Return to Harshness

Journal Entry // January 15, 2022

The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”

Genesis 16:9 ESV

Does God want me to be happy? That seems to be a constant question in my life as I work out my faith and move more towards Christ in holiness and obedience. For the path of obedience seems to be constantly in conflict with my happiness. Maybe a better way of phrasing that is that my perceived understanding of what will make me happy is typically in conflict with obedience in Christ. That’s where we find Hagar in this passage. Her mistress was treating her harshly, so she fled. Which is understandable and I would probably make the same decision. Yet God’s word to Hagar is the opposite of what I expect. Instead of meeting Hagar where she was and providing for her needs to move forward on this new path, God tells her to return to her mistress and the harsh mistreatment.

That’s a tough word from the Lord. As I reflect on my life I see this same pattern unfolding. I see this mistreatment in a situation that makes me downcast and unhappy. I can easily and readily change this situation by fleeing. I can remove myself from this harsh situation and put myself into a new one. What if God has me in this harshness for a reason? What if obedience to Christ means continued endurance and patience with where he has placed me? This is my Hagar moment.

I am definitely not saying that staying in a harsh situation is always correct. Far from it. I believe what Hagar did was correct. She took stock of the situation and made a good decision to protect herself and her son. It was in light of this that the Lord intervened with a clear word. This is necessary and good.

The lesson for me is patience. I still want to leave the situation but clearly God has placed me in this spot and is not moving me out. I am learning how to pray and move forward in obedience. I am seeking to change the situation but only in God’s good timing. Trusting that he will provide relief at the exact right moment.

I want faithfulness in this situation. Like Joseph in the dungeon. Like Paul with his thorn. Like David after his anointing. Like Hagar with her mistress. I want to find happiness in obedience. My joy is to rest securely in the Lord. This is the secret of happiness. It’s not about my situation and circumstances. It’s simply about Jesus. With Jesus in my heart, there is always joy and happiness welling up inside me.

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