Today’s post is from a chapter in a book I wrote several years ago, though never quite finished. For 10 years I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. It was a difficult time, but one that I would not trade for anything. Why? Because it kept me dependent on my Father every waking moment. The lessons I learned during this period are invaluable.
This week’s Torah portion brought the lesson flooding back and I wanted to share it with you. While it is geared for women experiencing an emotionally abusive relationship, it is a lesson for anyone dealing with a difficult relationship or affliction. Above all, it is a lesson in God’s unfailing love and concern for His children. As the storms of life seem to close in, God sees.
I pray it will bless and encourage you as much as it does me.
God Sees Your Pain
Emotional abuse is so upsetting because no one sees what is going on – you cannot explain it, you cannot prove it. There are no visible scars. Yet the pain of emotional abuse can often be unendurable.
The inability to show someone what is happening to you only multiplies and magnifies the pain and isolates you from all humanity, from finding comfort in the understanding of another.
However, there IS One Who sees exactly what is happening to you, and He is there with you, enduring what you endure. His name is Jehovah Roi – The Mighty One Who Sees. And He made Himself known to Hagar in the desert, a long time ago but He is the same God today as He was then.
God promised Abram and Sarai children back in Genesis, chapter 15. Many years pass and still there is no baby on the scene. So, being the helpful woman that she is, Sarai gets to thinking, “Maybe we misunderstood God’s promise.” Sure, He was going to give them as many descendents as stars in the sky, but were they really sure He was going to do it through Sarai’s womb? Maybe, God had something different in mind, and intended to use Sarai’s Egyptian maidservant to bear her and Abram children.
She brings this idea to Abram, he agrees, and Sarai gives him Hagar as his wife. Hagar conceives, there are some ‘challenges’ between the women, and Hagar flees into the wilderness. It is there that Hagar encounters the Angel of the Lord, and he comforts her and gives her instructions regarding her mistress, along with a promise regarding her son.
Now let’s go to the Word and dig deeper in Genesis 16:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.
So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.
Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.
So he (Abram) went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived her mistress became despised in her eyes. Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”
So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
Now the Angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness; by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
So the Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”
And the Angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.
He shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who- Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”
Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
Who needs daytime soaps when we have stories like this in the Word of God? What a mess we make when we take things into our own hands and try to solve them, when we think we can do a better job than God.
A look at Sarai
First look at Sarai – she brought this on herself. It was her own sin – her lack of faith in God, the sin of unbelief – that caused her to treat Hagar so harshly. After all, looking at Hagar day in and day out, her belly growing, was a constant reminder to Sarai of what she’d done, of the lack of faith that was in her heart. It was also a constant reminder of the intimate relationship Hagar had with Abram.
So too, as abused women, let us take a lesson from the viewpoint of Hagar: it is our husband’s own sin that causes him to treat us harshly. Remember, God’s Word tells us that the world will hate us simply because we are reflections of the light of Messiah. Looking at us everyday, as we have Messiah’s light growing inside us, is a constant reminder of their own lack of faith, their own unbelief; a constant reminder of the intimate relationship we have with Jesus.
A look at Hagar
Next, look at Hagar: she carried within her Abram’s heir. She was a servant who was exalted to a higher place, not by anything she had done, but by the opportunity given to her by her mistress. Rather than be gracious and grateful, she grew disrespectful, and lorded it over Sarai.
Let us take a lesson from this. Let us remember that we are only saved by what Jesus did for us, the opportunity He gave us to be God’s daughters, to be exalted above our position as slaves to sin. Knowing this, let us not lord it over our husbands, but rather live to serve them with respect.
I know it is hard to respect a man who treats you miserably, who withholds his love, who ignores you, who abuses you, who tries to make you think you are crazy; but as God’s children, as Jesus’ sisters, it is what we are called to do. In verse 9, the Angel tells Hagar, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” We are told to submit to our husbands. Now I can hear an uprising, but bear with me for a moment.
