The Weight of Grief
When we cannot see the way forward in life, we must look up to our God.
This is what Hannah did. Her childlessness meant she bore a weight of grief, which was compounded by being provoked by Peninnah, her husband’s second wife, who had given birth to many children (1 Samuel 1:4, 6), and by her husband’s insensitive and thoughtless questions (v 8). When we are facing trial or grief, Hannah serves as our example first in what she did not do. She did not become resentful toward God, nor did she seek vengeance against her rival, Peninnah. Instead, she removed herself from the environment that provoked her sense of disappointment and placed herself in the presence of the one who holds the answers. She brought her tears, her sighs, her longings—all expressions of her sad heart—before God.
As Hannah prayed, she was not attempting to induce God’s favor with a promise. Hannah recognized God as majestic and sovereign and herself as His servant. She simply asked God to do for her what He had done for His people in the past.
After Hannah brought her grief to the Lord, but before her prayer was answered, her appetite returned and her countenance changed. In other words, the resolution for Hannah was not in her pregnancy or the subsequent arrival of a child but in the fact that she had cast her anxieties on the Lord. That was what settled her spirit and lightened her step.
Psalm 73 recounts the difficulties the psalmist faced which caused him nearly to lose his faith. He knew God was good and looked after His people—but his experience seemed to differ. That all changed, though, when he came before God in his desperation: “When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:16-17). For both Hannah and the psalmist, peace and understanding came as they brought their griefs and troubles into the sanctuary—into the very presence of God Himself.
When you encounter difficult circumstances that provoke you and test your belief in God’s goodness, where do you go? Do you submerge yourself beneath your troubles? Or do you enter the sanctuary of God’s presence in prayer? When you face distress, cry out to God, in whose presence you stand because of the finished work of Christ. As you remember that He is sovereign and good and acts on behalf of His people, you can pray with confidence and boldness and experience the peace that comes only from above—even before you see how He will answer your prayer.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
The Birth of Samuel
1There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.1 6And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
9After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”2
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