If I Were In Charge
So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. Genesis 21:14
We went to see the latest Christian film last night, about an alcoholic who met Christ and was immediately transformed, never drinking again. If you know my writing, you know I prayed for this instant miracle a thousand times while struggling with my own addiction. In failing to receive the miracle, I became frustrated with God. Why don’t you instantly change my appetite? I can see now why God didn’t do it that way in my life. God used my struggle to teach me what it meant to live by faith, daily dying to the old life, and making my behavior follow that which I claimed to believe. If I’d have received the easy, instant fix, I’d have never learned obedience. I can see all that now, but at the time, I couldn’t understand God’s plan and honestly, I didn’t like it very much. If I were God, things would be different.
I found myself thinking something similar while reading today’s passage. In the story, Abraham and Sarah had their long-promised son, Isaac. After Isaac’s birth though, Sarah grew contemptuous of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. You’ll remember that Ishmael was born of Sarah’s servant, the product of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience with God. Now, in her resentment, Sarah demanded that Abraham get rid of Ishmael.
At this point in the story, I feel like God should show up and say, No. Absolutely not. You made this mess. Now you’re going to live with it. Instead, God endorses Sarah’s plan to cast Hagar and the child out, and they’re sent off in the wilderness where they nearly die from exposure and starvation. In the end, God heard the child’s cries and saved them, promising that Ishmael would not only survive, but would become the father of a great nation. God had his own plan for Ishmael, which involved being painfully separated from his family. It’s not how I’d have done it though. I have no stomach for putting a mother and child through such a trial.
A lot of us have found ourselves here. If this is God’s plan, then God’s plan stinks. It’s difficult, during the trial, to understand what God is doing. If we knew that our version of happily ever after was coming, then faith may be a little easier. But we know that’s not always the case. Sick loved ones do sometimes die. Some who are addicted never recover. Marriages fail. The challenge for us, is to daily look to God, asking what he wants us to do in the trial. I may not like this situation, but I believe in you God. Show me how I’m supposed to respond. We can’t control the world, but we can follow the one who does. We may not like God’s plan, but we’re not in control. God is. Whether we feel like it right now or not, he loves us and desires that which is ultimately best for us.