Have you ever read a passage in scripture that is so familiar to you that you almost read it without really reading it? I have to confess that happened to me this week. I was "reading" Chapter 16 in Genesis about Sarai and Hagar when I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to stop and go back to actually read what I had just "read".
We read in a previous chapter that God made a promise to Abram to give him a son. Up to this point of Abram and Sarai's story, they had been unable to conceive. Chapter 16 picks up here:
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (vs 1-2)
As I re-read this scripture, I heard the question:
Why do you think Sarai ran ahead of Me to "fulfill" my promise to she and Abram?
I responded, "I don't know, but I could guess why I might make that choice."
"I think if I was in her shoes I would feel as though I had waited a really long time for a child and that my time was running out. I would feel desperate, angry, hurt, and lied to. I would wonder why this God that my husband talks to and follows had taken us so far away from the home I had grown up in. I would be hurt, angry, and betrayed that He promised me the one thing that I had always wanted yet had not come through on that promise. I would be tired of waiting and I would go back to trying to make this dream come true myself."
As I spoke that to the Lord, I could not help but be reminded of some of the ways I am currently acting like Sarai. God has made us many promises in scripture that are true for all of his children. Promises to provide for us, to supply all of our needs, to never leave us, and the list goes on and on. There are also promises that He has given us that might have come through words of prophecy that were confirmed and we knew the promise was a word from the Lord. It may be passions or dreams He laid on our hearts that we have pursued with open doors, so we run through them with the assurance that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
But, there are times in our lives where we live in need. There are times in our lives where we feel abandoned by the Father. There are times when we have been waiting for days, upon weeks, upon months, upon years, upon decades even, but the prophetic promises have not been fulfilled yet. There are times when, after years of running hard through open doors, we find ourselves in a place of closed doors and seemingly no other options to fulfill that promise of a dream or passion that the Lord had given us to pursue.
I have had a number of times in my life where I found myself much like Sarai. I felt desperate, angry, hurt, impatient, and even lied to. I began to wonder if I could actually trust God to fulfill this promise He had given me or if I had heard God right. Maybe this promise I had been pursuing was not even real.
It was then I heard the Father whisper, "Have you been pursuing the promises harder than you have been pursuing Me?"
I immediately realized the truth of this question.
- When I have a need, rather than pursuing the full-filler of that need, I try to figure out how to meet that need myself while questioning why God hadn't come through for me yet.
- When I am hurting, rather than pursuing the comforter, I focus on my pain and why God didn't prevent my pain from happening.
- When He gives me a promise, rather than seeing the promise as a furtherance of His Kingdom and asking the Promiser how I can participate in this promise with my focus on Him, His abilities, His heart, and His timing, I go about trying to full-fill the promise in my own power. I conclude if He gave me the promise He means for me to carry it out with all my own gifts, talents and abilities...right? Or when my focus is on the personal wonderfulness of the promise, I might create my own timeline for when this promise should come to fruition and I wait rather impatiently on Him to come through on my timeline.
- When I have been walking through open doors, basing my confidence in the open doors rather than the Opener of those doors, I become confused, frustrated, hurt, angry, entitled, and a little (or maybe a lot) demanding.
How many promises have I made more important in my life than the Promiser? My heart began to break at the reality of the number of promises that I pursued harder than pursuing a friendship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He deeply desires a relationship with me. He desires our relationship so much that sometimes He will delay the fulfillment of a promise out of desire for us to seek Him rather than the promise. Obviously there are sometimes other reasons the promises are not fulfilled. That is a blog for another time. But as we are reading through Genesis, asking ourselves, "How are these verses and these stories applying to my life right now?", we don't want to miss this kingdom principle:
While the Lord is faithful and desires to fulfill His promises for His sons and daughters, He desires much much more to have an intimate and growing relationship with each of us. He loves us too much to allow the fulfillment of promises to get in the way of that relationship.
A few verses down we see the Lord question Abram about why Sarai laughed at the promise He was giving them. I can't help but notice that the first time the promise was given, Abram was the only one that heard. When the promise was confirmed, the Lord lovingly allowed Sarai to overhear.
I can't help but wonder if she felt both gently convicted and lovingly known at the same time
? I wonder if she thought, "maybe if He knows my heart that well, He is able and faithful to do the impossible."
I am comforted to know that even though Sarai/Sarah doubted and sought after the promise more than after the Promiser in this situation, The Father counted her Faithful.
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even though she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
These are things the Lord talked to me about this week. What is He talking to you about?