El Roi: “The God Who Sees”

by Christine Stahl

READING, Genesis 16
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” So Abram slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now she despises me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert. And he said, “Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.”

The first person to call God by the name El Roi was Hagar. A woman who was tossed away, driven away, running away. A slave who had been sexually used and verbally abused. Falling on her face, Hagar gave God the name El Roi, the God Who Sees. “I have now seen the One who sees me,” she cried. Hagar had not even begun to pray before God came to her rescue; God answered before she had even called upon His name.

This story is encouraging if you are suffering and feel God has abandoned you. He has not forgotten. The Lord says He heard Hagar’s affliction, not her prayer (16:11). God often uses trials to open us up to some fresh vision of Him which we would have missed if we hadn’t been in the difficult situation. Some people have a habit of running from circumstances where He has put them for their training. They had problems with their parents, so they rebelled. They got a job which came with a difficult boss, so they quit. They discovered the reality was different than their expectations, so they became bitter. You can try to run from difficult circumstances but you can’t hide from the God who put you there, and instead the best course of action is to submit to His will. The way of obedience is hard, but the way of disobedience is even more difficult. When you stay, when God meets you in a time of trial, and you see Him not abandoming you but walking WITH you, you gain a glimpse of the mercy of God. So often we say, “Give me the blessing first, and THEN I will submit to these hard circumstances”. But God’s way is submit first; then He blesses. Obedience always comes before blessing.

We need to realize that just as God saw Hagar, He sees us AND He sees our affliction.
He sees us struggling to hold our tongue when a child is spewing words of hate.
He sees us burdened with the cost of medical appointments, therapy sessions and counseling.
He sees our resentment when drivers are late & visits are re-scheduled, again and again.
He sees our pain & especially that of our little ones, when birthparents don’t show and meltdowns dominate the next 48-hours.
He sees our frustration when a caseworker or judge makes a decision contrary to what we believe to be right.
He sees our despair when marriages become lonely, when energy is focused on our children and not one another.
He sees our children struggle to accept a new child into our home & then learn how to say good-bye.

French writer, Paul Claudel, wrote, “Christ did not come to do away with suffering; He did not come to explain it; He came to fill it with His presence.” My friends, take courage, He Sees Us.