So Hagar fell pregnant (Genesis 16). And I can just imagine the emotions she faced as the life within her started to develop. The normal glow of anticipation that radiates from most pregnant women was clouded by slavery.

Hagar’s slave status meant that the joys of pregnancy were not hers to experience. While she had to endure the morning sickness and normal aches and pains of pregnancy, the joy was Sarai’s. Hagar could not look forward to the moment that she met her baby or dream about the life she wanted for it. She was not allowed to hope for a little girl or boy and sew pretty little clothes for it. These joys would all be Sarai’s. Hagar had no freedom to have the joy that became any woman in her condition.

It is no wonder that Hagar became resentful towards Sarai (Genesis 16:4). Slavery had stolen her joy. Just like being slaves to sin steals our joy. Instead of enjoying the blessings we receive from the Lord, we resent others for what they have. “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them” (James 4:2, NLT).

The problem with slavery to sin is that it robs us of our focus on the true Source of joy. We compare our jobs, homes, and ministries to that of others and become resentful. It is not a new thing, Paul faced the same hardships of jealousy and rivalry in his ministry (Philippians 1). But he did not forget the Good News that freed him of these earthly limitations. “But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (v. 18, NLT).  

Whatever we believe will bring us lasting joy here on earth has the power to enslave us. The job that gives our lives meaning today can be gone tomorrow. The friends we help out generously today may turn their backs on us tomorrow. Only freedom in Christ can bring everlasting joy. “... As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free” (Ephesians 6:7-8, NLT).  

What is stealing your joy today? What enslaving habit or desire is preventing you from having the freedom to experience joy in your life?

Let us hold on to our freedom in Christ with both hands today. And let us celebrate the joy that is rightfully ours by what Christ accomplished for us already. “Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel” (Isaiah 44:23, NLT).

Scripture readings:

Genesis 16:4-5

James 4:1-3

Philippians 1:12-19

Ephesians 6:5-9

Isaiah 44:20-23