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Vignettes of Women of the Bible

Mary Dunham Faulkner is an international conference and seminar speaker who travels across the U.S. and around the world, motivating and mobilizing women for godly leadership. She is the founder of Leah's Sisters, a ministry committed to the vision of rebuilding nations through restored women. She is also the editor of a quarterly newsletter encouraging women to move through loss to leadership.

A former missionary to Thailand for twenty-five years, Mary established an occupational center for young girls sold into prostitution in that country. She also wrote a monthly column for Leadership, an Asian magazine for church leaders. She is the author of one book, I'm A Woman,which addresses issues of self-esteem and the Asian woman. Her new book, Gentle Wisdom for Tough Times will be published in 2002.

Mary is a cross-cultural communicator with a message that empowers her international audience to discover and claim their God-gifted destiny. She is a member of Hillcrest Church, Dallas, Texas, where she co-founded and directed the Hillcrest School of Missions, served on the Mission Board, and speaks at Prayer Conferences and Women Seminars.

You may contact Mary through her website at www.leahssisters.org  or by phone at 972-254-5004  or FAX: 972-251-1781 or e-mail mary@leahssisters.org

 Hanging on to Hope

By Mary Dunham-Faulkner

 The brazen servant-who-was-a-mistress for a short, exalted time was paying for her sins. Yes, she had been cocky and shamelessly proud.   After all, she had slept with and produced the joy of his heart--more than his wife had done for him.  Sarah had punished her for her sin, banishing her from the only home she had known.  And Abraham, the one who was always gentle and loving to the boy and her, had betrayed her too, sending her and their son away into the desert of certain death.

 But was it so wrong to revel in that brief moment of her life when everything looked good, as if life was finally coming together for her.  Who destined one to be a Sarah-beauty queen of the desert, wealthy and blessed, and one to be a Hagar--servant, lowly, used?  Who decides which one gives the orders and which one obeys them? Commanding someone to sweep the floor and feed the camels is one thing. Demanding she give up her body and put her womb out for hire is quite another.

 Still, she had been the winner. At least for one lightning-second-moment when Abraham had sought her out to make love to her and then later, to check on his son.  Her son.  Their son.  The intimacy she had craved all of her life was as sweet as the gurgling baby in her arms.

But now, along in a hot, blazing desert, she realized it was only a mirage, a life-picture too good to be true.  Her one priceless dream--her son--was a few feet away, dying. She had sat him down and moved away so she wouldn't hear his soundless cries for food and water. After he died, she would wait and pray for death, too. She had nowhere to go, no one to lean on.

Hagar, Sarah's bondservant, did what all of us are tempted to do when we don't see any way out.  She gave up.  After all, what use is there in praying when God has never seemed too interested in what happened to you anyway?  Her story yields lessons for you and me offering wisdom for those times when our desert feels like the most deserted, deadly one.  Hagar, this low-class servant girl, is our teacher here and shows us how to survive abandonment, despair, and the death of a dream.

Your greatest enemy in the desert is fear.

Hagar thought she needed water, food, and shelter to survive.  It turns out that her real need was confidence-a belief that she was going to survive this latest crisis in her life.  She had been in the desert in similar circumstances; maybe not as bad as this, but she had survived the experience.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'  You must do the thing you thought you could not do."

 Looking fear in the face takes courage.  Refusing to be overcome by a spirit of paralyzing, terrorizing panic requires an unmovable faith in the fact that God will keep His promise of never leaving us alone.

 My ninety-two year old mother tells the story of coming home from the doctor's office several years ago after he told her that she had cancer in her uterus.  "O God! What am I going to do?" she cried out alone on her bed that night.

We'll do this together," He promised her.  She testifies of a peace that washed over her that night and has never left her since.  Peace, that wonderful gift of God, is all we need in any adverse circumstance.  The enemy of our soul cannot manufacture or pierce the tranquility of a soul-quiet so strong it can overcome anything-even death.

Don't make major decisions about life when you're discouraged and down. 

When we find Hagar in the desert in this dramatic story in Genesis 21, she is on a deathwatch; sure her only child is going to die.  It turns out that she was not alone at all, her son did not die, and her life did not end.  Making decisions when we are depressed, afraid, or angry assures a crop of failure.  Pain distorts vision.  When you are surrounded by darkness, it's not a great time to pick up the phone and call your offended, sell your house, or declare God to be dead.  What seems absolutely true today does not necessarily make it so.  There is always one more thing you know about your own circumstances.

Just because you can't see God in Your Desert of Death doesn't mean He's not there.

Hagar thought she was alone, but obviously she was misinformed.  God was there.  Did she think God only cared about Sarah and Abraham, the really important people He had chosen for His really important work?  She was wrong.  Perhaps if she had not experienced this terrible desert, she would not have discovered that God is also the God of the destitute, the rejected, the refugee, and the one who has received the sentence of death.

Just as He had a great plan for Sarah, the wealthy mistress who had everything, He had a unique, grand plan for Hagar-the poor unimportant bondservant, too.  He shows up in her desert, just like He will show up in yours.  His words were straight and to the point, refusing Hagar the pity we all want at such a time. "Get up" He commands her. Obviously self-pity and prophecies of doom are not appropriate, ever.  Excuses of why others can, but we can't, are not acceptable.  Simply, "Get up." Now there's a word from God that will work even on our good days!

Just like Hagar, sometimes we are so self-involved, focusing on what might happen that we don't see the things around us that will see us through.  I'm wondering why Hagar didn't see the well of water nearby her when she thought she and her son were going to die from dehydration.  When God shows up, He shows her the solution that was there all along.  Just a few feet away from her was the water she and her son needed to live.

The ordinary, everyday miracles of our life are often overlooked while we cry out to God for "a miracle to see us through."  Miracles can come in the shape of an old friend who is always there come hell or high water or in a still undeveloped talent that has the potential to start a new business...or in the junior college in our community or the Christian counselor who helps us see our problem in a new way.

Look around you.  Your water-well is close by.  It's okay to ask God to do what He did for Hagar, to simply open your eyes to see something you never saw before.

Ishmael, Hagar's son, didn't die.  In fact, God grew him into a nation.  And Hagar?  She ended up being the ancestor of even more sons and tribes and nations.  Crises don't change us.  They simply hold the seeds of change in their dry, never-ending, thirsty deserts.  It's up to you and me to invite the Holy Spirit to come into our situation and show us things about the Father that we may have forgotten; that He loves the lowly, needy one; that He visits us in our deserts; and that He always enlarges us through the thing we thought was going to kill us.

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