At times we face circumstances through which we ask ourselves if God sees our struggle and the tension in our hearts. We may wonder if our cries reach His ears or whether they fall short. It is an uncomfortable place where fears and doubts are prone to rage loudly against the truth that we have held close. When it is accompanied by feelings of weakness or brokenness our souls ache for strength and comfort. We desire the presence of someone who will hold us up and lovingly support us through all we are enduring. During those moments we can cling to intellectual truths of God’s nearest, but can sometimes fail to root those truths in our hearts to produce peace and joy.
There are many Biblical accounts of situations where people felt unseen and unknown by God during difficult times. It led to feelings of lostness and wandering. Time and time again, God showed He not only saw the trials being faced but He knew and cared about those who experienced them. One such account is of a slave of Sarai, the wife of Abraham. This slave, Hagar, was chosen by Sarai to bear the child of Abraham, but tensions arose when Hagar became pregnant. Hagar was treated harshly by Abraham’s wife and she decided to run away. On her journey she encountered an angle of the Lord and was given the assurance that God knew all she was going through.
“The angel of the Lord found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.” So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?”” Genesis 16: 7-13
The angel of the Lord brought Hagar news of God’s mindfulness of her and sent her back to the place she was running from. We aren’t told if the situation changed or if there was more unfair treatment that she had to endure, but we do know that Hagar changed. She didn’t just change her mind and go back; her heart changed. She encountered the revelation that she was known and cared about personally by God, thus calling Him “El Roi” meaning God sees me. This gave her the strength to obey the difficult command to go back and resonated in heart in such away that she continued to honor God by obediently naming her son Ishmael.
Knowing that God sees you in your times of trouble, pain, failure, struggle, and doubt is incredibly important. How God sees us in these times is just as important. He is unchanging. The same loving God that sent Christ to die for us, sees us in our weaknesses. Rather than the harsh judgment that some of us expect to receive, God reaches out with His mercy and grace. He cares for and has compassion toward us in the midst of the trials we are facing. Understanding this brings a resilience and inner strength that births joy and peace beyond what can be manufactured. It only comes from God as we become certain that we are lovingly known and accepted by El Roi no matter what our situations or circumstances look like.