In Ephesians, wives are instructed to respect and submit to their husbands, and husbands are instructed to love and care for their wives. So too, in Titus 2:9, servants are instructed to be obedient to their masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back. Further, in 1 Peter 2:13 & 15, we are called to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, so that by doing good, we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
When we submit and obey respectfully, the responsibility for what our husbands do or do not do now falls onto them. We have been obedient, not merely to man, but to our Father, Who is looking out for us, watching over us, and raising us up to be His daughters. When we are obedient, when we do not answer back, when we speak in love and mercy, Titus 2:8 tells us that one who is an opponent will have nothing evil to say of you.
Let me clarify something right here, because it is my own experience: though they may continue to speak evil about you (and they likely will), they are doing nothing more than fabricating lies because you have done as God called you to do. Whatever they are saying has no validity, and the Creator of the universe knows this and sees it all.
Comfort, Instruction, Promise
Look again in Genesis for how God works with us. First He comforts, next He instructs and then He promises. Our Father always gives more to us than He asks from us – twice He gives to us in comfort and promise, once He asks for obedience.
First the comfort: Hagar is in the desert, and God meets her there. He already knows what is going on, but He asks her what is happening which gives her the opportunity to pour out her heart to Him. He gives us that same opportunity all day every day. He wants us to come to Him and cry on His shoulders. He offers to comfort us in our affliction.
Next the instructions: having listened to her plight, God then instructs Hagar to go back and submit to Sarai.
Finally, He follows these instructions with a promise: He will multiply her descendents so that they cannot be counted. Not only that, but He tells her to name her son Ishmael (God hears) because He heard her affliction, the miserable circumstances that she is in with her mistress Sarai.
In response, Hagar “called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who- Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'” (Gen 16:13 NKJV)
What exactly does this mean? Let us start with the word for Lord. It is actually YHWH. It has been noted that YHWH is the ‘proper name of the one true God. Knowledge and use of the name implies personal or covenant relationship. The name pictures God as the one who exists and/or causes existence.’
Two things here:
1 – Just knowing about this name and using it, suggests that you have a personal relationship with God.
2 – The name gives a word picture: God is not only the one who IS, but also causes everything else to exist!!
Ladies, you have a personal relationship with the One who is and always has been; with the One who is so powerful and wise that He created everything that exists!! THIS is your Father. THIS is the One who is with you. THIS is the One who loves you enough to adopt you and raise you as His own. Think about it.
And not only is the One Who created EVERYTHING your Father, but He surely sees everything that has happened, is happening and WILL happen. There is nothing that goes on here on earth that is hidden from His sight. The Bible tells us that He not only sees what is going on in the physical realm, but He sees inside the heart and He sees everyone’s thoughts. In other words, He sees all the machinations going on inside your husband’s head and heart, whether good or bad. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Not only that, but He sees it BEFORE they think it! How’s THAT for powerful?
So as you are going through trials with your husband, remember the name of your Father is El-Roi: the Mighty, All Powerful One Who Sees EVERYTHING!
Between Kadesh and Bered
Now before we leave this area of scripture, there is one more tidbit that will give you such hope as you return to submitting to your husband with respect, because it once more speaks to God’s ability to not only see what is going on, but to do something about it, because nothing happens by chance, not even the place where Hagar ended up meeting Him.
Look at verse 14. We are instructed to “observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.” The very place that Hagar named, “the Well of the Living One Who is Able to See Everything”. The very place where God met her, listened to her, counseled her and assured her that He saw what was happening and would deal with it was between Kadesh and Bered. And we are specifically instructed to look at that bit of information.
So what, you say? Why is it so significant? Because is right where we are in our situations with our husbands. Observe:
Kadesh means a sacred place, a spring of justice.
Bered means freezing rain, hail, a storm.
Now let’s connect the dots: God meets us in between the spring of justice that we will receive from His hand and the storm of freezing rain or hail that is happening in our life right now.
Are you in between Kadesh and Bered? Great! Because it is here that God meets you, listens to you, counsels you, and assures you that He not only sees the storm of your life, but also will deal with that storm.