I Samuel 1:1-3:21
“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD….‘[do] not forget your servant but give her a son…’” ~I Samuel 1:10-11
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 proverbial belt that came with having kids.
There was one other benefit to having children that had an even more significant meaning to married couples in Israel: perpetual life. You see, through posterity, the family DNA, the family name, the family’s unending future would be carried forth in perpetuity.
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 or an insensitive brute—or perhaps both. But Elkannah wasn’t alone in this matter: Even Hannah’s pastor wouldn’t have placed in a Mr. Sensitive contest. He accused her of being drunk as she silently poured out her heart to the Lord:
“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!’” (I Samuel 1:13-14, NLT)
Hannah was alone in her grief, and even worse, she had no hope that things would be any different in the future; she was destined to a life of barrenness. So what’s a misunderstood, hopeless, devastated, childless woman to do? Here’s what Hannah did: She worshiped.
You will notice in the story that Hannah went before the Lord year after year—she persisted. She poured out her heart, time and time again—she trusted. She faithfully presented herself in sacrificial worship before the Lord not only with her husband, but also with his other wife, a mean-spirited rival named Penninah (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 Hannah 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 whatever—offer him your worship. He knows your way, and he knows his plans for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
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.
“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.” ~ Brennan Manning
Reflect and Apply: Reflect on Manning’s statement. If we dare, offer a prayer of gratitude, in sincerity and by faith, for whatever unanswered prayer is on your prayer list.