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How To Not Freak Out When Things Get Tough

There’s a story in the Torah, (Old Testament or Hebrew Bible) about a minor character that is a great metaphor on how to relax when times are hard. The story is about Hagar who is Sarah’s handmaiden. Sarah who was infertile, gave Hagar to her husband Abraham so they could have a child together. Sarah believed that Hagar’s child would become her own. But instead, after Hagar gives birth to her son Ishmael, she became insubordinate to Sarah.

This story teaches two important points:
1. Sometimes when I try to control situations, they don’t work out as planned
2. When I go through painful experience, it’s easy to lose perspective

Eventually, Sarah demands that her husband Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham is reluctant to do so, but God tells him that it’s okay. Abraham gives Hagar some food, a canteen of water and sends them off into the wilderness. Needless to say, Hagar is sure that they are going to die of thirst out in the desert all alone. She sets Ishmael down under a tree and waits to die. She cries for awhile and then God speaks directly to Hagar.

God tells her to not worry. God will take care of both Hagar and Ishmael and will make Ishmael a father of nations. When Hagar hears God’s voice, she calms down and looks around at her surroundings for the first time. She sees a stream of cool, running water, right in front of her. And she drinks from it, and understands that she is not going to die. In her anguish, she lacked the perspective to see that what she needed was right in front of her.  All she needed to do was to relax.

Sometimes when we get worried, we lose sight of knowing that there is plenty all around us. When we are in distress, it’s easy to forget that we will be okay.

But God has our back – even if the story doesn’t turn out the way we want it to.

The problem is not God, but rather, our lack of perspective. The story of Hagar teaches us to relax: Abundance is right in front of us – and we will see it, if we can relax and trust.

Have you ever been in distress and what you needed was right there in front of you?

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