Scripture: But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” Genesis 21:12-13 ESV
Observation: As Abraham’s story continues, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he journeys to Gerar (in Philistia) and a second time waffles in his faith by presenting Sarah as his sister to this region’s king: Abimelech. Again, God is gracious and bails Abraham out of this predicament, with Abimelech sending him on his way with gifts of animals and servants (chapter 20). Then, as promised a year earlier, Sarah (age 99) gives birth to Isaac. Upon Sarah weaning Isaac, Abraham hosts a feast. Hagar laughs at the spectacle (likely out of jealousy), infuriating Sarah. So she demands Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Sarah’s insistence distresses Abraham, but the Lord assures him that this was part of the plan and that Ishmael would fair well and become the father of a great nation (above verses). Indeed, Muhammad and the Islamic nation trace their roots to Ishmael.
Hagar and Ishmael are distressed in the wilderness without water as the story continues. Feeling hopeless, Hagar cries out to the Lord, and he opens her eyes to his provision (a wellspring). The author then provides an epilogue: that Ishmael thrived in the wilderness of Paran and became an expert with the bow, and later married an Egyptian woman.
Takeaway: It is the responsibility of Christian parents to raise their children in the ways of the Lord. But there will come a time in our sons’ and daughters’ lives to relinquish our role as their parents and launch them into adulthood. It can be an emotionally painful process—particularly if we feel that our kids are still acting like kids. So how do we navigate these stressful, transitional times as mothers and fathers? Abraham trusted that the Lord would make good on his word and then sent Ishmael away with food and water provisions to last the first leg of his life journey.
So how does releasing our children to God translate for you and me? Like Abraham, we do our part by sending them away with enough provisions to make a start in life and then earnestly and ongoingly pray for their well-being (like Hagar). And we would do well to launch them with expressions of love—not with anger from unresolved offenses. But even if circumstances warrant pushing our child out of the nest under strained relations, we can still demonstrate our concern for them with gentle and assuring words. That’s our part, and the outcome is in the Lord’s hands.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that as much as we love our kids, you love them beyond measure. Would you please grant us wisdom, strength, and courage to discern the right time and way to launch our children into adulthood and release them to you with fervent prayer every time we fret? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling