Fearless Women of the Bible – Hagar

I have always felt sorry for Hagar. She was a victim caught up in circumstances beyond her control. But as I’ve been studying her more in depth, I’ve found there’s a lot more to Hagar’s story than first meets the eye.

Hagar was Sarah’s Eqyptian slave, which means that from the moment we meet Hagar, she’s already experienced fear. Imagine being ripped apart from your family and sold into slavery then taken from the land you know to unknown territories. That was Hagar’s life before we meet her.

It appears, at first, that Hagar and Sarah had a good relationship. Sarah trusted her and had a certain respect for her. The problems with Sarah and Hagar erupted when Sarah got caught in her own fears, temporarily lost faith in God and felt the need to take matters into her own hands. Poor Hagar got caught in the crossfire. We can imagine what an awkward situation the two women found themselves in. This was not how God designed things to be.

Once she found out she was pregnant, I can see where Hagar might gloat a bit. She may have just been a servant girl, but she was a servant girl who was having a baby, and the father, was not any old man, it was Abraham!

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

And Sarah, being a loving wife, was reasonably jealous. Again, in fear, she reacted by treating Hagar so harshly that Hagar fled in fear for her life. Fear often causes us to overreact in ways that we might not otherwise. Fear causes jealousy and anger and snowballs into more jealousy and anger. It consumes us, convincing us of untruths.

Fortunately for Hagar, God saw her fearful exit and met Hagar in the desert. Even though she was an Egyptian slave, and not a child of God, God loved her and cared about her enough to personally reach out to her and encourage her with a word of prophecy.

The Angel of the Lord told her to return to Sarah, which she did. Years later, she and her son found themselves in the desert again. And like before, God was there for them.

Hagar called God “the God who sees”. What a perfect reminder when we find ourselves huddling in the desert fearing for our lives. We may feel abandoned, forgotten, invisible, but God sees us and is there for us wherever we are.

Fearless Women of the Bible – Sarah

Most women in the Bible have a chapter or two at most dedicated to their story. Many women have merely a verse or two. Sarah’s story, however, encompasses thirteen chapters plus mentions in Isaiah, Romans, Hebrews, and 1 Peter.

While Sarah is a woman greatly admired, she is also a woman who spent much of her life in fear.

Almost as soon as we’re introduced to Sarah, we see her fear. She and Abraham leave the land they know to travel to a foreign land to follow God. We see no evidence that either of them were afraid to pack up all their belongings and embark on an adventure to new lands. However, once they have to travel through pagan cities, they’re fearful of the foreign rulers. So Abraham devises a plan to pass off Sarah as his sister in order to save himself. How scared Sarah must have been when the king whisks her away from Abraham and into the king’s palace, preparing her to be a part of his royal haram. Fortunately, God was watching out for all concerned, and intervened, restoring Sarah back to Abraham untouched. I can only imagine the relief she must have felt to be reunited with her true love. Twice they pulled this deceit. Didn’t they learn their lesson the first time? Apparently not.

You’d think since Sarah had personally witnessed the hand of God at work in her life, that she would know that she could trust Him. But even though she knew God had promised Abraham a son, after time continued to pass without a baby, Sarah let her fears get the best of her. Perhaps she feared that God had forgotten them. Or maybe, she feared, they’d misunderstood God. Obviously, Sarah was far to old to bear a child. If Abraham was to have his heir, she’d need to take matters into her own hands.

In her fear and lack of faith, Sarah stepped out on her own, devising a plot that was to have eternal consequences. We all know how Sarah presented her slave girl to Abraham so that he could have a son through Hagar. But, as it always happens when we take over and leave God out of the plan, things didn’t work out quite the way she expected.

For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Genesis 21:2

Interestingly, the time when we would most expect Sarah and Abraham to exhibit fear, we see none. No mention is made of Sarah in the account of Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him. Did Abraham not tell Sarah? Did he tell her and she accepted it? Seems unlikely, but we’ll never know since the Bible doesn’t tell us.

The good news is that despite her failings, Sarah loved God and was deeply loved by her family. What is amazing to me is that an entire chapter in Genesis is dedicated to the death of Sarah. I’m not sure why Abraham wasn’t with her when she died, or why she died in Hebron rather than Beersheba. Nevertheless, when Abraham got the word, he hurried to her and went to a lot of effort to find the perfect burial spot for her.

It’s easy to berate ourselves when we are fearful, but God understands fear. Throughout the Bible, He’s always reminding people to not be afraid. He knows that’s our natural inclination. He reminds us, though, that we don’t have to live in fear. If we can only trust Him and quit trying to take the weight of our worries on our own, He will take care of it all in a way that far surpasses anything we could imagine. We can be fearless if we give it to Him instead of holding onto it ourselves.

Fearless Women of the Bible – Mrs. Noah

I have the greatest respect for Mrs. Noah. Although we never learn her name and she’s only mentioned in a few verses, I can only imagine how afraid she must have been, and yet the Bible doesn’t record her fears. All that’s mentioned is her fearlessness.

Can you imagine if your husband came home one afternoon and announced that he’d been talking to God and God told him there was going to be a great flood, so he needed to start building a giant boat to get ready for the flood? Oh, and by the way, at least two of every species of animal will be joining us in the boat. I’m pretty sure the words “Are you insane?” might have instinctively poured forth from my mouth. This came out of nowhere. She wasn’t prepared for such a dramatic announcement, and yet, the Bible says nothing about her reaction. We can assume, then, that she kept her thoughts to herself and supported her husband even if she secretly wondered about his sanity.

