When I think of Hannah, I think of discomfort.
If you’ve never heard the story of Hannah, it goes a little bit like this. Hannah was a woman married to a man named Elkanah, who also had a wife named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, Hannah did not. And Hannah desperately wanted a child. Her story is found in 1 Samuel 1 & 2, but I’ll recap it here for you.
She was a woman who wanted something so bad that she looked half drunk with longing for it in church. And to make matters worse, her sister-wife (did they call them that back then?) would taunt and mock her. I have no idea how Hannah had the patience to endure that girl, and I wonder if she ever lost her temper with Peninnah.
I don’t think her husband’s response to her hurt was all that sympathetic. Questioning why she’s upset and then trying to make her feel better because “why do you want sons when you have me?” is probably not the best way to be a comforting husband. Poor guy. His one line in the Bible and it doesn’t really paint him in a great light.
Hannah was just in an uncomfortable place. She was not where she wanted to be. Every part of her was so desiring something that she didn’t have. She probably had days where she was screaming in frustration. She probably had days when she was a sad mess. She probably had days where she had reconciled the fact that this desire may not be one that she would ever see come to fruition. I understand Hannah’s frustration probably more than I’ll ever admit, not because I desire a child, but because I have wanted.
Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice. On the days when he would present his sacrifice, he would give portions of meat to his wives, and the Bible talks about how Hannah was so distressed that she could not even eat.
And at one time, Hannah was so anguished that she was crying and praying to God in a way that the priest Eli asked her if she was drunk (I don’t know what they thought drunkenness looked like back in the day, but apparently it looks like a woman praying).
Hannah explains why she’s been distressed, and Eli told her now to go in peace, and prayed that God might grant her his request. And this blessing is what allowed Hannah to finally be set free from her sadness. So, as it happens, the next time Elkanah and Hannah slept together, God remembered Hannah and her distress, and she got pregnant.
I wish there was more recorded about Hannah’s experience after she found out that she was pregnant. There’s nothing recorded on her joy and excitement, but I wish there was.
When I think of Hannah, I think of a girl who hit her knees on the ground every day. I think of grit and tears. I think of determination and anger and frustration. I think of worship, praise, and fulfillment, of sacrifice and prayer.
I think of prayers that scream “how long, Lord?” and prayers that echo into heaven about wants and desires and fingers that didn’t feel like working any more, and a joy that didn’t seem to visit as frequently. I think of tears. I think of hurt. I think of thoughts and wills and emotions that bleed with disappointment.
I wish I could talk to Hannah. I wish I could hear her wisdom, I wish I could hear her whole story from top to bottom.
She eventually had a child – Samuel. Her answered prayer. And with that answered prayer, she gave him right back up to God, and he spent his days growing up in the temple.
This is the unfathomable part; that Hannah would give up a child that she had prayed over for so many years. Hannah’s dream was her son, and she gave her dream back to God. The symbolism is not lost on me. I wonder if it was not lost on her.
Hannah went on to have more children, in case you were wondering. She had five, as a matter of fact – three sons and two daughters.
When you’re in the waiting season it seems like all there is to your life is the wait. Beating down doors that don’t seem to open, knuckles bruised from the knocking. I’m in the waiting season. And there’s a lot more frustration than answers, and a lot more tears than there are smiles, and a lot of questioning and wondering.
But when I think of Hannah’s story, I recall the answered prayer.
And I think of a God who remembers.
My heart rejoices in the Lord; for He has made me strong.
1 Samuel 2: 1; Hannah’s Prayer of Praise