“Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).
Recently, I was speaking to a friend over lunch, a woman who has given herself to what we might call the issues of life, particularly abortion and euthanasia/assisted suicide. Speaking of our culture’s knee-jerk rejection of suffering, she mentioned that she wished she had known that God would be with her during her own suffering as an unwed and pregnant teenager so that she would not have felt the need for an abortion. This got me thinking about Hagar in the book of Genesis.
Hagar’s is the first crisis pregnancy recorded in the Bible. While there is much left unsaid, her circumstances (which can be found in Genesis 16) appear to be as follows: She was a household servant, used sexually at the behest of Sarah her mistress in order that she might bear a son for Sarah and Abram. Whether Hagar was willing or pressured is left unsaid, but her pregnancy causes strife within Abram’s household. Bearing a child conceived in adultery, Hagar treats Sarah lightly. Sarah, feeling jealous, responds harshly to her. Hagar flees. Finding a spring of water in the wilderness, she sits beside it—pregnant, homeless, and alone. The passage does not even say that she cried out to God. Perhaps she did not know she could.
But the Lord comes to her with a word of encouragement, saying that her child will have a future, albeit a difficult one. Interestingly enough, the Lord says nothing about Hagar’s own future. Rather, he calls her to walk a difficult road—to return to Sarah and to submit to her. And Hagar obeys. Why? Because she now knows something she had not known before. God sees her. Even though submitting to Sarah would be difficult, and even though her son would have his share of troubles, she now knew God was with her. And apparently that was enough. She even calls God by her own special name, not just because of who God is, but because of who God is for her: “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” she said. “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen 16:13).
I asked my friend how she thinks she might have responded had she heard as a pregnant teenager that God would walk with her through her confusion and suffering. She wasn’t entirely sure, since she had never heard about a God who sees, a God who saw her—unwed, lonely, fearful, and pregnant—and loved her. Although she now knows what she wished she had known then, her abortion is past, and the question is moot. But for many others—women unwed, lonely, fearful, and pregnant, who don’t know there is a God who sees them and loves them as they are—it is not.