Insecurity is dangerous.
I don’t think we understand the destructive power that insecurity has, both for ourselves and for others. When considering the power of insecurity, there is one story that comes to mind, the story of two women: Hagar and Sarai. Two women—friends at first—who valued and respected one another turned into bitter rivals, fueled by insecurity. And a man.
Sarai’s insecurity and fear that her husband wouldn’t receive his promised legacy led to her creating a plan B—her handmaiden, Hagar. Let’s not minimize Hagar’s importance in her life. This was a huge display of trust and importance; she wasn’t just anyone in Sarai’s eyes. We could also talk about how Abram’s insecurity birthed their friendship, but for the sake of time and context, we will leave that for another day. So Hagar does what is required of her, and she becomes pregnant with Abram’s son.
She did what was required of her.
And yet, instead of returning to the friendship and the trust of Sarai, her own insecurities rise up and she acts out of pride. “I’m bearing the child of promise! I’m Abram’s wife of legacy! I’m more important than you!” Maybe she didn’t say exactly that, but it was enough to infuriate Sarai. So she does what every submissive wife should—she requests help from her husband. “You better do something about this!” To which he replies, “Deal with her as you see fit.” (Paraphrased from Genesis 16:4-6.)
A woman scorned is a force to be reckoned with—“hell hath no fury” and such—so with that same wrath, she doles out vengeance. A friend becomes an enemy with a vendetta. A woman of virtue and beauty becomes a cruel mistress. It isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s so ugly that Hagar gives up and runs away. It’s not worth it. It’s not fair. She can’t live under the scrutiny and mistreatment, so she takes her chances in the wilderness on the run. That’s never safe, but let’s not minimize the times and the culture. It was an especially desperate move on her part. Thankfully, an angel of God meets her there with a promise and guidance from the Lord:
“I’m going to bless your son, but he’s going to be a man of war … there will be enmity between him and his relatives. This thing between you and Sarai will continue, and it will affect your children, those here and those to come. And you have to go back.” (Paraphrased from Genesis 16:11-12.)
I think if I were Hagar, despite the fact that I had been favored by God to be seen in my greatest moment of despair, I would have responded, “Ugh. Go back.”
Actually, I might have argued, “Go back!? Are you kidding me? She treats me like a dog. I left my homeland and my people to follow this woman and now she hates me. She told me to sleep with her husband and I did and I got pregnant with this amazing son, and now she spits at me when I walk by! She spreads rumors at the watering well! She rolls her eyes when I walk into the room, and you’re telling me I have to go back?”
That’s all it would take, to hear those two words from His lips. How do you argue with that?
So, Hagar returned, and after a short time of raising Ishmael, Isaac comes along, and the mistreatment begins again. Insecurity that one son may best the other and take over as heir becomes a legitimate fear, and Sarai chooses again to do as she sees fit, this time taunting Ishmael, the object of Hagar’s affections. Once again, the better choice is death. This time, God lets her go. This time, God releases her from her torment and safely delivers her and Ishmael somewhere else, but not before the damage of insecurity left its mark. It not only severed the relationship of two women, dearly loved and chosen by God, but it created the chasm between the people of Israel and the other son of Abram—his descendants, the Arabs—that continues today.
Insecurity. It destroys lives, hopes, friendships, and families. That’s enough to make me seek to root it out of my life in whatever form it takes, not only for myself, but for my children. Left to my own choices, like Sarai with Hagar, I would surely make it worse. My flesh would seek revenge and payment, or at the very least, separation. But thankfully, when I go to the Lover of my Soul, the one who sees all things and knows all things, He advises I return and directs that I deal with it instead, as He sees fit.