Psalm 120:1 In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.
The Biblical story of Hannah the woman who pleaded for a child has perplexed me on many levels. First I hear the deep grief and humiliation she suffered due to the social stigma of being childless. The love of her husband was not enough to bring joy to this barren wife. Her religious convictions and obedience to God were performed externally, yet she had no peace internally. Hannah focused on the one thing that she did not have, a child, and believed God was the only answer to her prayers.
Yet, I too have been enmeshed in my own myopic version of need. Even though I had family, friends, church, and home, that elusive advancement on my job left me grumbling. I’ve spent large amounts of time serving in the church and when my motives and priorities were challenged by family, I was indignant and held selfishly to what bolstered my self-esteem. Lately, I’ve seen this problem of narrowing perspective in my pursuit of what I believe will be in the best interest of a family member – I’ve told myself that I will not be satisfied until this is done.
The second enigma in Hannah’s story is that she promised to give this child back to God, literally. The child was two, maybe three years old, and Hannah actually took him back to the temple and gave him to the priest. I realize there is a cultural and generational gap the size of Texas between Hannah and me, but she was a mother of her first child! I am a mother and I can tell you that I would not have been able to fulfill a vow to God to give up my toddler! I would have been back in that temple, pleading to keep my child. Yet we do not read that Hannah mourned for little Samuel; instead each year she took him the garments she stitched herself, seemingly at peace with this arrangement. Arguably, she did have other children after her first born, but none can replace a child in the heart of the mother. So how was she able to do this?
A third perplexing statement in Hannah’s story comes from her husband Elkanah. While waiting for the day to give their son to the priest, he said to Hannah, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word,” I Samuel 1:23. This is Elkanah’s first son by the woman he loves most, but he agreed to give up his son because Hannah said that is what she promised to do. According to Judaic law, he could have dismissed her vow to God.
Instead, he dropped his worldly desires and accepted the story yet to be written when he said, “Only let the Lord establish His word.”
What if we could really let go and trust God’s will be done?
What if we really knew that God was on our side? Then we might say as in Acts 5:29a, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
If we could believe or even if we could just live as if we do, perhaps then we would welcome God’s will and like Hannah be able to say, “No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God,” I Samuel 2:2