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  • Writer's pictureWilson Lim

Facing Crises With God


During the COVID-19 pandemic, many faced crises at a degree they never had to face before.  Many clawed desperately for solutions and struggled to overcome their crisis.  We all have to face crises in our lives some time or other. It such situations, many will lose hope.  Yet it need not be so for Christ-followers.

 

We will examine Gen 21:8-21 to discover how we can face crises with God.  In this Bible story we learn about a crisis that engulfed Abraham’s family.  One that threatened to tear apart his family.  It begun with a wonderful promise.  God had promised Abraham that there would be a promised child. But after many years of childlessness, Sarah took matters into her own hands out of desperation.  She told Abraham to use her handmaiden to have a child.  This produced Ishmael.  But it was not God’s plan.

 

Much later, God fulfilled his promised and Isaac the promised child was birthed.  As Isaac grew into a little child there were significant celebrations.  But it was the catalyst for a crisis.  As we examine this passage, I will unpack key thoughts about facing crisis and why we should face it with God.  Jesus is there for us.  The question is: will we face it with Him? 

 

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE FRONTS

 

Gen 21:8-11 (NIV)   “ 8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.” 

 

It started innocently enough.  A celebration because the young child Isaac was being weaned off his mother’s milk.  Yet it triggered the family into a full-blown crisis.  What were some of the ingredients of this crisis?

 

Firstly, Ishmael disdained and mocked Isaac

 

Isaac was probably 2-3 years old when traditionally weaned off his mother's milk.  Ishmael was around 15-17 years old.  Maybe he mocked Isaac because he was used to having all the attention previously.  Perhaps he was mean-spirited towards the child for some time and things came to a head at the feast.  Perhaps Hagar negatively influenced Ishmael's attitude.  For Hagar had looked down upon Sarah who was barren while Hagar was pregnant with Abraham’s son, in Gen 16. Or maybe he was just going through a teenager phase.

 

Whatever stirred Ishmael to behave as he did, Sarah exploded when she saw it.  Ishmael sinned by being jealous of Isaac.  Sarah sinned by over-reacting, demanding Abraham get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. 

 

Secondly, Sarah's insecurities divided the household

 

Sarah's insecurity magnified the problem in the household.  She was insecure as she probably felt the household was divided between Hagar’s side and her side. She was insecure with Abraham’s love for Ishmael.  Insecure about Isaac splitting inheritance with Ishmael, whom she felt was undeserving.  She was also insecure about Hagar.

 

Sarah had not shown bigness of heart before when Hagar was looked down upon Sara’s barrenness in Gen 16 due to her immaturity.  Sarah did not show bigness of heart now towards Ishmael when he mocked Isaac.  So Sarah’s issues contributed greatly to the crisis.

 

Thirdly, Abraham's distress in losing his son


When we face difficult crises, our underlying values, perspectives and orientations are brought to the surface.

Abraham was the most righteous and noble of all.  He was simply caught in the middle.  Poor Abraham!  A major crisis in his own house.  This is not uncommon.  Many of us have experienced different variations of family crisis.  When we face difficult crises, our underlying values, perspectives and orientations are brought to the surface.

 

Have you ever seen how are impurities removed from metal? The metal is heated in a furnace.  When the temperature is hot enough the metal melts, but the impurities often float to the surface as dross.  Often under the heat of duress, of crisis – the impurities of our heart float the to the surface.  The dross that was hidden deep inside is exposed.  Have you ever noticed that?  Your deep hidden attitudes and values often come out when you are stressed?


We are concerned about resolving the crisis, but God is concerned about resolving our hearts.

 

In a crisis, we are concerned about resolving the crisis, but God is concerned about resolving our hearts.  We are so focussed on dealing with the crisis that we fail to realise God wants to deal with our hearts.  We cry, “Gimme the solution!”  God says, “Gimme your heart!”

 

CRISIS APPROACHED IN DIFFERENT WAYS

 

When we examine both Sarah and Abraham, we see 2 basic ways of approaching crises.

 

Self-oriented

 

Gen 12:10 (NIV) “…and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

 

Sarah's solution was to deal with it in the quickest way.  Emotionally and physically.  “Just get rid of them!”  There is no concern at all with their plight of being kicked out.  A self-oriented solution is usually a solution that suits us the best, in our own view.  

 

It could be a convenient short-cut.  “Just cut corners! Solve the crisis quickly!”

 

It could be pragmatic solution that we are familiar with.  “Just whatever we know will work!”  “Whatever solution that pleases me!  Just whatever makes me happy again!”


The problem of a self-oriented approach to problem-solving is it reinforces our focus on self rather than Jesus. 

 

The problem of a self-oriented approach to problem-solving is it reinforces our focus on self rather than Jesus.  The danger is we become an idol in our own eyes.  It leads us away from Jesus.  It will eventually lead to bad outcomes because we deprive ourselves of God’s blessings.  We may even incur God’s wrath.  Proverbs 14:12 (NIV84) There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

 

God-oriented

 

Gen 12:11-13 (NIV) 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.  13I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

 

The implication of God’s response to Abraham implied Abraham cried out to God in his distress over the situation. In contrast to Sarah, Abraham sought God.  Abraham did not just find his own solution but wanted God’s solution.  In our lives, we always have 2 main options to solve a crisis.  Our way or God’s way.


It takes a person of greater faith, or greater strength of character to choose God’s way.

 

It takes a person of greater faith, or greater strength of character to choose God’s way. Abraham clearly had more faith and greater stature of character compared to Sarah.  Abraham was able to turn to God more than to turn to his own solutions.  Can we reach that ideal?  Yes, by Jesus Christ’s power. His grace is always sufficient for us!


