Let’s be honest, yesterday when you looked around the table, was it exactly everything you hoped it would be? Was everyone getting along perfectly? Did you have everyone you love around the table? I think everyone of us would have to say no. Sarah in Genesis chapter 21 had many things to be thankful for. The blessing of her long-awaited son Issac, a loving and devoted husband, a promise from God that her family would out number the stars in the sky. But she also may have looked around her table and thought, “My life would be perfect if…”
How did Sarah get to that point? Let’s quickly review her story. Sarah was first named Sarai which means “to contend.” Her husband Abram (later Abraham) was called of God to father a great nation. Sarai was also part of this plan. God told Abram, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). Because God promised Abram he would father a great nation, Sarai knew she would bear children. But years and years went by without an heir. Abram asked God if one born in his household would become his heir and not one actually born to him (Gen. 15:2). But God again said Abram would personally father a child and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them… So shall your descendants be.” Because Sarai was still barren, she thought of a plan. If her handmaiden, Hagar, had a baby by Abram, the baby would also be Sarai’s. According to pastor and author John MacArthur, “Sarah apparently reasoned that since she owned Hagar, if Abraham fathered a child by Hagar, it would in effect be Sarah’s child.” But God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. So this polygamy was sinful and would not have the outcome Sarai wanted. In fact, after Hagar conceived Ishmael, Sarai began to hate her (Gen. 16:4).
When we catch up to Sarah in chapter 21, God has blessed her with a son. Isaac, which means “he laughs,” was born to Sarah when Abraham was 100 years old. Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me” (Gen. 21:6). Elizabeth George writes, “This definitely was an occasion for joy. Isaac was Sarah’s reward. He was the child of her own body, the child of her old age, the child of God’s promise, the fruit of tested faith, the gift of God’s grace, and the heaven-appointed heir.” But even in her joy, Sarah was bitter because of Hagar and Ishmael. And her bitterness ruined her joy. She may have thought, “My life would be perfect if only Hagar and Ishmael would just disappear. Sure it was my idea to make them part of our family, but now that I have Issac, I change my mind.”
How do we avoid the bitterness Sarah experienced? Don’t let your plan for perfection become an idol in your life.
When you look back at pictures from your Thanksgiving celebration, don’t dwell on what should have been or could have been. Focus on the blessings that were present. Don’t focus on the burned rolls; remember the joke your brother-in-law told that had everyone rolling. Don’t comment again to your husband that you can’t believe your sister would wear such an awful shirt; but be thankful your kids were able to hang out with their cousins (who they only see twice a year).
You must let go of your idea of perfection. Learn to appreciate, enjoy, love, and savor your reality. Remember, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18