Hagar’s story in the Bible shows how we can share God’s love with others and let them know that He sees each of us in our trials.
Hagar’s story in the Bible shows us an incredible story of God’s love. Genesis 16 tells the story of a pregnant slave woman, who is mistreated by her mistress so badly she fears for her life. The mistreatment reaches a point where the woman, Hagar, feels that her only recourse is to put an entire desert between her and her masters. Alone in the wilderness, Hagar has a transformative encounter that will show her God’s love and teach her about sharing God’s love with others.
Genesis 16:7 tells us, “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness.” The first thing we notice about Hagar’s story in the Bible is that this encounter was intentional. “The angel of the Lord” is generally understood to be an Old Testament reference to Jesus. In this verse, we learn that Jesus “found” Hagar, implying that he was looking for her. Jesus had seen what was happening, and as he watched Hagar flee into the wilderness, he followed after her.
Although their interaction was brief, it had a tremendous impact on Hagar. Jesus told her to go back to Abram and Sarai (their names hadn’t been changed to Abraham and Sarah yet). But instead of wondering why Jesus would send Hagar back to an abusive situation, we need to see how Hagar understood this moment. She would not be returning as just a slave; she would also be returning as a minister, sharing God’s love with others. And that made all the difference in the world.
Ministering To Others
We often use the term “minister” to refer specifically to pastors, but the Bible says it is anyone who brings comfort and hope to another person (Matthew 25:31‐46). We can all be ministers in the biblical sense when we care for others and invest ourselves in their lives. In Hagar’s story in the Bible, choosing to share God’s love with her masters made not only a difference for Hagar but also Abram and Sarai. Her story was so important because she was returning with a message they needed to hear.
Up to this point in the Bible, God is described with grandiose language. He is the almighty Creator God. The same God who had promised Abram and Sarai they would have children, but they remained childless. They were wondering whether God had forgotten about them. A minister with a message of hope then comes into their desperate situation: God has not forgotten — He sees them!
Hagar knows He sees them because God cared enough about her to chase her into the desert. It is a message they needed to hear then, and we still need to hear today. It’s a message of love that we share with others. God sees you.
Notice how God chose to deliver the message to Abram and Sarai. He decided to reveal His concern for them by sending them a person who had a story of a personal encounter with God. Sharing the stories of our encounters with God is the essence of ministry and sharing God’s love with others. Being present with people when they face moments of difficulty comforts them and reminds them of God’s presence. God is present in the very moments when we enter into other’s suffering. We become a vehicle for the healing presence of God to restore lives and repair brokenness.
Ways To Share God’s Love With Others
Here are some things you can do with your family to remind yourselves of God’s presence in your lives and also take this message of hope into a world that desperately needs it.
1. Talk About Your Struggles
Sometimes we feel the need to hide what we are going through. We may not want to burden those around us, or we might be embarrassed by our situation. Whatever the reason, hiding our struggles makes it nearly impossible for others to minister to us. Being open about what we are going through opens the door for empathy and compassion. As parents, it will also set an excellent example for our children to be vulnerable and open to ministry from God. None of us can do this on our own. Why pretend as though we can?
2. Show Compassion
When other people share their struggles, it is not the time for us to judge them or come swooping in with suggestions for how to “fix it.” Instead, it is the perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate the heart of Jesus (Matthew 14:13‐21) and share God’s love. His compassion for people led to some of the most famous miracles in the Bible. Jesus’ compassion for those who were hurting is one of His defining traits. When we show that same compassion, we live by his example and can more effectively share God’s love with others.
3. Get Creative
Not all of us have a bunch of extra time or money lying around to share with people. If you do have either (or both), then by all means, use those blessings to be generous with others! But don’t let a lack of extra money stop you from helping others.
One great way to help is to make a meal for another family. One way to do this is to make the same meal for your family that night too. It can save you time and resources to make a double portion of a meal instead of making two separate meals.
Your whole family can be involved in this process too. If your children can’t help prepare food, have them write encouraging notes or draw pictures you can put in the bag. Brainstorm with your family other ideas for how to help people who are in need.
4. Presence (Not Presents!) is the Greatest Gift
So many times, what someone needs is simply the presence of another person in their lives. You may not know what to say, and that’s okay. Often nothing needs to be said. We cannot microwave the healing process. When someone is hurting, it will take time to heal. Being present with them goes much farther than coming up with the correct platitude. Teach your kids to look for opportunities to share the love of Christ by being present with those in need.
Hagar is the only person in the Bible who gave God a name. She named Him “The God Who Sees Me” because He arrived in her time of need and was present. Hagar’s story in the Bible teaches us that our God cares deeply about each of us. When we are willing to share in the pain of others, we bring God’s healing presence into the situation.
My wife and I knew some people who were going through a difficult time. We invited them over to our house and spent the evening with them. It was as simple as just being together, talking, and sharing a meal. As they prepared to leave, they looked at us and said, “Thank you for loving us.” That’s the way Hagar felt when God arrived, and it’s how you can make anyone feel when you are willing to be present.
© 2021 by Ryan Popineau and Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.