What do you do when you feel invisible? Sometimes we feel unseen or unheard by certain people or in different situations. This can lead to loneliness and isolation. But there is One who always sees and hears us and I believe there’s no better example than the story of Hagar.
Hagar, an Egyptian, was impregnated by Abraham at the request of his wife Sarah. Then, despised and mistreated by Sarah, Hagar is forced to leave and fend for herself. She ends up in the wilderness, where the angel of the Lord appears to her and speaks to her. Here is an unlikely candidate, at least in her culture, for God to personally address and appear to: a woman, a slave, and an Egyptian (not of God’s people). Yet God concerns Himself with Hagar’s pain.
God asks Hagar where she came from and where she is going – and it’s not because He doesn’t know. God wants Hagar to feel seen and heard. God then says to Hagar: “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 16:10 ESV) Hagar will give birth to a son and she is to name him Ishmael – which means “God hears.” She says to the Lord:
‘You are El-Roi,’ for she said, ‘In this place have I really seen the one who sees me?’ (Genesis 16:13 CSB)
Let’s break this interaction down a bit because there are some things here we could easily miss if we’re not paying attention.
First, we learn a lot about God’s character here: Our God is caring, loving, and compassionate. The Bible does not tell us that Hagar called out to God. Instead, God sees and hears Hagar’s affliction and comes to her in her lowest moment. Moreover, God shows Hagar compassion by blessing her with many offspring that “cannot be numbered for multitude” through Ishmael. God did not have to do this, yet He did because He loved this woman who was used and abused.
We also see that our God is a God of relationship and connection – He values connection with His children and creation. By approaching Hagar with a question, allowing her to open up, God invites her into connection with Him. I can only assume that Hagar was probably feeling shame over her situation. God invites her out of the isolation that shame creates by connecting with her and offering her empathy (there is no empathy without connection) and mercy.
Second, this is the first time we know of since the fall that the angel of the Lord appears to anyone. Yes, God speaks to many people including Noah and Abraham before this, but the Bible does not specify these people being able to see God (or the angel of the Lord). So here is a woman, a slave, and a foreigner at a significantly low point in her life and she is the first to see the angel of the Lord! How amazing is that? God cares for the weak and powerless and will not leave us in our time of need (Isaiah 40:29, 41:10).
Friend, when you feel invisible – like nobody sees you, or if you’re afraid of really being seen – remember God sees you! He loves you and cares for you, and wants to connect with you. He is not taken by surprise or put off by anything you might want to hide. He knows all of you, accepts you, and loves you. I want to invite you to connect with someone today and let yourself be seen.