Courage to Stay When You Want to Walk Away

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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.” Genesis 16:13

“I’m not sure I can do this anymore. No matter how hard I try, nothing changes. I just want to give up.”

My friend was going through a particularly difficult season in her marriage and my heart went out to her because I understand how it feels to want to walk away. Insecurity says, if I could just eliminate this relationship, I would be more confident. Pride says, I’m not letting them treat me this way. Fear says, I’ll never see change, I might as well stop trying. Daily bombardments of negativity cause us to throw our hands up in exasperation and exclaim, this is simply too hard! We want to toss in the towel and leave the pain behind.

Have you ever felt like walking away from a difficult relationship? Hagar did just that. She fled circumstances which left her feeling utterly hopeless. She felt mistreated, isolated, and worthless. She saw no other way out. Overwhelming fear invokes a fight or flight response in all of us. And for Hagar, flight was her default.

We find God’s reaction to her choice in Genesis 16:7. The angel of the Lord finds Hagar near a spring in the desert. He asks her where she is from and where she is going. She admits to running away from her mistress, Sarai. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Sarai was Abraham’s wife and Hagar was her maidservant. Sarai longed to be a mother but had been unable to conceive. She encouraged Abraham to take Hagar as his wife in order to produce a son. He did so and Hagar became pregnant.

A seemingly hopeful situation turned south as Sarai’s jealousy lead her to despise and mistreat Hagar. Hagar could no longer stand it, so she left. The driving force of her desire to walk away stemmed from deep hopelessness. The same is true for us; we feel powerless to change our circumstances and see no other way to escape the suffering.

Even when our pain is caused by another’s choices, we get to choose our response. We are not completely helpless; we do not have to walk away. Walking away is the easier, but temporary option. God wants us to work through the hard times with His help.

The Angel gently acknowledges Hagar’s feelings of rejection and hopelessness, and encourages her by saying, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:11) Recognizing God valued her so much that He sent an Angel to communicate His love for her causes a powerful shift in Hagar’s perspective.

She responds by calling the Lord El Roi, which means “the God who sees”. Genesis 16:13 says, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” He sees you, too, my friend. He knows what you’re going through. You are valuable to Him and He wants to help. He has plans and miracles to perform in and through us but we’ll never know them if we walk away.

If you’re facing an impossible hardship and feel powerless make changes, please know you are not alone; God cares for you and He will meet you wherever you are. Only He can give us the courage to stay when we want to walk away.

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