How to Cope When the Will of God is Hard

Wayne Stiles's picture

God had promised a son to Abram. At the same time, God prevented conception.

This is the will of God? Go figure.

This tension eventually proved too much for Abram’s wife, Sarai. It seemed the only thing worse than the barren land she lived in was the barren womb she bore.

So Sarai pointed to Hagar, her Egyptian maid, and told Abram to provide a child through her (see Genesis 16:1–16). The culture allowed for this custom, but it was never the will of God.

The story is anything but ancient. These are decisions we’re tempted to make every day.

But there’s a wiser choice.

The Will of God—A Tough Place to Be

After Hagar conceived, she despised Sarai, who then became resentful and mistreated her maid. Not surprisingly, Hagar fled.

The plan backfired.

The Lord found Hagar “by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur” (Genesis 16:7). The location of the spring reveals that Hagar intended to head back home—to Egypt.

  • But the Lord told the expectant mother to return to Sarai and to name the baby Ishmael—meaning, “God hears”—with the explanation, “for the Lord has heard of your misery” (Genesis 16:11 NIV).
  • Hagar called the Lord El Roi, “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).
  • She named the spring by which she sat Beer Lahai Roi, which could be rendered, “the well of the Living One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13–14).

Running from the Will of God

When the will of God gets tough, there emerges a recurring tendency. Note the pattern:

  • Abram had run to Egypt to escape a famine (Genesis 12:10–20).
  • Sarai had turned to an Egyptian maid to escape barrenness.
  • Hagar had run to Egypt to escape misery.

But every plan of escape, apart from the will of God, found each person back at the same place of having to trust the Lord all over again.

Avoiding God’s will only finds us running in circles. He brings us back where we started. (Tweet that.)

Hagar’s obedient return to a miserable and tough situation reveals her faith in the Lord who met her on the run. The meanings of the names “God hears” and “God sees” are constant reminders of how best to respond in desperate times.

When the Will of God is Tough

In seasons of seemingly inescapable despair, the Lord wants us to turn to Him rather than “run to Egypt.” As we wait on the Lord, we cling to His promise that He waits with us and will provide for us, for God hears our prayers and God sees our needs.

"The difficult will of God also includes the presence of God, and thus, His comfort." (Tweet that.)

God hears. God sees. Those names become the Lord’s promises to us—and they are our reasons for trusting Him, even when circumstances offer no rational hope for relief.

Question: When the will of God for you is hard, what promise of God do you cling to? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Pastor Michael Wolfe's picture


Thanks to Wayne Stiles for his wise words on the difficult will of God. If we are to grow into maturity in the image of Christ, there will come a time in each of our lives when we will walk through a desert place. It is a dark night of the soul. Contemporary Christianity has little to say about this desert place. There are a thousand sermons about the abundant joy of Christ in our lives for every one sermon on the desert. Yet Christians of the past knew this reality.


The classic devotional book from 100 years ago on the subject is "Streams in the Desert." For years, I found this book to be dry and hard and uninspiring. I would dip into it on occasion but would always walk away, thinking that it was too somber for a joyful believer like me. But then came my own desert time. And in that place I found solace and comfort and even joy in the words of this book. Streams in the Desert is a full year of readings to lead us through our hardest times and to remind us that even in the desert, there are streams of refreshment in Christ.      Michael Wolfe

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