Sometimes we are powerless because of our situations in life. We may be in a situation where other people have power over us. We may feel that we are trapped by the demands of others and that there’s no way to please everyone. This can be a double bind: To please one person is to disappoint another. And sometimes when we feel stuck and frustrated in our relationships, we look for a measure of control by escaping through our addictive behaviors.
In the biblical story of Hagar, we see a picture of powerlessness. Hagar had no rights. She was a servant to Sarai and Abram. When Sarai could not bear children, Hagar was given to Abram as a surrogate. Then, when Hagar became pregnant, as Sarai and Abram had wanted, Sarai began to treat Hagar harshly, and Hagar ran away. All alone in the wilderness, Hagar was met by an angel, who gave her an amazing message: “‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.’ Then he added, ‘I will give you more descendants than you can count.’ And the angel also said, ‘You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means “God hears”), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress’” (Genesis 16:9-11).
When we are caught in no-win situations, it’s tempting to run away through our addictive/compulsive escape hatches. But at times like these, God is there, and he is listening to our woes. We need to learn to express our pain to God instead of just trying to escape it. He hears our cries and gives us hope for the future.
GENESIS 16:1-15 (New Living Translation)
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael.
In Step 1 of the 12 Steps of recovery we admitted that we were powerless over our problems—that our lives had become unmanageable. No-Win Situations is a devotional from the #1 Bible for recovery, The Life Recovery Bible by Tyndale House Publishers. This Bible contains 84 Bible-based devotionals tied to the 12 Steps of recovery and is packed with resources and features to help connect the reader to the true source of healing and recovery—God himself. The God who saw Hagar and who sees you.
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