And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time — an unshakeable hope! Hebrews 6:18 (TPT)
An Anchor Called Hope – The Promise Series – Part 6
Abraham and Sarah had started a new life, with God-given promises and a whole lot of “new-life” hope.
But as time went by, those promises were seeming less and less likely to come to pass. Sarah was not falling pregnant. For a dream that hinged on descendants, that was kind-of a problem.
What happened next for Abraham and Sarah gets a lot of commentary from us modernists who view the story from afar. Losing all hope for the promise to come to pass through her own body, Sarah took matters into her own hands and came up with a plan. She told Abraham that he should have sex with their Egyptian slave, Hagar (more on that another time). Abraham could get her pregnant, and then they (Sarah and Abraham) could raise the child as their own; as the son God promised they would have.
“What was she thinking? She must have had such small faith!”
Hang on!! Really?
We’ve all been where Sarah was – emotionally that is.
We’ve all struggled with trust, and we’ve all tried to make things happen in our own time and control and understanding. After all, taking matters into our own hands isn’t necessarily a bad thing (except for when it involves slavery and oppression of any kind). Taking responsibility, and doing the work is often something that people of faith are too busy waiting around for the lotto ball of heaven to drop to do.
But that’s not what was happening for Sarah. She was losing hope. And hopelessness makes people sick. It’s not that Sarah had little faith… She had done everything God had told her. She'd left everything behind to start a new life. She was not a weak, fickle, impatient woman. She knew what it was to journey and wait and work and have strength. But at this moment for her, the promise seemed like an impossibility. And that loss of hope was a grief too great to bear.
I’m not mad at her for that. How could I be? I know what that feels like. Instead, I want to reach through time and hold her close.
As the story goes (in Genesis 13 – 18), Abraham did have sex with Hagar, who did fall pregnant and did have a son she named Ishmael. But as with hearts and blood and motherhood, there was no way Hagar could let go of the love and responsibility she felt for her son (nor should have she). And there was no way Sarah was able to wrench him from her, or see him as her own while his Mother looked on.
Sarah had made a right mess of things. I don’t have the word count to talk much about Ishmael and Hagar in this series, but I don’t want you to think I’m writing them off as collateral damage. I’m not; they’re not. But let's skip forward, keeping them in mind, to what I think is the central part of Sarah’s story:
The Divine still showed up. Almost fifteen years after Ishmael was born, Sarah gave birth to her son, Isaac. And the name? It means to laugh.
Sarah had once laughed at the absurdity of her having a child. Now she laughed with hope and possibility.
“The moment she realized
she was in over her head
was the moment she remembered
this glorious depth,
an anchor called hope:
it keeps her from drifting
far beneath the waves,
it keeps her from sinking.”
(Poem written by Morgan Harper Nichols.)
It would have been a cleaner story if Sarah had unwaveringly trusted God. But it also would have been unrelatable and untrue. When I look at Sarah, I see a desperate woman clinging to a ridiculous promise as best she could; a woman who was heartsick and despairing; a woman who through it all, found God again, found hope again.
When I look at Sarah, I see myself. I see us all.