We are told of a powerful story in Genesis regarding Hagar and her son Ishmael. Having just been rejected by Sarah and sent away by Abraham, they are in the wilderness with certain death awaiting. Hagar is experiencing a deep and painful hopelessness regarding her son and is resigned to witness his death. Her dreams for his life are over! I don't know about you, but I have seen too many dreams die and fall to the wayside. This is a painful process, a lasting experience that often produces a scar.
Without hope, it becomes challenging to press on - Hagar was without food, without water, without shelter...without hope! And then the story takes a powerful turn - "the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her..."fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation." (Genesis 21:17-18 ESV).
Isn't that just like God?!? Making a way in the wilderness...providing rivers in the desert. At our lowest point, in seasons of hopelessness, when there seems to be no other way - God excels in providing a way. Because of His grace, hope comes in the most unexpected ways.
Several years ago, I experienced unemployment for 7 months. As the sole provider for my wife and five kids, this resulted in a massive amount of stress for myself. Out of work pastors have a hard time getting anybody to take their résumé seriously. I prayed, I volunteered at our church, I paid for a professional to update my résumé and make it more attractive...and nothing happened. I was losing hope, worried about my kids and crumbling in my role as a husband.
I was truly in a wilderness and then the unexpected happened - I was told of job openings at Joni and Friends and, despite no true experience in disability ministry, they hired me! Talk about making a way in the wilderness that continues now almost 4 years later.
God's faithfulness was confirmed in my life and my dependence upon Him reached a new level. I don't get to make the path, I don't get to create the river, but I do get to have relationship with the One who does this on my behalf. He provides hope in unexpected ways and, honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. While walking by faith is challenging, when I consider the alternative it all stays in perspective.
So, what does your 2016 wilderness look like? Do you feel abandoned and rejected? Hopeless and alone? Can you relate to Hagar, Ishmael or myself? Please remember today that God has not abandoned or rejected you. He is the source of hope and belonging and all that you need. He is your provider - no matter what it is that you need. My hope is that you allow God to lead you to the river He has planned for you...to the perfect path in the midst of the wilderness.
Lord, thank You that hope comes in unexpected ways. Regardless of what life throws at us, You will never abandon or reject us. Instead, You provide a new way, a new plan, a new source of hope for today. Guide our steps and our thoughts. Guard our hearts and minds and may we always keep our hope in You. Amen!