During this past year, God has held my hand through an unexpected journey of experiences that have at times brought me to mountains of wonder and excitement, and at other times have led me into valleys of deep darkness and ambiguity. I have written about this journey in my previous articles [here and here], likening the path I’ve been walking to a pilgrimage in the desert.
We all go through seasons in life when circumstances become especially unsettling: change comes unexpectedly, a health diagnosis leaves us reeling and confused, a relationship ends, or the provision of employment becomes uncertain.
When faced with the threatening expanse of sand, I have found that my natural tendency is to feel abandoned and alone, to fear that God has left me, and to despair of a good purpose in the midst of the uncertainty. Like the Israelites in the Exodus story, my default in the desert is distrust.
And yet God has continued to prove Himself faithful, even when I have felt faithless. God is the one who sees, the one who remembers, the one who is near.
The God of the desert is the one who never abandons us there (Deut. 31:6).
The one who parted the Red Sea, who led the people by cloud and fire, who provided the necessities of life in a barren land – this is the God who sees and cares for you and for me.
Lately, the stories of God’s encounters with Hagar in Genesis have particularly ministered to me. Here is a woman who was taken away from her home as a slave, forced into a pregnancy with Abraham, and tangled up in a power struggle with Sarai that she never asked for. We don’t know her history, how she became a slave, what family she came from, what her dreams for her life had originally been. But we do know that when she runs away to the desert, God comes and finds her there. And we know that she is the first person in the Bible to give God a name: “The God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).
I’ve needed God to have Hagar’s name lately. I’ve needed God to be the one who sees me. And through a myriad of little and not-so-little ways in the past year, God has been meeting me in my desert like God met Hagar in hers, proving Godself to me as the God who sees.
As I look toward the coming months and the next steps of my desert journey, the moments in the past year when I have recognized the presence of the God who sees are encouragement to carry on. Even when I have run away, the God who sees has come to find me.
Perhaps you need the God who sees too.
The story of God’s great work in people’s lives didn’t end with the Bible, but it continues to unfold – through my life and through your life.
As we walk with God through our own personal desert journeys, our stories are added as a few threads of the great tapestry of God’s story – the story of God’s faithful presence with people. We may not be able to see the full piece of artwork now, but we can be confident that God is intricately weaving our stories with those of Abraham and Moses – and Hagar – creating something beautiful through all of our desert encounters with the God who sees.
My intention in the coming months is to continue naming and recording my personal threads in the tapestry of God’s great story. Perhaps meditating on how past threads have been woven with precious care will offer encouragement in my current moments of uneasiness and alarm. These moments too are pregnant with future stories of God’s love and faithfulness.
I invite you to join me in this practice of recounting our personal encounters with the God who sees. May our hearts find strength in the great works of God that our eyes have seen, and may our spirits be comforted by the One who always sees us, even when all we see is desert.