by Susan Litwiller, Ed.S, MBA
Genesis16: 6b Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”
The desert. The wilderness. The place when our lives seem dry, desolate, and discouragement has overtaken any fleeting moments of joy. We tend to find ourselves in the desert and it can be either by default or design.
Hagar fled her mistress Sarai and ran into the desert. This was not where she was supposed to be. In a dry place by default. The Lord saw her there and told her to return. And Hagar did. A simple act of obedience when we find ourselves in a situation we bring upon ourselves doesn’t come easy. I have had way too many of those. Married the wrong person that ended in annulment. Had not one, but two children when I was very young and outside of marriage.
But what happens later? In Genesis 21, Hagar’s son was mocking the son of the promise. In verse 14 Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. Desert by design.
The encouraging facet of both of these events is that the Lord met her there. Both the time when she ran on her own and the other when she was sent away. How grateful we can be that the Lord sees us when we run away and hears us when we are sent away. He is always near.
Consider Moses. He ran to the desert after killing an Egyptian. Default. God met him there in a burning bush. Sent him back to Egypt to free God’s people. God then led Moses and his people into the wilderness. Design. The Israelites spent 40 years experiencing the provision of God and the depth of understanding how to break out of a slave mentality.
Consider Jesus. After he was baptized in the Jordan River, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Again. Design. This was where Jesus defeated the enemy through temptation and trial and we learned how to battle against our own struggles.
How I long to embrace the times when I am in the desert by design. Knowing the difference is understanding the root of how we end up in a dry season. If by our own default, we need to quickly recognize our state and return to the loving arms of the Father. If by design, submit quickly to the lessons being taught and chances are those lessons will bring victory to many others on the journey.