Are you crying out to God saying “God, I’m tired of messing up?” If so, you’re not alone. It feels like a similar prayer has peppered my Christian life and guess what, Sarah in the Bible even messed up. In a matter of 5 verses, Sarah messed up 5 times. What started as one mistake snowballed into mess-up after mess-up. Can you relate? Today, we’re doing a Bible study on messing up and seeing what we can learn from Sarah’s mistakes. If you’re ready to stop saying “God, I messed up again” and want to let God redeem your mistakes, continue reading.
In our last post, we looked at beautiful Sarah’s barren story and there’s a 10-year gap between that story and where we find her today. But before we continue learning from Sarah let’s do a refresher.
What do we know about Sarah from the last post (here)?
We know she’s barren, beautiful, and married to Abraham. From this part of Sarah’s story we learned we should see ourselves based on who God says we are, that true beauty is seen in a woman who reflects God, and that we need to have patience, faith, and unshakeable trust.
Where we’re finding Sarah today, it looks like her patience, faith, and trust has run dry.
When Patience Runs Dry
Dry…it’s something I’ve been feeling for weeks now and because of it, I get how after 10 years of waiting Sarah might have run out of patience and trust that God would keep His promise.
Goodness, when God gave me the vision for Bought at a Price it took almost two years before He opened the doors that allowed this dream to happen. Wanna know what I kept battling during those two years?
You guessed it – patience, faith, and trust that God would provide a way for it to happen. But, there are still many dreams God’s given me that haven’t come to fruition and let me tell you…it’s crossed my mind more than once to “help” God out.
Okay, enough of me, let’s see what we can learn from Sarah when her patience ran dry.
Before we dive into Sarah we need to quickly meet Hagar (we’re going to look at Hagar’s story next week). Hagar was Sarah’s servant and had likely joined Sarah when Sarah was in her last predicament as Pharaoh’s wife. Now…Sarah has different plans for Hagar.
Bible Study on Messing Up
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”
Ten years is how long Sarah’s been waiting for God to fulfill the promise of children that He made to Abraham. That’s a long time to wait for anything, and it would feel even longer for a barren woman who wants children.
Sarah’s desire for children had clouded her vision and instead of seeing God as a promise keeper, she now sees Him as “preventing me from bearing children.” And to Sarah, this was something God needed her help remedying.
Can you imagine how long she must have planned and strategized? Sleepless nights running scenarios through her head trying to land on the best plan for helping God keep His promise. Turns out her idea to give her servant Hagar to Abraham wasn’t a novel idea. Nope…
Bible scholars say many ancient cultures considered it commonplace for barren women to do exactly what Sarah did because any children born in an arrangement like this, could be claimed as Sarah’s.
Sarah’s great idea was to get Hagar pregnant so God’s promise could be fulfilled and she could finally be a mother.
Have you noticed how Sarah messed up?
There are two big mistakes here we can learn from.
Messing Up & Helping God
Sarah’s first mistake was allowing her desire for something to cloud her ability to patiently trust God. This is easy for all of us to do (goodness, I do this more often than I’d like to admit).
We can become so consumed by something we want that we miss God completely. All we see is what we don’t have and we fail to see all God’s blessed us with.
But more importantly, we fail to see God.
What we should be doing is asking God to reveal Himself to us in our longing. Asking Him to show us what He wants us to learn while we’re waiting, and to give us the strength to patiently wait while rejoicing in who God is, and all He’s provided us.
Spend a minute on the devotion questions before we look at Sarah’s next mistake.
- What are you wanting or waiting for?
- Do you feel like it’s clouded your ability to see what God wants or how He may have already answered you?
What Do You Choose When You Mess Up?
Alright, Sarah’s next mistake…At this point in Abraham and Sarah’s life, they were on their own and had two sources of influence – God or the culture He’d placed them in. But when Sarah presented her idea to Abraham is God mentioned?
Nope, nada, zip, zero, zilch.
This leads us to the next two things we can learn from Sarah’s mess-up.
First, messing up is pretty much guaranteed when, apart from God, we take things into our own hands. Second, we mess up anytime we choose to do what an ungodly culture says is right.
Sarah messed up and did both of these things. Ikes!
But we have two advantages Sarah didn’t have. We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
But…there’s always a “but” isn’t there?
When I don’t do those things I start taking things into my own hands and things the world says are okay start seeming like viable options.
What about you?
- What have you recently taken into your own hands?
- What happened?
- When do you find yourself thinking the world’s way of doing things seems like a viable option?
- When you’re not spending time in God’s Word or not listening to the Holy Spirit, how often do you find yourself saying “God, I messed up again?”
- What about when you’re spending time in God’s Word and are listening to the Holy Spirit?
Let’s continue our “messing up” Bible study and see what Sarah’s mistakes led to (hint: it led to Sarah messing up even more).
