Friday, August 15, 2014

Hannah: Great Faith Grows from Difficult Situations

He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 

It is hard to imagine a life more difficult than to be married to a man who had two wives. Except if one of the wives was childless, and that wife was you. In two sentences, the author of the book of 1 Samuel created a picture of a heart-breaking situation.  But no, it gets worse.

Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

So let's picture this: a life in a household full of children, none of them are yours, another woman who provokes you, and a husband who does not get it. Year after year after year. So it's no wonder that during holiday time, when the rest of the family is joyful and feasting, Hannah is inconsolable. Can you blame her?

Do you remember a Christmas, when everyone around you seemed jolly and in the holiday spirit, but your life was falling apart and it was all you could do to drag yourself out of bed? This is where we find Hannah.

Hannah in her anguish and desperation prays the scary prayer: Lord All-Powerful, you can see how sad I am. Remember me. Don’t forget me. If you will give me a son, I will give him to you. He will be yours his whole life. So God "remembers" her and gives her a son. Hannah demonstrates her great faith and integrity by fulfilling her vow, and returns her son to the priest to raise and serve the Lord in the temple.

Did you ever get so desperate that you prayed the scary prayer? The one where you are finally willing to risk all to the get the one thing from God you so urgently need?  From our point of view, it looks like God finally "remembers" us.  But God never forgot us. It is not like He is in heaven and sudden smacks His forehead and declares, "oh dear, I forget about Barbara!" No, His plans for us are perfect, planned ahead of time, since He created the world! As for Hannah and her son Samuel, God had huge plans. Samuel became a great judge and prophet in Israel, filled with the Holy Spirit.  He went on to anoint the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David. God always planned for Hannah to have a son, but He was working on Hannah's heart to be the woman she needed to be first.

As our small group read about Hannah's life together, we could not picture ourselves having enough faith to give our first child away to be raised by someone else, even if we had promised. But let's not be discouraged by our lack of faith. Instead, let's be amazed by what the Holy Spirit of God can do in a woman's life. Over years, and through circumstances, God strengthened Hannah's faith and encouraged her heart to be able to trust God with her precious son. That same Holy Spirit is working in our hearts as well, making us the women He always intended us to be. God transforms us through our prayers but also through the difficult circumstances we face day by day.

Was Hannah bitter over giving her son back to the Lord as she promised? Not at all. The Bible records her song of praise: Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance." I believe that even if Hannah's story ended here, Hannah would have had peace. But God has much better plans than that. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Years later, Mary of Nazareth, as she rejoices in the Child in her womb, uses Hannah's words in her song of praise ( see Luke 1:46-55). Hannah's story of her faith and God's faithfulness, was used to encourage centuries of women.

Life is difficult, but God wastes none of our pain! He is working in our lives and hearts to make us women of great faith. God uses our lives to be encouragement to others. He never forgets us, but is working all things together for our good and His purposes.

Father, thank You reminding us of that, with Hannah's life!

Read Hannah's story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. 

Read about the time I prayed the scary prayer and how it turned out for me: click here. 

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