How to Overcome What's Overcoming You
Genesis 16: 7-10
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
In this week’s devotional, we are continuing our story of Sarai and Hagar. We find Hagar running from the situation she has found herself in. Sarai has mistreated her so harshly that she has finally run away. Just like in our previous devotional where Sarai was running with her scissors facing out, Hagar is running with scissors too, except hers are pointing in. This is dangerous because you could stab yourself. And she does. Hagar is a victim.
In this week’s passage, Genesis 16:7, we find Hagar speaking with the angel who has found her in the wilderness. The angel asks Hagar where she has come from and where she is going. This is significant, because when you’re a victim you lose sight of who you are and what you’re called to do. When the going got tough, Hagar got going… in the opposite direction of her calling!
Hagar is a victim, meaning her biggest challenges were brought to her by other people’s choices. She bore a child because it was Sarai’s decision for her to do that. She probably didn’t even have a say in it.
I think it is particularly interesting when I read this passage of scripture that the angel addresses her as “Hagar, Sarai’s servant.”
Then Hagar responds: “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai.” The angel gives her some seemingly odd advice: “Return to your mistress and to submit to her authority.”
Mistress? Servant? Submit? These are very authoritative words. I look at the Bible and certain words just pop out at me, and when I look at this passage of scripture this context just messes with my mind. Why did the angel want Hagar to go back and submit to the very thing that was oppressing her? Because Hagar had to work on her attitude. No matter how justified she may have been, her response was still wrong.
The best medicine for Hagar wasn’t to have God console her in the desert. The best medicine for Hagar was to correct her attitude and act as she should. We may be right in our hurt and our pain, but what we do with our hurt and our pain can still be the wrong response!
While Sarai projected her issues onto others and harshly mistreated Hagar because of her own pain, in a stark contrast, Hagar ejected herself far away from her issues. But, both had avoidance issues. Here’s the trap that both women fell into: they were treating each other as they deserved. Jesus models a different set of standards for relationships. He doesn’t treat people the way they deserve to be treated. Instead, He lets HIS character dictate HIS responses. He extends grace, not because anyone is worthy, but because He is full of grace. It’s who He is.
Maybe the challenge for us would be to stop treating the people around us the way they deserve to be treated. Maybe a different response would be for us to act in a position and a posture of who WE are and who God’s calling US to be. Sarai could have responded differently to Hagar. Hagar could have chosen a different response to Sarai. We get the privilege of learning from their misappropriated responses and learn a better way. But let me warn you, this is not an easier way.
God was helping Hagar to trade in the easy way out, and He is helping us as well. The easy way out is to run away from our situations or to avoid some conversations - to walk the long way around the office to avoid certain people. Another easy way out is to extract yourself from that environment and that situation altogether. But the angel says, “I want you to go back.” There is a price tag attached to being an overcomer. It doesn’t come for free. You have to go back. And you have to face off with what was oppressing you.
God doesn’t say, “Oh Hagar, you can just sit with me in the desert. I’m going to console you in the desert and make you feel better. Just remain a victim.” NO! He gives her a way out to become an overcomer. Because real love challenges you, and real love will call you higher. Real love will not allow you to remain a victim. This is the kind of God we serve. He loves you the way He finds you, but He loves you too much to leave you that way. Thank goodness for that!
Hagar is ejecting from community, because that’s easy. It’s easy to eject from community, right! It’s easy when you’re having a hard week to not come to church because you don’t want people to see you looking sad. It’s easy not to go to group because you just had a really tough day at work. But God sends Hagar back to the very place she ran from - community.
Your promise is fulfilled in community. What you need is found in community. What you need is not found in isolation. It’s not found in the desert or in the wilderness. God says, “I want you to go and be amongst my girls. I want you to go and be amongst my family.” If you find yourself in isolation today, do yourself a favor and get back into community.
You may ask: HOW do I do that? The answer is three-fold. First, we need to REPENT of dealing with the situation incorrectly. Next, the Bible says RETURN to face off with the things that are victimizing you. And then we gain the ability to RECLAIM our position as an overcomer.. God is giving us the opportunity to change our response today. Today, we get to hit the reset button on our life.
Additional Scriptures: Ephesians 4:31-32, James 1:2-4
What types of conflict do you run away from?
What does it look like for you to return to face off with what victimizes you and to reclaim your position as an overcomer?
Through You, I am an overcomer! Help me to embrace my position as an overcomer by confronting the conflict in my life rather than running away from it. Thank You for loving me enough to call me higher and to call me back into community - even when it’s hard.
In Jesus’s Name,