“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar...” —Genesis 16:1
Previously this month, we focused on Abram’s reactions to God’s covenants and promises. But what of his wife, Sarai’s, mind? Probably when Abram first shared with her the news of the LORD making him into a great nation with many descendants, she felt great joy with much anticipation. Finally, she was going to have a child! But as the years and even decades went by, God’s promise did not come to pass, and Sarai remained barren.
Over time, Sarai no longer shared the same excitement with Abram, as the lack of the promise’s fulfillment reminded her of her inability to bear a child. This likely became her source of pain and shame. We get a glimpse into Sarai’s heart from her first recorded words in Scripture: “The LORD has kept me from having children” (Genesis 16:2). Sarai was essentially blaming God, saying it was His fault that she did not have children; He was the one withholding it from her.
We do not find Sarai worshipping or seeking God in her times of disappointment. Instead, in Sarai’s troubles, she turned to “Egypt.” After Abram and Sarai returned a few chapters earlier from Egypt, the place where they sought refuge from famine instead of trusting God’s promise and timing, someone else followed them back—Hagar. Now, once again faced with her own inability, Sarai turned to the culturally appropriate practice of the time where if a wife could not have children, one of her slaves would have children on her behalf and they would be reckoned as hers. Without consulting God, Sarai assumed this practice was God’s way of fulfilling His promise.
Having a child through Hagar was not deliberately rebelling against God; this was intended cooperation! But in Sarai’s pain and shame, she turned to what she could do in her own power, and not El Shaddai’s. Abram and Sarai understood God’s purpose for them, but they implemented their own plan and left God out of the process.
A Jewish writer, Edward Sapir, wrote, “Impatience translates itself into a desire to have something immediately done about it all, and as is generally the case with impatience, it resolves itself in the easiest way that lies ready to hand.” This is a mistake many of us make. Impatience will lend itself to resolve in the easiest way that lies at hand, and this usually attracts people the most zealous for God. God does not wear a watch, consult a calendar or look at a clock. He works on His own timetable, and trusting God’s timing in what He calls us to do is imperative if He is going to accomplish His purpose through us.
PRAYER: Almighty God, it is so easy to take matters into my own hands during times of hurt and disappointment. Point my heart towards You during these times, trusting in Your strength, resources and timing. Thank You, God.