faith. You and I, like Hagar, need to come to the understanding that God’s words are a foundation upon which we can stake our very lives.
Hagar responded to her trauma, to God’s revelation, and to the pointed insights God had shown her in a beautifully sweet way. The encounter with God actually changed her course and her heart. The statements she made and actions she took in verses 13-15 demonstrated a heart that was broken instead of just “broke.”
First, she acknowledged who God was. She responded in awe, “You are the God who sees me” (v13a). Without wavering, she gave the Lord a new name, El Roi, the God who sees. That was faith in action. She embraced who God was and His ways of acting on her behalf. She embraced God’s sovereignty.
Next, we see her humbling herself in His presence. The NASB states the next part of verse 13 like this, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” Do you recognize the awe and humility in that statement? Hagar encountered the God of the universe who was so large that He held the world in His hands and yet, He cared for her, heard her, watched over her. As her head and her heart collided in this insightful understanding, I imagine her down on her knees, or even flat upon her face. Acknowledging God for who He is has a way of humbling even the most proud heart. She embraced her need to surrender.
She also recognized God’s hand in her life. “I have now seen the One who sees me”, recounts the NIV Bible, but the ESV adds a little twist, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (v13b). She knew, without a doubt, that God cared for her, had looked for her on that desert road, and had come down to meet with her and minister to her every need. She embraced God as her provider.
After these amazing acts of surrender, she memorialized her encounter with God. The well that presided next to this amazing encounter was named Beer Lahai Roi, the well of the Living One who sees me (v14a). Whether she actually named the well or not, what we see here is personal worship; we see her pausing in her humility and putting up a spiritual marker in her walk with the Lord. She embraced being seen.
The second half of verse 14 is very interesting to me, “it (meaning the well) is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.” I love searching for meaning behind names because most of the meanings are integral to the thrust of God’s movement. This story is no different. Kadesh means “holy” or “sacred”, a sanctuary (NASB Strong’s). Bered means “hail” or “hailstone” and it signifies God’s judgment (ESV Strong’s). Don’t you find it extremely significant that she memorialized this encounter with God, an encounter that was sandwiched between God’s holy sanctuary and His judgment? He chooses to meet us halfway between His sacred holiness and His awesome judgment. We are nestled safely between grace and spiritual death in a sacred sanctuary where God reveals His love and mercy to us. Hagar taught us all of these truths when she embraced God’s grace instead of walking out her days with a head-faith mostly filled with her perception of His judgement.
Her last embracing action was that she obeyed and returned to Sarai with a changed attitude. Nothing describes her return trip, but there is a world of meaning between verse 14 and 15 and we are blessed to see the results of her embracing attitude. God moved in Abram’s and Sarai’s hearts as a result of Hagar’s return to their household and submission to them as master and mistress. How do I know this? Because Abram gave the name Ishmael to that son. He took that name without question and I believe the reason is that he could recognize a person who had been with God like he had. Not only that, but there is no more mention of abuse on Sarai’s part. Both the patriarch and his wife were affected by Hagar’s brokenness.
Our obedience to God will never go unnoticed by those around us. As we respond to revelation, bring our heads and hearts to a unified understanding, and embrace God’s will for us with a humble spirit, we will become lights that point to Christ. Our brokenness becomes a witness; a witness, mind you, that changes others’ lives.
The Kiln of Hope
I began this devotional with a heat and humidity analogy, the picture of a clay pot having the damaging moisture baked out of it in order to become a beautiful ceramic piece. As I have shared with you my thoughts about Hagar and what it means to be broken, I pray you have found hope. In trauma, choosing the presence of Jesus over the pouting of the flesh means choosing hope. Revelation comes in order to bring us along on a journey of hope. God seeks to have our eyes enlightened to the understanding that precedes hope. And above all, our embracing of God’s will for us, ironically, opens the door to hope.
How is this true? How can trauma lead to something so positive and uplifting? The answer again is really simple and we find it in a familiar passage, one I mentioned last week. Abraham, if you recall, faced the facts and felt the feelings and became an accredited, righteous faith-walker. But how did he make the leap from facts and feelings to faith?
Listen to the opening words from verse 18: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” (Rom. 4:18a). The word ‘hope’ has a couple of different nuances, but buried in my ESV Strong’s, I found a wonderful truth. This word means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure, expectation of good or confidence, faith or hope in the expectation of eternal salvation.” This definition sounds pretty familiar to us, mirroring our English word, but there is one more addition in the Greek: “having hope in the author of hope, or he who is its foundation.”
Did you get that? Against all hope, my NIV says, Abraham in Hope believed. His faith was not attached to some random rope. He was not making the leap to faith by experiencing some passing pleasure, nor did he have a wavering expectation. No, he sank his expectation and confidence into the unfathomable, unplumbable, eternal Person of Hope. That, my friends, is how you move from “broke” to broken. You get to know Hope. You come to hear Hope. You spend time in the Presence of Hope. And you begin to love Hope with all of your heart.
In Acts 2, David is quoted from his Psalm 16 song. Listen to these words of hope: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:25-28).
Trauma has great heat and humidity, but it is also a primer on how to know Hope. David, the man after God’s own heart, knew Hope. He saw the Lord. He felt His presence at his right hand. He had joy in the midst of sorrow. His body hoped in God because even if he died, he knew he was not abandoned and he would never experience decay, for he was going to live with Hope eternally. He had an instructor in Hope making known his next step in life and above all, he lived with joy in Hope’s presence.
Dear one, if you are going through the kiln of adversity, you need to hear that this is also the kiln of hope. Hezekiah, after almost being killed by a disease, was healed by Hope. In his prayer of thanksgiving, he says these words, “But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health…Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins” (Isa. 38:15-17 – NLT).
Looking back on his trauma, Hezekiah sees that it was actually a kiln of hope, for it taught him humility. It taught him the goodness of the Lord. It taught him what true life and health is, what prolonged prayer can do, and it gave him a new appreciation for God’s rescuing power, His forgiving grace, and His healing mercy. In short, against all hope, Hezekiah met the Author of Hope. And it all transpired within the heat and humidity of a firing kiln.
Do not give up this fight, precious child of God! Do not choose a “cracked-pot” existence, crippled through bitterness or anger! Do not allow Satan to help you build a wall of injustice between you and God! Lay down your longings before Him. Rest on His breast for your sense of significance. Respond to His revelation with humility and awe. And above all, embrace His good plan for you, for that road is your glory road. (To listen to Heather’s newest song, Glory Road, click the play button below.) Then, my dear sojourner in Christ, you will move out of your kiln of adversity into the kiln of hope, emerging from your trauma as a ceramic beauty.