I will never forget the first time I was bullied. It was a sleepover on a crisp fall weekend with my soccer team, and we decided to play an ordinary game of hide-and-go-seek. The first few rounds of the game were normal. Someone would count to sixty, everyone would run into the woods behind the house to find a hiding spot. But then, it was my turn to count.
Fifty-eight. Fifty-nine. Sixty! I jumped up and made my way to the tree line. Almost dark now. I checked behind trees, bushes, and behind the shed. No one. It was eerily quiet. No giggling whispers. I must have searched for at least half an hour, maybe longer before I turned around and saw a dozen little heads peering out at me through the window. While I counted, they went inside to start a movie, leaving me wandering in the dark, alone, and still searching for them. Ironically, their lack of hiding made me want to hide. I wanted to run straight into the woods. I was stung with shame and burnt with unbelonging. Why me?
Why we run to hiding places when we feel ashamed or outcasted
Almost twenty years later, and I still can still hear their giggles through the windows. I have felt my heart sink in the same way, time and time again, even into adulthood. Likely, you’ve been there too. Maybe you feel uninvited, unwelcomed, like you don’t fit in, or like you don’t deserve to belong. These feelings can make us want to sprint for the nearest treeline. We find something to hide under, some sort of covering to make us feel safe—binging a favorite television show, a pint of Talenti, gossiping to a friend, too much sleep, or even chronic productivity.
We run to our hiding places for one overarching reason: they feel safe. But what happens when the tv show ends or the pint of ice cream is gone? All comfort apart from Christ will eventually leave us empty. However, running to our hiding places is nothing new. We even see examples of this in the Bible. One example is Hagar, who also ran away after being bullied.
Who is Hagar?
We find Hagar’s story in Genesis 16. She is the servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. In an effort to bear a child, Sarah advises Hagar to sleep with her husband. Hagar does conceive, which breeds hot bitterness in Sarah. Sarah deals harshly with Hagar in jealousy. And so, Hagar runs to a desert to hide. Scared, confused, and pregnant, Hagar finds herself alone. And yet, it is there that she meets an angel of God.
The God Who See Us
This angel speaks on behalf of God, reminding Hagar of God’s nearness. Hagar gave God a name at this moment. She called Him El Roi—the God who sees me. God saw her fear, her anxiety, her embarrassment, and her humiliation. The lowly servant—the victim of a selfish plan–was lovingly pursued by the one true God. Hagar’s story teaches us God is not absent from our hiding places. In fact, He meets us there and gently lifts our chin towards His face. “Where have you come from and where are you going?” the angel of the Lord asks Hagar. As we read the story of Hagar, we could ask the same questions of ourselves. What are we running from? Where is the running leading us? And as we ponder these questions, the reminder might come to us, “Do we not see that God is here with us?”
How Jesus meets us in our hiding places
Jesus meets us in our hiding places today, for our King of kings is also a man of sorrow. He does not come near as an unsympathetic general. He sits with us as Jesus, the tenderhearted lamb of God. He leans in as a fellow sufferer, the One who’s endured the Cross to set you free from sin. He extends an invitation to exchange our flimsy hiding places for a refuge that is strong and secure. Psalm 91:4–5 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” Friend, when embarrassment roars, when loneliness strikes, and when the world feels unsafe, we have a shelter in the storm. His name is Jesus.
How meeting with God changes us
Meeting with God changes us. And this isn’t just true today. It was also true of Hagar. We see this when after God meets Hagar in the desert, He instructs her to return to the very source of her fear—back to Sarah. Yet, she returns different. She is now a woman who’s encountered God. The presence of God comforted her fears. El Roi—the God who sees me—gave her strength to rise.
The night of the hide-and-go seek incident I refused to go inside and join the other girls. I was too hurt and too scared of rejection. I sat in the treehouse of a swingset for what felt like hours. Eventually, my dad climbed up the ladder to join me. He wiped my tears. I have no idea what he said that night, but whatever it was, his words strengthened my wobbly knees. I went inside to face my giants. I was seen and heard by my father. And friend, you are too.
Check out the resources below if you are interested in learning more about God’s character and how He cares for you!