God’s way is always the best way. Best long-term solution. Best overall solution.

 

Why should we choose God’s way or at least turn to Jesus? God’s way is always the best way. Best long-term solution. Best overall solution. God’s way means we don’t shoulder the entire problem ourselves.  Abraham was given relief and hope, despite the distressing situation.  Because God will intervene to bless Ishmael.  God will work with us and for us when we choose God’s way. 


God will work with us and for us when we choose God’s way. 

 

Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84)  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  The yoke upon our shoulders are so much lighter when we trust in Jesus!  I would choose the lighter weight anytime!

 

God’s way brings blessings to those who walk in it.  Psalm 1:1–2 (NIV84) 1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

 

One of our church members, made a significant contribution towards our church building fund despite having no job when he first returned to Brisbane some 20 years ago.  They trusted what Jesus laid upon their hearts to give.  God blessed him soon after with a job uniquely suited to him.  A job he still holds after all these years.

 

CRISIS HANDLED GOD’S WAY

 

What can we learn about God from the way He handled the crisis?

 

God’s clear touch

 

Gen 12:12-14 (NIV) “ 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.  13 I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” 14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.” 

 

Amazingly, God's solution was not to rebuke Sarah nor Ishmael.  But to confirm to Abraham that they had to go.  As no explanation was given for God's approach, we can only guess at the reasons.  Perhaps God knew that the crisis could not be resolved by keeping Hagar and Ishmael.  It was better to go.  Sometimes in a crisis or conflict we like to know that we were right and the other party wrong.  God does not always give us that satisfaction.  Perhaps we too may be in the wrong. God seems less interested in answering that question.


God's solution is not always the way we prefer.  But God always knows what is best.

 

God's solution is not always the way we prefer.  But God always knows what is best.  Just as God promised Abraham that Ishmael will flourish into a nation eventually.  God knows what’s best for our situation.  Some years ago, when my father died so quickly from pancreatic cancer it was shock to us.  But God knew best!  This way, my Dad’s suffering was minimal.

 

God will find the silver lining in a bad situation and bring good out of it.  That is what happened when Joseph was kidnapped and sold by his own brothers to be a slave in Egypt.  Because Joseph trusted God, God raised him be the prime minister eventually.  God turns crisis into opportunity for greater things.  We just have to trust Him for it! 

 

God’s soft touch

 

Gen 12:15-19 (NIV) “ 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

 

Hagar thought it was the end for her and Ishmael.  But God came to their rescue. God kept His promise to Abraham.  What struck me is how God handled Hagar with gentleness and kindness.  Hagar was at the bottom of the pile.  Someone who had an opportunity to make good, mucked it up.  She lost everything.  Some may think she got what she deserved.


God has the power to help.  God also has the heart to help.

 

But God cares about the marginalised, the undeserving. Jesus showed us that in the Gospels. He never forgot the poor, the sick, the broken.  God’s heart gives us assurance that He understands the crisis we are faced with and has sympathy for us.  God has the power to help.  God also has the heart to help.

 

CRISIS TURNED TO SUCCESS

 

Gen 12:20-21 (NIV) “ 20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt."

 

God turned Hagar and Ishmael’s crisis into a success story.  In Gen 25 he lived to an old age and had 12 sons who each produced their own tribes.  Whatever crisis you are facing, God can turn it around. Let us face it with Jesus!


God is interested in your crisis. You are a child of God and He takes an interest in you, whatever your crisis may be.  Psalm 27:5 (NIV84) For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.


Christ can turn your crisis into victory. His purposes will prevail.

 

Christ can turn your crisis into victory. His purposes will prevail.  In the midst of crisis when there was no one around to help them, God came to Hagar’s point of need. God was with Ishmael. In time of Abraham’s distress, God was with Abraham. When we face crisis, remember that Christ-is….enough.


Christ is in the crisis with you. Christ is bigger than your crisis.

Christ is in the crisis with you. Christ is bigger than your crisis.  Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV84) “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  No! There is nothing too hard for God.

 

Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever. With 23 gold medals and 5 others. By all measures, he should feel a deep sense of accomplishment for the rest of his life. Yet he despised the image of his success.  Michael lived with the trauma of being abandoned by his father when he was just 9 years old.

 

Although an incredible example of human success, his broken heart led to a destructive lifestyle.  After the 2012 London Olympics, he retired and got into drugs.

 

“I was just a train wreck. I was just a time bomb waiting to go off. No self esteem, no self worth.”

“For a moment, I thought it was going to be the end of my life, literally, just because it was like… I didn’t really leave my room. I didn’t eat, I didn't really sleep. I just figured it was the best thing to do to end my life.”

 

He wrestled with thoughts of suicide.  Then a friend gave him a copy of the Christian book The Purpose of Driven Life.  That catalysed a journey where he found Jesus.  Phelps then went to rehabilitation and also finally reconnected with his father.

 

Michael came out of retirement to be the US flag-bearer for the 2016 Olympics and won 5 gold and a silver medal.

 

CONCLUSION

 

If you are feeling hurt, pain, fear, anxiety. God is interested in what you are going through and He wants to give you the victory in all that.  No matter the crisis, you can never solve it like God can.  God always have a solution and God’s solution is always the best one if we are willing to trust Him. 

 

Will you trust Christ? Will you face the crisis with God together? Will you seek the Lord in your crisis and invite Him to deal with crisis together? God wants to solve the problem together with you.  Are you willing for God to solve it His way, His timing?  Let’s turn to God and His ways.

 

 

Copyright©️2024 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.

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