Three observations from yesterday’s story.
God doesn’t need our help as much as he desires our trust. I almost said “obedience”, because that’s true. But while obedience can be a way of showing trust, it also can be a way of responding to fear. We do what someone says because we are afraid of the consequences.
God had promised a son. Because it seemed to Sarah in particular that it was impossible, as she looked inside, she couldn’t let herself trust God to make it happen. She figured out a way that a child could appear.
It’s not just Sarah that does this. Many of us do things for God that we think will help him. We believe that he wants us to be happy so we make choices about what we think will make us happy rather than trusting. Or we get in the way of the consequences of other people’s choices. And we do it because we don’t really trust God nearly as much as we trust ourselves.
God keeps his promises. God had made promises about Abraham’s son, that a nation would come from one child. And even though Sarah and Abraham tried to figure it out and created a dysfunctional family situation, full of jealousy and distrust, God still had promises about Abraham’s son.
I understand that often it feels like God is ignoring us, that he isn’t keeping what we thought was his promise. But I’ll be honest. Sometimes we’ve been taught to put words in God’s mouth. He didn’t say that he will heal everyone no matter what, no matter how much we want it. He didn’t say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
He did say, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” But he also said, “there will be division in families because of me.” He did say that following him would come at a cost. He did say that even when we are doing everything right, from our perspective, everything won’t go right, from our perspective.
And God will keep his promises. Including being with us in the middle of the pain.
God’s graciousness toward us is not an excuse to ignore him or misbehave. Paul says, “If God forgives me, why not give him more to forgive?” It doesn’t matter how I live.
But it does. Just because God promised Abraham that Ishmael would be cared for didn’t give Abraham permission to treat Hagar and Ishmael poorly, letting them leave with no vision or plan or resources. After having provided all those things, he suddenly stopped. Following God is not an excuse to treat people badly
Just because God offers forgiveness, doesn’t mean that we can abuse our bodies or our relationships or people God loves and say, “But God will forgive me.” There is a horrible trail of pain that has been left because of forgiveness without repentance, a change in how we live.
God offers love and forgiveness and freedom. But he asks that we trust him with our lives.
For those who know that the honest pain of being poor and needy, that is good news. We know that our lives aren’t much to lose. And he is available to be trusted. Always.