How El Roi Helps Us Deal with Anger
Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Sarai, was probably justified in her anger. She was thrown into a family drama she never asked to be involved in, and was made to suffer for it.
Genesis 16 tells her story. God had promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, and that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the heavens. But then ten years passed, and Abraham, now 85 years old, was still childless.
His wife Sarah made what may seem to us a rather shocking suggestion. She urged Abraham to sleep with her maid, Hagar, in the hope that Hagar would produce a child for Abraham and Sarah to call their own. It was a legal and even a customary practice in ancient times that would cut off all rights Hagar had toward her son.
But after Hagar conceived, she became proud and made Sarah crazy with jealousy. Sarah began to mistreat Hagar so badly, she fled from the protection of Abraham’s house into the desert. She was hurt and angry at Abraham and Sarah, and probably also God… Where is this God of Israel? Do slaves even matter to Him? Does He have any idea about the mess that I’m in, that I didn’t ask for? How am I going to raise this baby out here all by myself? I’ve been completely forsaken!
A New Name for God
She eventually came to a spring of water, sat down and likely had a good cry. There she was met by the Lord’s angel who comforted her.
“The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her: ‘You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery’” (Genesis 16:7-11).
The angel of the Lord showed great compassion and instructed her to return, and he encouraged her as told her of her son’s future as a great nation. As Hagar absorbed this truth, she declared “’You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13).
That is, she called the Lord by a new name – El Roi, the God who sees! This name for God casts a whole new light on how God relates to us. It implies a radical shift in our perspective of God that goes beyond thinking about Him as distant and uninterested, to thinking of Him as near and extremely personal.
Previously, she knew God as other people in her culture knew Him – as far away, busy and preoccupied. He was mighty and powerful to be sure, but certainly not attentive. But by calling God El Roi, Hagar is practically screaming out to the pagans of her own day and to us thousands of years later, “You have it all wrong!”
God is not far away or tied up with global concerns. He is not asleep, and He is not hard-hearted, angry or severe. The true God is present with us, and meets us where we’re at. He knows exactly what we are going through. He doesn’t miss a thing.
He is the One Who Sees!
God Sees It All
The omniscient character of God means He sees everything and knows what we have to deal with every day. It’s a common theme woven throughout Scripture:
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).
“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He ponders all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21).
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
And God knew exactly where Hagar was, and He knew her by name. He saw all her troubles, and knew the child in her womb, and his future. And although God didn’t wipe away all the consequences of her situation, He did something for Hagar that I believe he does for all of us when we find ourselves in a mess: He created for her a new and bigger vision for her future – a future of blessing and goodness.
“’Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count’” (Genesis 16:9-10).
Never buy the devil’s lie that your current struggle is God’s plan for your life. Let God give you a vibrant picture of the purpose and future plans He has for you – plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a bright future!
3 Questions of Anger
Since God knows exactly what we are going through – the betrayal, the injustice, the righteous indignation – He can help us process the anger we feel correctly.
And let’s be real, one of the emotions we often feel stirring up in our hearts when we believe God sees everything, is anger that, if He sees it all – all the tragedy, all the needless suffering – then why doesn’t He do anything about it?
We ask, why me? What did I do wrong? Or, why now, as though there is a good time for pain and suffering to take place. Sometimes we are puzzled by sudden tragedy and pain. We try to discover a reason for it, or understand the logic behind it, and so we ask ourselves what for?
And in the back of our minds, God is the target of all of these questions. The result is we don’t often handle this anger correctly. We usually try to curse it, or maybe we rehearse it, but God wants us to release it and learn to trust Him in all things. When El Roi sees, our tears do not go unnoticed. He redeems our pain and brings good out of it. And ultimately, there will come a day when all things will be made right.
Bad Anger Choice 1 – Curse It
“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2:9 ).
Some people are so distraught over what they have experienced, that their anger becomes offense at God, instead of the situation. They strike out at Him in the pain of the moment, curse Him and abandon their faith. They close their hearts off from God.
I believe there is something inside of us that recognizes this option is not the right one. We’ve all observed those who have traveled this road, and it’s obvious that something is “off” in their life. There is a hardness to their heart, an emptiness or even a hollowness that they project in their personality. A soul lacking the energy and life of Christ.
Bad Anger Choice 2 – Rehearse It
With this choice, the anger lives just below the surface of our consciousness. We know it’s there because it surfaces every time we remember the event, the people, the words, or the pain. We rehearse it over and over as a silent meditation, and the anger never goes away.
But again, we just innately know that there is something wrong with this choice of dealing with anger; it eats away at our peace and joy, and manifests in our physical bodies as high blood pressure, weight gain or loss, aches and pains and sometimes even illness. It damages our relationship with God and other believers as it makes us bitter and resentful, shrinking our hearts and stealing the life out of us.
We probably all know people who simply live in this place, and maybe you are one of those people who live in this place. You can’t get past your past. Maybe even for good reasons – maybe the tragedy you suffered was huge and the heart wound has not healed. If so, my prayer today is that you to look up to the God of heaven and allow Him to begin to heal those deep wounds.
Best Anger Choice – Release It and Trust God
Job didn’t fall for the temptation to become offended at God. How did he know to process his anger correctly – to release it and trust God? It appears there was something about his relationship with God, cultivated and matured through earlier seasons of life that empowered him to trust rather than hold onto and nurse the emotion of anger.
Perhaps he realized that it seems God sometimes allows temporary pain if it achieves a greater good. Since God sees the end from the beginning, our constant earthly comfort is not the highest aim for mankind, but rather our spiritual growth, maturity and eternal security is paramount.
Or perhaps Job realized that God isn’t actually the source of the pain and suffering. God created a world in which everything was good. There was no sickness or infirmity, no hate, violence, injustice, or tragedy. It was a garden paradise, and He gave it to humanity to enjoy and have fullness of life.
But in love, He allowed man to have freedom to choose, which became the open door for all the pain of evil to enter into this world.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Maybe Job knew it was just unfair to pin his pain and suffering on our good father, so he chose to trust, even without understanding.
What I Have Learned
Like Hagar, I have experienced El Roi, the God who sees. I know He feels my pain when I do, and is moved with compassion toward me. I also know none of our tears go unnoticed.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8).
And because God is collecting and keeping track of all of our tears, that tells me He despises the wrongs committed in this world. Indeed, there is a day of reckoning coming when all things will be made right. The Bible talks about that day in the Book of Revelation.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelations 21:4).
It’s called the Day of the Lord, when God will make all things right; our questions will turn into worship and our trials will be forgotten in total adoration. Pain will be swallowed up by joy.
But until that day, know this: there is no attack of the enemy or heart wound we have suffered that He cannot redeem now and bring good out of it.
“And we know that God works all things together for the good for those that love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
No one has all the answers to the questions of why me, why now, or what for, but like Hagar and Job, we can choose to release the anger and all the bitter things it entails, and simply place our trust in the God who loves us.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Nataliya Iakubovskaia
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.