Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I battled feeling invisible in my family, in school, and in my first jobs. My preferred method for dealing with hard things tends to be to handle them myself rather than speaking up, and I think it’s important to own my own participation in areas where I don’t have a voice. I have learned to speak up (to the point where now I’m told – by some people- that I can sometimes take up too much space. I’ve now grown a lot of shame around the idea of being too loud, too opinionated, too much.), but I still relate to the feeling of having no voice and being invisible.
And I hear the stories of women who feel invisible, weekly. In their families, in their marriages, in their jobs, in their friendships, women are under attack, and the lie being thrown at us is INVISIBLE. You’re not heard, you’re not seen, you don’t matter.
Make no mistake: Invisible is a LIE.
We have a God who sees, a God who hears.
I was so happy to be reminded of this truth in my search through the places in God’s Word where He says, “DO NO FEAR.” When I am afraid, the reminder that God sees me and hears my cries is balm to my soul.
God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. (Genesis 21:17)
Learning from Hagar
Today we look to Hagar, the second person to hear God say, “Do not fear”. Hagar’s story is wrapped up with Abraham’s, coming right in the middle of Abraham’s long wait to see God begin to keep His promises. And Hagar’s story is the story of an outsider, a foreigner. Like so many women throughout history, Hagar was used and abused, treated as disposable. The Egyptian maidservant of Abraham’s wife, Sarai/Sarah, Hagar is called into service when God promised Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Since Abraham and Sarah have no son or hope for a son, Sarah “gives” Hagar to Abraham.
After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived… (Genesis 16:3-4)
As nearly anyone could have predicted, Hagar’s pregnancy causes conflict between the two women, and Sarah drives Hagar out of the household.
In the wilderness, Hagar has the first of two encounters with Yahweh, the God of Abraham. The angel of the Lord sends Hagar, pregnant with Abraham’s first born, back to Abraham and Sarah, prophesying that the child she carries should be named Ishmael, and will become a great nation. Hagar responds:
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” (Genesis 16:13)
Hagar returns to Abraham and Sarah, having seen “the God who sees me.”
But once Abraham’s long wait for God’s promise is over and Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael are again driven out of the household. Hagar finds herself alone in the wilderness, again. This time, out of water and out of hope, she puts her child down and walks away, not wanting to see him die.
When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, “Do not let me see the boy die.” And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept.
God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. (Genesis 21:15-19)
Hagar’s story is one of my favorites, because I love what we learn about Yahweh God. But I also kind of hate it, because why is this kind of abuse and neglect OK? I prefer my Bible stories without slavery, rape and abandonment, but the Bible is messier than we like to pretend.
And right here in the middle of this story of terrible injustice, from a woman treated as if she is invisible and disposable, we learn 2 beautiful truths about God:
As I look closely at the things I’m afraid of, I see my fear whispering of an unknown future where I am invisible and abandoned. I recognize the lie that I could end up in a place where I am unseen by God, where my cries are not heard.
And I look to Hagar. Hagar the outsider, the abused, teaches me to say, You are the seeing God who sees me.
And I hear God say, “Do not fear, God has heard…”
Friends, we are not invisible, we are not unheard, we are not disposable. He is the God who sees and hears, and He does care.
Is the idea of being invisible and unheard wrapped up in any of your fears about the future? If so, how?
How are you encouraged by the truth that God sees and hears you?