Like Hannah, you and I must learn to worship until worship becomes our first and best response to not only the delightful, but to the devastating things in life.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 1:10-11
Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine” She replied, “Oh no, sir! I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
Nobody really understands the pain of desiring children but not being able to have any like the barren. Hannah was a childless woman in a culture where children meant everything—a woman’s worth and desirability to her husband, her bragging rights at family gatherings, the admiration of the other women at the market, her husband’s ammunition for one-upping the other guys hanging out at the city gates, as well as a whole host of other cultural notches on the belt that came with having kids. And there was one other benefit to having children that had an even more significant meaning to married couples in Israel: eternal life. You see, through posterity, the family DNA, the family name, the family’s unending future would be carried forth in perpetuity.
So in light of all that, Hannah’s grief over having no children is more than most of us could ever begin to understand—unless, of course, you have suffered the disappointment of barrenness yourself. Even her husband, Elkanah, didn’t get it:
Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons? (I Samuel 1:8, NLT)
Either he was a complete dolt and didn’t get it, or he was a complete dolt who also happened to be an insensitive brute. But Elkannah wasn’t alone in this matter: Even Hannah’s pastor didn’t fare too well in the Mr. Sensitive category. He accused her of being drunk as she silently poured out her heart to the Lord:
Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, Eli thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” (I Samuel 1:13-14, NLT)
Hannah was alone in her grief, and even worse, she had no hopes that things would be any different in the future, destined to a life of barrenness. So what is a misunderstood, hopeless, devastated, childless woman to do? Well, here’s what Hannah did: she worshiped.
You will notice in the story that Hannah went before the Lord year after year—she didn’t give up. She poured out her heart, time and time again—trusting that God would one day hear her. She faithfully presented herself in sacrificial worship before the Lord not only with her husband, but also with his other wife and her mean-spirited rival, Penniah (I Samuel 1:7)—she pressed into God. As difficult as her situation was, Hannah worshiped the One who had her life, including all its details, big and small, in his good hands. And finally, in timing understood only by God, he granted her request and she bore Samuel, who grew up to be the greatest of Israel’s prophets.
Hannah worshiped! That’s what you and I must learn to do, too, until worship becomes our first and best response to not only the delightful, but to the devastating things in life. If you are a childless woman whose pain and disappointment is understood only by God—worship him. He is your only hope and the One who knows his plans for your life—plans that are always good, even when you don’t particularly like them. And if you are suffering other kinds of barrenness—in your relationships, your finances, your career, your ministry, or even your walk with the One you are worshiping—offer him your worship. He knows your way, and he knows his plans for you. Jeremiah 29:10-14, one of the great promises for those who are in the midst of pain, promises,
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
As tough as it may be to offer your worship to the Lord when things aren’t going your way, it’s the best and only thing that will set your heart right. Brennan Manning writes in his great little book, Ruthless Trust,
To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.
Hannah worshiped the Lord. May that be true of you, too!