And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. Genesis 17:18-20 ESV
Ishmael may have been the child born outside of God’s plan, but that wasn’t his fault. He was now a full-fledged person, a son that Abraham had grown to love. When God promises Abraham that his next, unborn, son will be the recipient of the covenant, Abraham struggles as he realizes that Ishmael will be left out.
Is that not painful for any parent who loves their children equally? They see one flourish in most everything, but for the other, everything seems to come hard. It happens in almost every home. If we are not careful, we will conclude that God has blessed one and cursed the other. Our theology must bear down hard and carry us through misconceptions.
Many who teach are hard on Abraham for wanting God to just give the blessing to Ishmael instead of the son who is coming but he is just being a father. God knew that, too. He said, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.” God understands the heart of fathers.
So, what about the child for whom everything comes hard? What should be his perspective? And what is to be my perspective as a parent? The story is not yet finished. It might be that the one who finds life easy will later encounter challenges that will build endurance into his character. Humility and dependence on God will be the wonderful fruits of struggle. And the one who seems forgotten in their youth? God may be using suffering to prepare them for greatness. As with many of his choicest servants, the first 40 years were the wilderness preparation for a glorious deliverance into anointed ministry and unfathomable blessing.
As a parent, I must trust God as I remember that I am only in the middle of the story. God is God. He writes the ending. My part is to trust, pray, and encourage both children to walk humbly with their God despite the seeming inequity. In the end, we will see evidence that God does do all things well.
Help my faith to grow up! Amen