Studying Ishmael’s life and specifically his rejection reminds us that life is not always fair. Sometimes the people who should take care of us and protect us from the cruelties of the world fail to do. Other times, the people we love most are the very ones who inflict pain upon us. We certainly see that with Ishmael. We cannot control what other people do, but how we respond in these situations is what matters. I believe that Ishmael’s story is given to teach this three-step formula for “bouncing back” after disappointment and rejection. God answered the prayer, but then He required that Hagar and Ishmael act on faith.”
1) Humble yourself and submit your burdens to God. This is not an easy process, especially after the rejection of someone you trusted. We feel like trust got us into our mess, so how will trust in God get us out? It is important to remember that unlike humans, God will never fail us. I Peter 5:6-7 tells us to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Hagar and Ishmael tried to solve their own dilemma. They wandered the wilderness long enough to consume all of their provisions. It was only when impending death loomed ahead of them that they fell on their face before God and surrendered their burdens. Faithfully, he provided.
2) Believe that God will answer when you submit your requests to Him. Prayer is pointless if you don’t have faith. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7). Ishmael could have given up, believing that God wouldn’t care because he was an insignificant youth cast from home, but instead he prayed in faith. Genesis 21: 17 says, “And God heard the voice of the lad.” God responded to Ishmael’s earnest prayer regardless of his age and status.
3) Act upon your faith. Live your life knowing that God will answer your prayers; walk by faith and act on His promises. James 2:17 says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Our actions become the reflection of our faith. Ishmael and Hagar submitted their burdens to God and prayed believing they would receive a miracle. God answered the prayer, but then He required that Hagar and Ishmael act on faith. They could have sat waiting for God to deliver them water in silver chalices, but instead they acted. “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went” (Genesis 21:19). Ishmael and Hagar’s faith prompted God’s provision. That provision then prompted their action.
So what’s your well? What is God asking you to do to receive the full blessing of His answered prayer?