The story of Hannah, wife of Elkannah and initially mother of none; a barren woman, highlights the anguish of a woman desperately in need of something. In this case, her desire was for a son, a child birthed from her womb.
We are first introduced to Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1, as one of the two wives her husband had and secondly as a childless woman. Mentioning her childless state indicates to me that this was a significant part of how she was portrayed to those around her and more importantly how she perceived herself.
Despite the comparison between Peninnah and Hannah in verse two of 1 Samuel chapter one, which makes us feel pity for Hannah, verse five indicates that she was valued and extremely loved by her husband.
Many of us have caring, loving supporting people around but no matter how much encouragement we receive, they are never enough to lift us from our place of longing desire.
Her loving husband was struggling to please her, struggling to bring joy and satisfaction to her, and so he asked ‘Am I not worth more to you than ten sons?’. This was a response to an individual need he could not and would not be able to fulfill for his beloved wife. This must have made Elkannah feel of little help.
It is in seasons or moments like these that the all-encompassing existence of God is truly brought to the fore. And in nothing but deep anguish and grief, the Bible records that Hannah poured out her soul to God (vs 15). She wept bitterly, praying to the Lord in her heart, speaking to the Lord with silent, unheard words.
It is evident from her husband’s response in verse 14 that he knew that he did not and could not understand the deep things in Hannah’s heart, but the best option he had as a spiritual man was to pray for peace and the will of the Lord (verse 17) and as her husband, to physically stand with her.
I have experienced this type of lack in my own life, not barrenness, but as it relates to the purpose and the deep desire to gain meaning in my own life. Hannah’s story reminds me of the many anguishes we all experience at some point in our lives. You may not be experiencing barrenness but for some of you, this may very well be your reality.
Despite the pain we read in this story, I am encouraged by Hannah to pour out before the Lord. I must admit, that is where I have often found solace – in the quiet, intimate moments of prayer. I must confess that those moments of pouring out have included many tears and many unspoken words.
My husband, just like Elkanah, has also prayed for peace and the continued unveiling of the will of God in my situation.
Having him alongside other friends who can pray has often proven to be helpful in times of weariness and even then, sometimes it isn’t enough to calm the storms in your heart.
I encourage you, however, to continue pouring out your soul before the Lord; out of the deep anguish, you may be currently facing and will face in the future. God has encouraged us in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 7 that we are to, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’
I hope that in our moments of praying out of great anguish and grief, just like Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1 verse 18, you and I will be able to eat something, go on our way, and have our faces no longer cast down.
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