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Look Within

It’s true, when tough times hit, there is a tendency to let pain and tears becloud our sight and dampen our faith. It’s all so easy to think that there is possibly no good thing that could come out of our current trial or loss.

That was exactly what happened to Hagar, Abraham’s maid turned mistress. She had been sent away with Ishmael her son, with only a bottle of water and other supplies. But being in the desert, she soon ran out of water. It was a very dangerous situation. She was thirsty, but she was even more scared and tormented as she watched her son struggle. She couldn’t bear it any more. Death was imminent. As far as she could see, there was no hope. So, in her desperation, she laid the boy under a shade, said her last prayers and went off a little way down the desert to cry – why watch helplessly as her own son dies of thirst?

Hagar: From Tears of Pain to Oasis of Joy

She wept, and waited to die. But all along as she wept, she stood before an oasis of water: “Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink” (Genesis 21; 19). Thank God for a merciful God, who can wipe away tears and open our eyes to see. The pains of life are for real. The difficulties and lack that come with a job loss are all too real and painful. We may be tempted to give up, and lay us down to cry. We may think all hope is gone, and submit to the debilitating force of despair. But there is a God in heaven who hears prayers, and listens to our silent cries for help. His first miracle is to ‘open our eyes’ so that we may see ‘the pool of water’ that lies by our side. That way, God saved her life and that of her son.

As I write, I personally struggle too. I just got a mail from a friend who has just been kicked out of home and at a most painful and confused state of her life. What can I say to such a dear one to bring hope? Only God must do a miracle – the miracle of ‘opening her eyes’ to see that all hope is not lost yet; that there is yet a glorious future ahead of her; that while yesterday might have been tough, tomorrow could be a wonderful new day; that there is a way out of such depressing moments even when it doesn’t seem so.

When all else seems lost, look within. There is always ‘a way of escape’ that God plans for us, a potent resource that helps us out of our difficult moments. Moses wondered how he could confront Pharaoh, but God ‘opened his eyes’ to see the rod in his hand as God’s powerful resource (Exodus 4). The apostles of Jesus wondered how in the world they were going to feed five thousand men (not counting women and children) out in the wilderness, until Jesus challenged them to look inwards and identify what they had. They looked inward and identified five loaves of bread and two fishes (John 6). It was very little compared to the need. But that was what they had. In the very hands of Jesus, the little became much, fed them all and still had excess supply left.

No matter what we are going through now, there are still things that you have going for you. Pause. Wipe the tears. Reflect. Identify your resources, talents, gifts, and most of all, the people in your life right now. Hand it all over to Jesus. It’s amazing what he can do with our ‘little’ when it’s given wholly to him. It’s ok to cry, as long as we pause long enough to take stock of what we still have left. Give thanks for what you still have. Of all that we still have left, we do have the love and support of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be sure of his everlasting support: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good...So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? (Romans 8: 26-32).

All bible quotations are from the Message Bible paraphrase Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson