Into 1 Samuel…
Sweet Hannah – I just love this story. In a time when fertility meant everything to a woman, Hannah was barren. How hard it is to be surrounded by people who have what you desire. Even those who love you the most may not understand the pain. This seems to be the case with Hannah’s husband, Elkanah. We are told in 1 Samuel 1:5 that he loved Hannah and, yet, in verse 8 it is clear that he did not understand her grief.
I find that this happens a lot. When there is something that is weighing on your heart and those around you do not understand – it hurts. Elkanah’s response is really quite common:
Why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?
I can not tell you how many times I have encountered this. I know you just lost your job, but at least you have your health. I know that break-up hurt, but there are lots of fish in the sea. I know you would like to be a stay-at-home mom, but at least you have this great job. I’m sorry about the miscarriage, but you can always try again. I’m sorry that…but… Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes very well intentioned people just say the wrong things. I am reminded of Proverbs 14:10…
The heart knows it’s own bitterness…
Sometimes it is just not possible for another human to know or understand our pain. Yet, I find great comfort in Psalm 44:21…
…For He knows the secrets of the heart.
He knows. Nothing is hidden from Him. He knows our desires and He knows our hurts. There is never a time when we are in pain and God is shaking His head and saying, I don’t know what the big deal is…God hurts when we hurt. There are times, however, when we’re hurting and God is pleading with us…I know you’re struggling, but please just trust Me. God does not give us pain just for pain’s sake. He has a plan and everything that happens is under His control.
I read 1 Samuel chapter 1 several times…over and over. And one little phrase kept jumping out at me. Honestly, I hesitate to address it because I feel like I have mentioned this theme several times. Yet, it keeps popping up in my reading. The theme? Waiting.
So it was, year by year… – 1 Samuel 1:7
If we’re not careful, it is easy to read the story of Hannah as if it all happened over night. She was barren. She prayed. She had a baby boy. But, that is not how it happened. She wept and prayed and was tormented for years. In verse 6 we are told that she was “miserable” and then verse 7 tells us that “So it was, year by year…” I know someone can relate to that kind of pain…that kind of waiting.
The important thing about long term prayers is that we do not give up. We always pray believing that God is going to answer. When Hannah and her family made the annual journey to Shiloh to worship and make sacrifices, she laid the same request before God. I am certain it was the same request she had made for all of those years. And, after she prayed, we are told:
So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
I don’t believe that she was no longer sad because she knew that God was going to finally grant her request that year. There is nothing in the scripture that gives that indication. No angel appearing. No booming voice from heaven. I believe this is what she did every year. She laid her heart’s desire at the foot of the throne and walked away…believing that her petition was heard.
That is how we should pray…we should trust God with our deepest desires because He is trustworthy and He is good. We should pray fully expecting an answer – even if it is to a prayer that we have prayed year by year…
In the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. – Psalm 5:3