We were studying the story of Hagar in Sunday school when a question arose.
Hagar, you may recall, was the Egyptian maid whom Sarah gave to Abraham when she despaired of having her own child. Abraham and Hagar had a son, Ishmael. Eventually, after Isaac was born to Sarah, Abraham was obliged to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Wandering in the desert, they ran out of food and water. In a particularly wrenching passage, Hagar places Ishmael in the shade of some bushes and goes away because she can’t bear to watch him die. At this point, God intervenes, reaffirms His promise concerning Ishmael, and shows her a well of water. Here’s where the question arose. Was the well there all the time and Hagar just didn’t see it, or did God miraculously provide it? My own reading of the passage seems to indicate the well was there the whole time. How could you be perishing of thirst and not see a well? Hagar, we can deduce from the context, must have been experiencing a number of things. She had been cast out and rejected from the only home she knew. She was exhausted, perishing of hunger and thirst. She was in despair of their lives, distraught and grieving over her son and their misfortune. Is it any wonder that she missed seeing the well?
Hope and Focus
What keeps us from seeing the wells of provision in our lives?
The same things. We’re exhausted. We fall into despair; bad things have happened, and we’ve lost hope that God will deliver us. We feel rejected and abandoned; nobody cares. We’re overwhelmed with grief, sorrow and fear. Any or all of these things can cause us to stop expecting God’s intervention. While the saying is “seeing is believing,” the opposite is closer to the truth: “believing is seeing.” When we allow circumstances to rob us of belief, we stop seeing the wells. What are the wells we overlook in our darkest moments? When my Sunday school class discussed this, the first thing mentioned was Scripture. The Word itself is a “well of refreshing,” giving new life.
Verses to Encourage
Books are available that link certain Scripture passages with particular situations, such as verses that speak to those grieving or in doubt. Perhaps you have your own list. When concerned about physical safety, for example, I turn to Psalm 91. “He shall give His angels charge over you in all your ways” (v. 11). Do you need direction for your life? Drink from Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Do you have a material need? Try Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” If you need restoration after a fall, meditate on Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (v. 10), and 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Create your own list, your own stock of sweet well water. Ishmael went on to build a home and a life in the desert and to become a great nation as the Lord promised his mother. He became an archer, married and fathered twelve sons who became tribal leaders of the Arab nation. Drinking from the well that God provided had a profound effect on his life. Do you find yourself wandering in the desert and about to perish? Look for God’s “well of refreshing” and build a life around it.