Messing Up Three More Times
“And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her and she fled from her.”
Sarah’s mess-ups just circled around and blew up on her. No sooner than Hagar realized she was pregnant, she began disrespecting and treating Sarah as if she was worthless. But Sarah, instead of learning from her last mistakes was overtaken by jealousy, hurt, and loss, and responded by messing up again (well, actually three more times).
Instead of accepting responsibility for her actions and failed plan, Sarah blamed it all on her husband. That’s bad enough on its own, but it wasn’t where Sarah’s messing up ended. She also dumped it on God as if He’d sort this all out and find her in the right.
Sarah’s third mistake…it happened after Abraham said: “your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Sarah took what her husband said and turned around and “dealt harshly” with Hagar.
Anyone else relate to Sarah right now and feel like you’ve done one or all of these things? You know, those times when you’ve come up with the “best plan ever to help God out” only for it to blow up in your face and then, you mess up even more with how you handle the aftermath.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been there. Maybe right now you’re saying “God, I’m tired of messing up” or feel your prayers are always “dear God, I messed up again.”
Friend, no matter where you’re at, there’s something we can all learn from Sarah’s mistakes.
Let’s wrap up this Bible study on messing up by looking a bit more at Sarah’s last three mistakes.
More Learning From Sarah’s Mistakes
Messing Up & Blaming
Blame, it’s something we’ve all done. It’s our way of protecting ourselves when we’ve messed up and don’t want to deal with the consequences. But, when we mess-up we should accept full responsibility for it.
We also need to turn to God and ask Him to help us handle the consequences of our mistake because when we do this, God takes our mess-ups and uses them for His glory.
- Is there something you’ve messed up and blamed someone else for?
- Spend a minute in prayer asking God to forgive you and for the Holy Spirit to show you what God wants you to do.
When we pray “dear God, I messed up again. Will you give me the strength to fix my mistake,” God will answer and in His time, beautifully redeem our mistakes.
Messing Up & Choosing Sides
Messing up can cause all sorts of emotions to well up inside of us. Things like fear, failure, incompetence, jealousy, unworthiness, stupidity, anxiety, anger, worry, and more…suddenly overwhelm our hearts and mind.
It’s from this place that Sarah said: “May the Lord judge between you and me!”
Her words were spoken rashly and likely in a rage. And because her husband wouldn’t do something about how Hagar was treating her, Sarah suddenly throws God into the mix.
Her words show Sarah thought her actions were just, and that she expected God to act in her favor and defend her against Hagar’s mistreatment.
Ladies, when we’ve messed up we have to expect there’ll be consequences. Yes, God does defend His people but we can’t run to God only to get what we want and expect Him to side with us.
Sarah was asking God to play favorites and the reality is, God loves all people. He wanted what was best for Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham, and He wants what’s best for you. When we’ve messed up we do need to call on God but not how Sarah did.
What about you,
- Have you ever been hurt because of a mistake you made?
- Did you appeal to God expecting Him to side with you?
- What happened and what did you learn?
Getting Even & Messing Up
Today, the last thing we can learn from Sarah comes from her last mistake. She continued her messing up streak with a grand finale of “dealing harshly” with Hagar.
The original language indicates Sarah afflicted, persecuted, mishandled, humiliated, and likely responded to Hagar with bursts of temper or blows.
My heart breaks for both women but also relates to Sarah. Our sinful nature often responds this way when we’ve been hurt or mistreated. We’re quick to forget it was our mistake that started it all and instead we want to get back at whoever did us wrong.
Sarah started the debacle by messing up and she dealt with its consequences by messing up even more.
1 Peter 2:23 says “when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”
What do we learn from Sarah’s last mess-up?
No matter what we’ve messed up and how it circles back on us, we’re to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and entrust ourselves to “Him who judges justly.”
- What consequences are you facing because of something you’ve messed up?
- Is there something about how you’ve been handling it that needs to change so you’re acting as Jesus did?
To wrap up our “messing up” Bible study I want to encourage you.
Even though Sarah failed to trust God and took matters into her own hands, God used the situation and eventually gave Sarah the son He’d promised. God knew what would happen because He’s written each of our life stories. He knew what Sarai would do and He had a perfect plan for making something beautiful out of everything she messed up.
God also knows about everything you and I will mess up and He wants to redeem our mistakes just like He redeemed Sarah’s.
That beauty could be an invaluable lesson God teaches you that’s then used to help someone else who’s struggling. It could be a circumstance you weren’t expecting, a long-awaited promise from God that’s fulfilled in miraculous ways. It could be anything so keep your eyes, ears, and heart open for the beautiful things God does to redeem your mistakes.
Next week we’ll look at Hagar’s story so be sure and subscribe here so you don’t miss that Bible study.
Until then, remember…
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” Micah 7:7-8