Mrs. Noah remained faithful to her husband day in and day out as he gathered supplies and constructed the ark. When the neighbor ladies whispered behind her back and mocked her to her face, she stood firm. Inside, her heart may have pounded with fear, but she wasn’t letting on to the rest of the world. Was this all a waste of time? Did God really intend to destroy His creation? Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding. Regardless, her husband had faith, so she did too.

On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark.

Genesis 7:13

Can you imagine when the time came, when the ark was complete, and the animals just started lining up in front of the door? Seeing that would give me a little more confidence that this was real, that God was getting ready for something major. But then, would come new fears. Were they seriously going to have to hunker down with all those beasts? What if fights break out between the animals? What if the they try to attack the family? And how will they feed, care for, and clean up after the critters? Because you know whose job that will end up being. How could she possible handle all that? Not to mention having to feed and care for the family as well. Again, Mrs. Noah kept her fears to herself, and when the rain began pouring from the sky, she followed along behind Noah and her sons and their wives, and entered into the ark with the wildlife.

I have a plaque in my kitchen that says, “If Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.” Noah’s wife set the tone for the atmosphere of the home. I tend to overeact when I’m afraid. I panic and take it out on everyone around me. Mrs. Noah did not allow her fears to consume her. She kept her head and kept a calm during their time of encampment. Despite losing everything they’d owned, all their friends, and the only life they’d ever known, she remained strong inside the ark, focusing on the needs of those around her instead of getting caught up in her own selfish fears.

And when the rains ended and the floods subsided, she fearlessly exited the ark and embarked on a new life with her husband and family, trusting God to continue to take care of them through life’s storms.

Lord God, we come to you today thankful for your grace and loving kindness. Thank you for always providing for us, even when Your ways may be different than our ways. Please help each of us to be supportive of our husbands, allowing them to serve as God calls them. Guide and direct us as we set the tone for our family atmosphere. May we be peaceful and joyful despite the circumstances. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Fearless Women of the Bible – Eve

We spent a long time trying to determine the theme for our inaugural conference. It needed to be broad enough that most women could relate to it and yet not something that everyone else was covering. We considered so many great topics, but once fear came up, we knew that was it. Every single one of us deals with fear, often on a daily basic.

Fear is not a modern problem. In fact, the Bible includes 365 mentions of “fear not”. That’s a “fear not” for each day of the year. Obviously, this was something that God knew we would deal with and yet, He wanted us to know that we don’t have to live in fear.

As we count down the weeks until Women of Focus 2020, I’d like to take us on a journey through the Bible looking at biblical women and their experiences of being fearful and fearless. We’ll look at what caused them to be afraid and what they did to overcome their fears. With each woman we’ll also learn a little about ourselves, what brings out fear in us and what we can do to become truly fearless.

What better place to start our journey than with Eve in the Garden of Eden.

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.

Genesis 3:10

Our fear is often based on negative experiences or information from our past. As a teenager I was attacked by a big dog. As a result, I am now fearful around dogs, afraid that they might suddenly bite me. Had I never been attacked by that dog, I would likely think they were all cute and cuddly. But as it is, fear creeps in every time a dog approaches me.

In the beginning there was no fear. There was no need to fear anything. All Adam and Eve knew was paradise. What was there to fear in that?

When the serpent first approached Eve, she had no reason to fear him. It never occurred to her that he could possibly intend her harm since she didn’t know what harm was.

In Genesis 3, the serpent takes what Eve knows, that they’re not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then questions it. She responds by adding to it. God said not to eat from the tree. She adds that they can’t even touch it. He piques her interest by telling her that God is keeping them from something that’s good for them. She gives in to the temptation and shares with Adam.

What the serpent said was true. They now know good and evil. Their innocence is forever shattered, and they’re afraid.

Why were they afraid? Adam says they were afraid because they were naked, but it’s much more than that. They were afraid to face God because of their sin.

Do you remember as a child being afraid to face your parents after doing something you knew you weren’t supposed to do? You weren’t just afraid of the punishment. You were afraid because you’d let them down. You’d disappointed them, and it was hard to look in their eyes and admit what you’d done. Like Eve, you might have tried to blame someone else, but ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Adam and Eve felt as they were forced out of Eden, but I can imagine they were pretty scared. They were leaving behind the only home they’d ever known to start a new life in a world filled with obstacles and trials. They were also losing their relationship with God. While He was still with them, He was no longer walking along beside them in the same way.

Despite the sorrow that Eve faces as a result of her sin, she doesn’t grow bitter. When she bears a child, she is thankful to have “acquired a man from the Lord.” When her one son kills her other son, she bravely continues on with life. When Seth is born, she says, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 

Eve could have given up on life. She certainly had plenty of reason to feel that life was hopeless. Instead, she pushes forward, focusing on her blessings instead of her fears.

What about you? Are you living in fear because of sin that is standing between you and God? It’s easy to give into those fears, calling them holy fears. But that’s not God’s intention. Yes, He wants us to address our sin. But once we admit them and bring them to Him, He wants us to move on and focus not on our failures but on His grace.

Lord God, we come to you today thanking you for Your mercy and grace, for loving us no matter how many times we fail you. Please bring to our mind any sins that are coming between us and you. Then forgive us for those sins. Lead us away from temptations. Give us the courage to stand firm and to be FEARLESS in our walk with You. We love You. In Christ name we pray. Amen.