Stories from the Middle 2: Hannah

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1st Samuel beings the story of one of the greatest figures in the Old Testament, however before Samuel’s story begins, we are given a very brief view of a long and painful personal ordeal in the life of a woman named Hannah. See, Hannah was unable to have children, anyone who has faced this in their lives would know that this is an absolutely horrific place to find yourself in. Making matters worse, Hannah’s husband had another wife who seemed to have no problem having children. The bible says that “year by year” the whole family would travel to the temple at Shiloh to make sacrifices to God. This journey should have been a joyous occasion, but it was yet another reminder to Hannah of what she did not have. Hannah’s husband would give his other wife portions of sacrifice for her and “all of her sons and daughters,” while he would give Hannah extra because he loved her and knew how painful it was for her not to have children of her own. I can imagine the pain Hannah must have felt, the yearly trip was a constant reminder of what she did not have, compounding this the bible says that the other wife “used to provoke her (Hannah) grievously to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb. (v. 7) Hannah had both internal and external pressures adding to her daily grief.

It is easy to read quickly through the first 19 verses of 1st Samuel chapter 1, we get to the good news a lot quicker than Hannah did. In only a matter of moments, we read that she is given a son, Samuel, but within the verses, it took us only minutes to read, YEARS pass by. 1st Samuel 1:7-8

“So, it went on YEAR by YEAR. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore, Hannah wept and would not eat, and Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

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Hannah’s distress seemed as if it would NEVER end, yet Hannah never gave up. We are not told how many years went by, only that it was a number of years, yet when Hannah went to the temple, she still prayed for what her heart desired most. She did not let the years of pain or all the uncertainty of waiting remove the hope that she had that God could still act on her behalf, but she also suffered through this time, not knowing if this would be her reality for the rest of her life. On this particular trip to Shiloh, Hannah prayed through her sadness, making a vow to God that she will give back her son to God if God will bless her with any offspring after all this time. Her praying even caused the Priest to think she was drunk.

“I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine or strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (V. 15-16 ESV)

The Priest, Eli, tells her to go in peace and that God will answer her request, and we are told quickly that she conceived, had a son named Samuel, which she brought to the temple to give him back to God as a servant in the Temple and God blessed her with more children.

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God was faithful to Hannah, blessing her with not just one son (which seemed impossible) but with multiple children, but it did not happen on the timetable that Hannah would have preferred. I don’t pretend to know the answers as to why she had to endure the years of waiting, but I know that she never gave up on God no matter how long the process was. I pray that we hold on to God in the same way, no matter how long we feel stuck in the middle of it all. God has not forgotten you, and He is not incapable of doing what seems overdue or impossible. Paul encourages us in this often-quoted verse:

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you.