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When You’ve reached the End of Your Rope: A Christian Perspective

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About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would produce a great nation. But they were old. Time passed and there was no baby. So Sarah decides that Hagar, her servant, would be a good surrogate mom. Abraham agrees and Hagar has a son Ishmael. In a culture where child bearing gives status, Hagar starts looking down on Sarah and Sarah becomes abusive. Hagar takes off, but God encourages her to go back, promising that her offspring will outnumber the stars. Hagar starts callingGod, ‘the one who hears.’

But God promises even more: ‘He’ll be a wild guy, fighting with everyone, not getting along even with his own family. Great. Í’m sure Hagar looked forward to that.

But Hagar stays focussed on the big family and the nation and begins to call God, ‘the one who sees’.

Hagar has Ishmael and Abraham teaches him how to hunt, teaches him about the stars and God. Father and son stuff. But God doesn’t forget the promise made to Abraham and Sarah, and eventually she has a son, Isaac, ‘Laughter,’ because who wouldn’t laugh to have a child in your old age?

While they are celebrating Isaac, Sarah is not so happy, Genesis 21:8-21 because the eldest son gets the birthright. And besides, Ismael is a teenager and acts like the one God promised, teasing Isaac. So Sarah corners Abraham and tells him in no uncertain terms to get this wild teen out of her house, along with her mother. God tells Abraham to let them go; God will take care of them.

Who can imagine how Abraham let his son go off into the desert. They run out of water and grow weak. As she watches her son suffer, Hagar cries out to God: “Why?”

And then God says, “I see you… Don’t be afraid. Hold him tight.” And then God touches her eyes and guides Hagar to a spring of water.

This is a thorny tale. Slavery — for a slave is what Hagar was — no choice about any of this. A wife who convinces her husband first to have a child by Hagar, and then to push him out of the family, along with his unfortunate mother. Injustice, self-centeredness, manipulation, all affecting the innocent.

But it does happen in real life, that people are victimized, cast out. People have terrible stories in their pasts

  • think of the millions of refugees cast from their homes
  • –one million Iraqis since the beginning of the year, most of them in this recent offensive;
  • — four thousand Brazilians in one of many cities of plastic tents with no water or electricity while soccer games are played for the world to watch.

Perhaps you have a terrible back story. If so, Hagar’s story is for you: when things happen that are incomprehensible, when injustice, or loss, or paralyzing helplessness hits, God hears. No matter how gruesome the past was, no matter how dismal the present is, no matter how despairing the path looks ahead, God hears.

And when we are having our desert experience; when watching someone you love suffer is just too painful, God tells us to hold on tightly, touches us gently, gives us a new way of seeing and guides us to living water that we weren’t able to see before. God sees.

It’s sooo difficult, when we are in desperate straits not to close our ears and eyes and hearts to anything that might offer us hope. Yet God tells us, repeatedly, ‘focus on what God is showing you… listen, feel God’s touch, and see where God is pointing you to … know God sees.



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