One of the main things I teach people to do when they’re going for a goal or objective is to pray and get a confirmation from the Lord that what they want is what God wants for them. When you get a feeling of peaceful assurance that you’re on the right path, you can proceed forward in faith, resting on God’s promises.
The problem that arises next for most of us is the human need to make God’s promises happen. We start feeling that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me” when the truth is “what God originates He orchestrates.” But surely we can’t sit back and do nothing? We must take action. True faith engenders action – right? Yes, it does, but there is a difference between taking inspired action and forcing an outcome.
I think the very best example of this was Sarai in the Old Testament (Genesis 16). Do you remember the promise God made to Abraham that he and Sarai would have a son? The problem was they were in their 90’s and Sarai’s time for bearing children had long since passed. God promised, yet nothing seemed to be happening. So, Sarai, in classic “take matters into my own hands” fashion set to work to help God fulfill His promise.
She had a handmaiden named Hagar who was of child-bearing years. In this period of time and part of the world, if your handmaid had a child by your husband, it was the same as if you had given birth to the child. It was the early form of surrogate motherhood. So, Sarai, went to her husband and suggested he take Hagar to wife and let her bear a son. It would be Sarai’s by proxy … thus fulfilling the Lord’s promise. After all, it wasn’t logical that a 90-year-old woman could ever bear a child herself – right?
So Abraham follows his wife’s advice, Hagar conceives and then begins to lord her pregnancy over Sarai. Sarai goes to Abraham and admits she’s made a mistake. Now what can she do about this prideful maid? He tells her that Hagar is her maid, and she can deal with her however she wants.
Sarai is harsh with Hagar and Hagar flees. An angel of the Lord appears to Hagar and asks her where she’s from and where’s she’s going. She explains that she’s fleeing from her mistress, Sarai. The angel tells her to return to her mistress and submit herself to her hands. The angel also prophecies to her about her son Ishmael and his impressive future.
Hagar replies with something quite insightful, “God sees me.” She marvels so much over the fact that God sees her — notices her — that the name of the well where she met the angel is called Beer-lahai-roi meaning, “The well of him who liveth and seeth me.”
I believe this desire to be seen, to be noticed and to matter is at the root of all Hagar’s actions toward Sarai. Here she is a servant, and Sarai tells her to have Abraham’s child so it can be hers. Sure, Hagar went along with this plan, but how much choice did she really have in the matter? She was a bondwoman.
Might her acting out toward her mistress be her way of saying, “Am I not human? Don’t I have feelings? Shouldn’t I have a say in how my body is used and for whom my children are born? Does anybody see me? Does anybody think my feelings matter here?”
How many times in our rush to fulfill God’s promises do we trample over other people to make it happen? Sarai used Hagar, and then was upset that Hagar didn’t handle it well. How did she expect her to handle it? I think this story is a classic example of our propensity to take a promise God has made, start trying to control how it happens, and forget completely about the feelings and rights of other people. We rarely stop to look through another person’s eyes to see that they might not be too happy about how we’re manipulating them or using them to reach our objective.
Had Sarai just waited — not taken action to manipulate things — she would have seen that God was actually going to help her bear a son herself. God literally meant what he said, and He didn’t need Sarai’s help to make it happen.
So the next time you feel the need to help God keep His promises, try stepping back and asking Him what action you should take — if any. Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing to do is to just be still and know that He is God!