Hannah: A Heart Poured Out
Hannah’s story is revered by many Christian women. She suffered through barrenness and then selflessly gave up her firstborn to the Lord’s service. We can all learn lessons in faith and humility from Hannah’s life, however, regardless of gender or station in life.
Hannah suffered one of the most difficult trials for a woman in her day. Women were highly valued for their roles as wives and mothers, and when motherhood did not happen, women struggled with feeling useless. Today, there are those in the church who also weep bitterly over infertility. Or maybe we are experiencing spiritual confusion, food addiction, loneliness, or anxiety and depression. Perhaps we find ourselves struggling with singleness, loss of a spouse, financial blunders, or marital crises. Listing all of our daily infirmities would be very tedious! But Hannah knew that her pain and problems were not dull or unwelcome to God.
First Samuel 1:7 tells how she could not even eat because of her stomach-clenching sorrow. Does this sound familiar? In verse ten, though, she puts all her bitterness in God’s hands through prayer. After reading Hannah’s story, it is obvious that Peter’s recommendation was a good one: “Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). This deep concern extends to unbelievers as well: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the LORD God: and not that he should return from his ways and live?” (Ezek. 18:23). We should never doubt that God cares about every aspect of our lives: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Plenty of times, though, even if we are completely miserable, we tend to treat prayer as a last resort. I can safely assume that a vast majority of us struggle with wanting to appear strong and ready to handle anything life throws our way. We do not know how long Hannah suffered in silence, but eventually she realized she could not handle her sorrow on her own. Elkanah, her husband, tried to console her (1 Sam. 1:8), but she could not wait to bring her burden to God. We too will never be satisfied without the comfort found in the true Comforter. Psalm 61:2 is a beautiful summary of Hannah’s earnest prayer in the temple: “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
We have all heard the saying, “Christianity is just a crutch.” But simply living in this world as a human should show us that we do need God desperately. We truly are weak creatures. Metaphorically, not only do we have two shattered legs, but also useless arms, sightless eyes, and a broken and diseased heart. The bottom line is that a relationship with God is essential, throughout this life and the next. Like Hannah, we can take great comfort in not having to bear our burdens alone.
Year after year, Hannah bore the weight of childlessness. She then prayed for a miracle, and God did not despise her request. He had put the desire for children in her heart. Yet, after Samuel’s birth, Hannah’s song illustrates her submission to God’s sovereignty: “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed ... The LORD killeth and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up” (1 Sam. 2:3, 6). Hannah trusted God’s will whatever His answer might be.
Her grace can further be seen in her interactions with others. When Eli misconstrued her earnestness as intoxication, she did not lash out. Instead, she answered courteously and explained that she was “a woman of a sorrowful spirit” (1 Sam. 1:15). When the jealous Peninnah ridiculed Hannah for her infertility, there is no evidence of snide retorts on Hannah’s part. Often, when we are stressed and overwrought, those close to us may have to bear the brunt of our frustration. Of course, these types of reactions are wrong but definitely not unnatural to our fallen state. The Lord will welcome our prayers for the meek spirit Hannah was given.
Hannah’s story is a relatively brief one, spanning only two chapters. But her example is valuable. Her struggle with infertility teaches young and old not to be afraid to cast cares large and small at God’s feet. Secondly, Hannah’s life is a reminder that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28). Regardless of what direction our life seems to be heading, God is worthy of our complete trust. Pour out your heart before Him (Ps. 61:1-2).