Hannah’s story is found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. It’s right there in the beginning, starting in Chapter 1. The book 1 Samuel, as well as 2 Samuel, is named after Hannah’s son, who becomes a prophet for God and the last judge before Israel’s clamoring for a king causes God to appoint Saul, using Samuel in the appointment.
Imagine….your son becoming an influential national leader and more importantly, an instrumental player in God’s greater kingdom. Two books of the Holy bible named after the child that you diapered and rocked to sleep! Mind blowing.
But Hannah’s story doesn’t start off with the glory and honor I’ve just described. It begins with a desperate woman who shows multiple signs of depression. A married woman who must share her husband with another woman. A lonely woman being harassed for not being able to conceive a child. In the ancient culture Hannah lived, there wasn’t another direction a woman could take; no career path to give her satisfaction outside of motherhood. Each day, she was the wife that couldn’t cut it, didn’t produce and clearly wasn’t fit to have God bestow the gift of children on her. Although her husband did love her, the lack of a family of her own grieved her own heart and soul.
Here’s where in many stories the bitterness sets in, the anger rises, the isolation takes hold and a woman is crushed in spirit. But Hannah does it differently. She certainly feels the bitterness, anger and isolation, but she takes it to God in prayer.
#1: Hannah takes all of her ugly feelings and raw emotions to God in prayer.
Hannah was not afraid to share her full range of emotions with her Maker. The text says she was so overtaken in inaudible prayer that the temple priest thought she was drunk! Just think about that – she must of looked pretty disheveled, messed up and out of sorts for the priest to confront her, assume she was drunk, and command her to “get rid of your wine.”
I experienced infertility for several years before having my daughter. I remember the questions for God, the anger welling up, the disappointment and heartache. I remember standing in a dear friend’s kitchen, her hugging me and telling me that this is where I had to decide if I was going to trust God. It was a decision. It wasn’t an easy decision or one made without lots of ugly emotions. Just like Hannah, I was raw with God and shared it all. And you know what? I grew deep in my faith. Years have past, and at this point I can say that I cherish that time; I don’t regret going through the drought because it caused me to dig deeper with God in order to find His refreshment.
For you, it may be infertility, or a struggling child, or a painful marriage. What will you do with your rage and disappointment? Who will you become when God says no? My guess is you will get angry, be full of sorrow and struggle with questions because you are an imperfect human like the rest of us. The greater question is will you travel through your experience alone or with God. Hannah chose God. She drew close instead of laying blame. Will you?
#2: Hannah truly understood that her child was not her own.
If you continue reading 1 Samuel 1 you’ll read that God provides for Hannah’s greatest longings and Hannah gives birth to a son she names Samuel. In her prayers for a child she vowed to God, “if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayers and give me son, then I will give him back to you.”
Hannah holds true to her word and a few short years after Samuel’s birth, she takes him to the Tabernacle and gives him to the priest to raise saying, “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” (1 Sam 1:27-28)
I haven’t been called to hand my children over to the local priest. Fortunately! But, who do my children ultimately belong to? The Lord. They aren’t my own. I have the privilege to love and care for them; to speak into their lives, but they are not my possessions to control. This is hard for me to really take hold of, but I know it’s truth. My children are only with me for a short time. To remind myself ( my kids think this is for them), I say at bedtime, “Mom loves you very much…and Jesus loves you even more.”
And that takes me to Hannah’s prayer of praise found in 1 Samuel 2. Imagine just dropping your small child off to a priest for a life-long “camp” experience (when I was a kid I couldn’t make it through one week of overnight camp in late elementary school!) To say I’d be a mom basket case is a gross understatement. The bible says instead of coming unglued, Hannah worshipped the Lord. She prayed a beautiful prayer that is all about God and his justice and mercy. Wow.
#3: Hannah worships God and gives Him praise in the good, the bad, the everything.
I’m not even close to being at this point in my own life. But I’m striving towards giving God all praise even when I don’t like what’s happening. When you read Hannah’s prayer you’ll see that she acknowledges that life’s less than perfect; she’s not naïve or brainwashed. She’s simply devoted to her Maker above all else. She’s trusting in Him for everything – including her own child.
Then Hannah prayed:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord!
The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies;
I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
“Stop acting so proud and haughty!
Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;
he will judge your actions.
The bow of the mighty is now broken,
and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving,
and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life;
he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
and he has set the world in order.
“He will protect his faithful ones,
but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
he increases the strength of his anointed one.”