Hearing women share that they felt invisible or abandoned by God, Carmen Lappe looked to Scripture for consolation that God’s gaze is always upon us.
On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, my husband and I decided to take the kids to a new park. Brimming with excitement, it was nearly a prison break as the kids got out of their car seats to explore the new equipment. Jeff and I stayed in the car to listen to a baseball game, keeping our eyes fixed on them as they investigated the playground and interacted with other children. They were so carefree and joyful as they ran around in the late afternoon sunshine; the joy was almost palpable!
As Gemma completed the entire curved length of the monkey bars, she dropped to the ground and looked around, seeming confused. I opened my door to let her know we were in the car, but that we had seen her and were so proud! She smiled, then continued on her way. As I glanced a few feet in the opposite direction, I saw Damien come flying down the slide and flip forward into the sand. Perhaps a bit stunned, he stood up, brushed the sand from his clothing, face, and hands and continued around the backside of the equipment to do it all over again.
I was struck by the similarities of this beautiful afternoon with my children and its parallels to our life of faith. Jeff and I were not within arm’s reach, as we were parked atop a slight hill about 40 feet away. Yet, if they took a moment to look around, they’d see us. If one of them were to get hurt, we’d be by their side in a matter of seconds. If they shouted to us, we’d hear them, and vice versa.
How often does God seem to make Himself distant, even invisible? Perhaps in joyful, peaceful times, like my children on that playground, we don’t see Him because we don’t believe we need to. We are preoccupied with soaking up the beauty and goodness in which we are immersed. Yet the minute we fly down the slide and land face-first in sand, we might find ourselves seeking Him for assurance, comfort, or guidance.
Indeed, we may be asked to go through seasons or trials where we feel abandoned by God, lost in our faith, or unsure how to move forward in life. I’ve become acutely aware of this as several women in my life have shared their experiences with me.
“I feel like God has abandoned me.”
“I’m lost and I don’t know where to turn.”
“I never feel God’s love for me.”
Undoubtedly, this is a confusing and lonely place to be. Any attempts at prayer may feel empty, our attendance at Mass may be filled with anxiety, and our life may feel directionless and frightening. How can we even begin to move forward in the face of such darkness? When we look to the Scriptures, we find what may seem an unlikely source of comfort and inspiration. Genesis 16:7-15 contains the story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid. Childless, Sarai gives Hagar to Abram as a wife so that she may bear his children. Yet, upon conceiving Abram’s child, Hagar is dealt with harshly by Sarai, and she flees to return to Egypt. Finding Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness, God’s angel, His very presence, addresses her by name: “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8) Of course, the Lord knows, because He has seen her plight.
Where have you come from? Where are you going? The answers are hidden within His questions! Perhaps we come from a broken past: our present is confused, yet we seek a boundless future. It does not matter where we come from or where we are going—the Lord is with us now, in the present moment. Moreover, He goes before us to prepare the way. Despite the brokenness and pain from which she had come, Hagar recognizes God’s gaze upon her and her belovedness as His daughter. When she least expected it, God showed up to remind her who she is, and who He is: “a God of seeing” (Genesis 16:13).
When we wrestle with feelings of abandonment, confusion, despair, or doubt; when we feel unseen or unheard, God is there. He sees you. Not only does he see you; past, present, and future; he sees the you He had in mind from the moment He spoke you into being.
I try to live by, and offer to others, the consolation that “God is in the wrestling match.” Though grueling, the match is only lost if we forfeit our pursuit of God or attempt to navigate this life without Him. Even if all we can bring is our weary heart or angry words, God still draws close to us. He sees our aching heart, desperate for consolation, buried within.
If this is a season you find yourself in, I encourage you to keep crying. Let your tears be a prayer. Keep shouting. Shouting at God is still talking to Him, and that’s what’s important. Keep wrestling. The match always makes you stronger.
He sees you. He hears you. He loves you. You are His beloved.
Copyright 2022 Carmen Lappe
Images: Canva; Anthonie Waterloo, "Hagar Comforted by the Angel" via Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain
About the Author
Carmen is a wife and mother of two in midwestern Iowa. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and has a special passion for writing about the grace of motherhood. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and exploring breweries and baseball stadiums across the country.