I read the other day that insecurity is “the gap between who i am and who I want to be”. But I think that statement simply describes life’s natural journey.
I would, instead, say, “Insecurity is the chasm between who I think I am and who I think I ought to be”.
The battle of insecurity. Something I have had to journey on more than one occasion.
In order to understand what I am going to say next we first must understand that God gave a major promise to a man in the Bible named Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). He gave him the promise of a nation. Of many, many descendants. But what we learn about Abram’s story is that it doesn’t happen right away. Abram, at this point, doesn’t even have one descendant, let alone many. But God’s promise still stands. God continues to promise Abram descendants that will outnumber the stars!
Ok, so we are familiar with the promise?
Now I want to introduce you to Abram’s wife Sarai. Sarai is beautiful and Abram loves Sarai. But the thing that Sarai becomes most famous for is the fact that right into her old age Sarai is barren.
We need to understand that in the culture that Sarai was born into her barrenness would have affected her immensely – and not just on the inside. It would have affected her security and significance. It would have brought into question her social status. To bear a child (and more importantly, a son), a legitimate child to be the heir to all of your family inheritance, to carry on the family legacy, history and name – this would have been her primary call, her primary purpose.
But for many years Sarai walked around with the knowledge that she could not do what she knew she needed to do. The shame that would have brought her would have been tremendous.
Sarai knew what it was to feel insecure. Sarai knew that gap between who she thought she was and who she thought she ought to be.
So we pick up our story again in Genesis 16 – where we are about to meet our next character.
Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne any children for him, but she owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.[ So Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife for him. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years. Genesis 16: 1-4 (CSB)
In walks Hagar. Here is what we know about Hagar: She is a servant, an Egyptian servant. She has an incredibly low social status. She is pretty much invisible to the world. In fact throughout the story Abram and Sarai both call her “slave girl” – she doesn’t even have a name! By all accounts she is a nobody.
And here in this passage we see she is being used as a surrogate for Sarai. This was a common practise in those days. Near Eastern laws had provisions in them for dealing with issues such as barrenness by using maidservants in this way.
Hagar also knew what it was to have the gap of insecurity work its way into her life. The gap between her perceived reality and what she thought was the dream.
He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became contemptible to her. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms,[and when she saw that she was pregnant, I became contemptible to her. May the Lord judge between me and you.” Abram replied to Sarai, “Here, your slave is in your hands; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai mistreated her so much that she ran away from her.
Genesis 16:5-6 (CSB)
Here is the first moment where we see both Sarai and Hagar’s insecurity open the door for competition and comparison to begin making appearances in their lives.
Isn’t it so true that, at any wedding, when the bouquet toss happens all of the friends in the room suddenly become rivals. All of the single girls step up and a fierce competition begins to see who will get that bouquet. Normal social etiquette goes out the window for these few moments and pushing, shoving and hair-pulling become acceptable.
Listen, life deals out its’ fair share of bouquet tosses. I’ve seen it!
Those who were once our friends all of a sudden become our rivals. Those who were once our supporters, providers and our security (like Sarai to Hagar). Those who were once our helpers, partners, our wingmen (like Hagar would have been to Sarai), all of a sudden become our rivals and our competition.
Today, I want to expose the lie that we believe when we enter a bouquet toss. The battle over the bouquet carries with it the lie that we must all battle over the same promise (in this case, marriage). And if she gets it, I miss out.
Sarai and Hagar believed the lie that there was only one promise for one of them.
Competition, comparison and insecurity all believe the lie that there is only one promise for one of us and she gets it then I miss out.
Competition will tell you that it is you against the world – that there isn’t enough sun for everyone, and that others are a threat to your sun!
Supporting another’s success won’t ever dampen your own.
What Sarai and Hagar needed to understand was that God had an individual promise for Sarai and an individual promise for Hagar. The promise made to Abram and Sarai was not the only promise God made to this mixed up, dysfunctional family.
Take a look at Genesis 16:9-13. Hagar has run away to the wilderness and as she sits by a spring an Angel of the Lord appears to her (did you get that? An ANGEL).
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.” So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,”[f]for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” Genesis 16:9-13 (CSB).
Let me tell you what makes this passage very significant and what makes Hagar more significant than she will ever know.
She is in the wilderness. Remember, she is by all accounts, a nobody. She is single, young, female and a slave. And yet – she is visited by an ANGEL OF THE LORD!!!! Do you know how outrageous that is?
Let me emphasise it a little more. Check this out:
This moment made Hagar the first woman EVER to be visited by a divine messenger. This moment made Hagar the first woman to be given a promise of inheritance. This moment made Hagar the first woman to have a conversation with God! And get this…this moment made Hagar the only person in ALL SCRIPTURE to use the name “El-Roi” to describe God. Which means “the God who SEES me”.
God hasn’t just got a dream, promise, call or purpose for one of us. He has got a promise for all of us.
The God of Sarai and Abram is also the God of Hagar and Ishmael.
And don’t even get me started on Sarai.
Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no
longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.[a]And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.” Genesis 17: 15-16 (NLT)
God changed Sarai’s name.
She went from Sarai – which is derived from the same root meaning as Israel, meaning: “She that strives”, to being called Sarah – meaning Princess, Noble woman and royal standing!
When you go from striving in your comparison and competition to simply standing in your royal nobility you kick insecurity right out the door.
Where insecurity strives, identity simply stands!
Sarah viewed Hagar and her son as a threat to her own son’s inheritance. And Hagar saw Sarah as the reminder of the promise she thought she was owed but could never have.
What they didn’t realise is that God had given Hagar and Ishmael a promise too.
But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. Genesis 17: 19-20 (NLT)
Neither realised how significant they were because they were too busy looking at someone else’s promise. They both had a promise! And neither one took away from the other.
If I was Oprah Winfrey, I’d say it like this:
You get a promise! And you get a promise! And you get a promise! And you get a promise!!! Everybody gets a promise!!!!
Now, go out there and live like you believe it.