This is the third installment of the Tackling “THE WHY” article series. The first two installments can be found here: Part 1, Part 2. The purpose of this article series is to help us deal with tough circumstances in life through relating to biblical figures and situations, thereby helping us grow in our faith in GOD.
Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1 – 2:11)
We are introduced to Hannah in the first chapter of the book of Samuel. Hannah was married to Elkanah, but Elkanah was also married to Peninnah. The scriptures state that, “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (verse 2). Later on in more detail, about Hannah it says, “…the LORD had closed her womb” (verse 6). Peninnah is described as Hannah’s rival and she would provoke Hannah “severely, to make her miserable.” We are not told why “the LORD had closed her womb,” but we know this was over several years of their marriage because verse 7 states, “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she (Peninnah) provoked her; therefore she (Hannah) wept and did not eat.”
Hannah was not able to have children but her rival was and made sure that Hannah knew about it. She rubbed it in Hannah’s face and it hurt Hannah terribly. Did Hannah do anything to deserve this? We are not told if she did or did not, but I can only imagine that the pain increased each year, especially during the years that Peninnah was having children. This indeed was a tough circumstance; very difficult to imagine.
Hannah decided to do something about her situation. She decided to pray. Verse ten says, “She was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.” Hannah described herself as “a woman of sorrowful spirit” or “troubled in spirit.” She described her prayer as pouring out her soul before the LORD (verse 15). I would say Hannah prayed a fervent prayer, one of much passion and intensity because it came directly from the heart. I think I am safe in saying that she was totally honest before the LORD as she stated that she spoke “out of the abundance of [her] complaint and grief” or another version says she spoke out of her “great anxiety and vexation.” I’m thinking she laid it all out there and told the LORD how she felt. I can imagine there were many tears shed as she poured out her heart and soul to the LORD.
I do not know about you but I have done that before. There was one particular issue that I was vexed with for years and I could not understand why GOD was allowing me to continue to go through it. I had tried everything I could think of to remedy the situation and one day while driving down the highway I began to pray to GOD. At one point in time I am sure that I screamed at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure that people either thought I was crazy or that I really loved a song playing on the radio. In essence, I vented to the LORD. I vented to the ONE who is in control of all things. Towards the end, I actually apologized to GOD because of how I raised my voice and the tone of my petition. Tears were shed and I poured out my heart to HIM. HE heard my prayer and HE answered it.
There is not a method with GOD. In scripture we see that some prayers were answered right away and some prayers took awhile to get answered. Then there were times where GOD had a made up mind about something and it did not matter who petitioned HIM, the answer would be a resounding “No!” GOD may not answer every prayer the way we want HIM to, but Peter encourages the saints to cast all of their care upon the LORD because “HE cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Yes, HE cares for you!
Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in HIM at all times, O people; pour out your heart before HIM; GOD is a refuge for us.” I tell you the same. Trust in HIM at all times! Pour out your heart before HIM! GOD is a refuge for us!
In her prayers, Hannah made a vow to the LORD. I do not tell you this as a matter of methodology – meaning, I am not telling you to take the same approach, as I stated earlier that I do not believe there is a particular method that can be used with GOD to get the response you want in prayer. Rather, I am just sharing this as a vital part of the story. Hannah made a vow that if GOD gave her a son, she would give the son back to GOD all the days of his life. This seems a little strange to probably most of humanity. She is asking GOD for something and if HE gives it to her she is going to give it back to HIM? Huh? Are we missing something here? Nope. I think we are seeing the heart of Hannah; a beautiful heart. One that is willing to give up the one thing she has always wanted for the service and glory of GOD. Wow.
Why would a woman with a heart like this have to go through the pain of not being able to have a child while someone like Peninnah was able to have multiple children? On the surface it does not seem right, does it? Let me pose another question: What if Hannah’s heart was not always like that? What if the condition of Hannah’s heart changed over the years as each year went by and she was not able to have a child? What if it took her going through those tough years to make her heart so tender and soft that she would make such a request?
Think of the violent circumstances meat has to go through in order to be tenderized. The meat is pounded with a mallet to break the fibers and make the meat softer. Yes, I understand they have powders that can do the trick too, but sometimes it takes the violent confrontation with the mallet for the chef to get the meat soft like they want it. Each year Hannah’s heart was pounded by the reality of a closed womb. Each year Hannah’s heart was pounded by the reality of her antagonistic rival being blessed with many children. Maybe, just maybe it was these things that softened the heart of Hannah which led to a mind-blowing promise to GOD. Nevertheless, we are not given an answer to any of the questions I asked in the previous paragraph, however, these may be good questions to ponder via the scriptures.
Next week we will continue with Hannah’s story as we strive to tackle “THE WHY.”
Grace and peace.