Yesterday a friend and I had the privilege of meeting a young woman, who with her three roommates had a house fire a few days ago. Fortunately it was in the afternoon when the air conditioner started the fire. Many neighbors were able to see the smoke and warn everyone to get out. She had been asleep in one of the rooms on the ground floor.
She shared the details with us–about the children let down from second story windows and the many neighbors who were there to catch them. That all the children and adults got out without injury or smoke inhalation. She was so thankful that God had given her another life to live. The idea that God allows bad things to happen to us to make us stronger came up. They asked me what I thought about that.
I was happy to speak. All I could do was tell a story, though.
Hagar was a slave who was given to her old master as a second wife in order to have a baby, so her old mistress, who appeared to be barren, could have children. When she became pregnant her mistress started abusing her and made life unbearable enough that Hagar ran away into the wilderness.
Pretty bleak story of misery and loss for this young woman.
Enter God. God found her, called her by name, and asked where she had been and where she was going. The Lord told her the baby she was carrying was a son, and she would name him Ishmael, which means God hears, for the Lord had heard her misery.
She was told to go back to her mistress, and knowing she was heard and seen by God, she did it. She gave the Lord who spoke to her a name: “You-are-the-God-who-sees-me” she called God because she had seen the one who sees her.
I then explained what I believe. The world is broken, but God hears and sees and redeems us out of the brokenness.
Pain and misery are hard to make sense of, but Hagar’s story gives me hope.