Originally published September 30, 2015.
My favorite name for God in the Bible is the one the slave girl from Egypt gave Him. When she was used and then rejected in a household of people who should have known better, the Lord Himself came to comfort her, not only meeting her present heartfelt needs, but giving her a glimpse of His own plans to bless and use her, give her “hope and a future.” And so, as a woman who thought she was alone in the desert of this world, Hagar called Him “the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13) The name still evokes both the anguish and the wonder of the weak and forgotten, who find that they are near to the heart of the Almighty and ever in His care.
Paul discovered the same thing in his travels, and for a long time I looked at his declaration of contentment like an ideal to reach, a standard of maturity to set up there alongside Someday. Paul wrote, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12) I still remember the day I was reading those words, crying out to God for peace in the circumstances I was facing myself, and suddenly realized that Paul meant exactly what he wrote in the most tangible and practical of ways. He was telling his own story of the things he had experienced, and how in each circumstance he had discovered that God was right there with him… that God loved him even in this… that God already had planned to meet his needs of the moment. Over and over again until at this point in his life Paul could say with the utmost confidence that God was enough for him, no matter what, “for I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) God is not some intangible, impersonal Presence out there somewhere. He walks in our desert places to find us where we are; He is bigger than the craziest of circumstances, and loves us with a forever-love. He is “the God who sees me.”
Paul’s faith may have started with an intellectual belief, but it was in applying what he knew to his everyday experiences that his heart and body found God to be utterly faithful and sufficient. It’s like a science experiment that allows you to see with your own eyes how an invisible natural law is working all around you in the world. Paul and Hagar both realized what Eve didn’t understand until it was much too late: when you trust that God is who He says He is and step out on that belief, He shows Himself to be present and powerful in your life. It’s like your faith isn’t for real until you decide to test-drive it on your own life-roads.
I think sometimes we feel like God has to prove His love and faithfulness to us, to earn our trust (which of course is all backwards since it puts us in the center of the universe to decide who is most worthy of our worship). The Wise King put it right way around, and said it’s the only way to walk straight in this world: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) See, my choice doesn’t affect Who He Is one bit– but it makes all the difference in how I experience life. Just ask Eve how life changed when she acted on her own evaluation of what she and her husband needed, instead of trusting God to be enough for them. Ironically, when she doubted that He saw her as an individual– when she wondered if He was committed to meeting her deepest needs– she also lost sight of the beautiful unique creature she really was (with devastating effects on women’s healthy self-images, ever since).
Let us do better, and step out into this day’s needs believing what we have learned, and willing to prove to ourselves that He is Enough. Then we can say with Hagar, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.2 Timothy 2:13
How things appear to us, and how they actually are, are rarely the same. Sometimes it looks and feels like the Almighty is dealing “very bitterly” with us,when all the while He is doing us and many others more good than we could have imagined. God’s purposes in the lives of His children are always gracious. Always.Ann VosKamp
If they don’t look like it, don’t trust your perceptions. Trust God’s promises. He is always fulfilling His promises.