Hannah and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life

Hannah weeps and will not eat. She is a faithful, submissive, sacrificial, prayerful, and godly woman, and she hurts terribly. Why?

She is unable to have children. The Lord has closed her womb.

She is maligned and held suspect by her neighbors. Behind her back, many are wrongly wondering what sin she has committed to receive the cursed closing of the womb by the Lord. In her ancient culture, she is on the verge of being considered a loser since she cannot give children to her man.

She is not the only woman in her husband’s life. Elkanah has taken another bride, and one can only imagine the “joy” of walking an aisle a second time to see one’s husband attaching himself to another woman. The wedding feast and night of consummation must have been unbearable.

Hannah’s misery increases when Peninnah becomes pregnant.She is forced to help mother the child of her sister-wife. Now, every morning she hears the cry of an infant who longs for his mother’s breasts. Every night she watches her husband delightfully playing with the child that came from the other woman. Sure, Hannah is grateful for God’s gift of life. Sure, she is happy for her husband. However, even a super-saint would struggle in such a situation.

She is taunted and mocked by Peninnah. When it is time to go to church, life becomes almost unbearable. Hannah is surrounded by happy mothers and their cute children. At church, Hannah hears the various Scriptures which promise God’s blessings of land and children. While at church, Hannah hears the testimonies and praises of worshipers who have received positive answers to their prayers. There, she is encouraged to repent. There, she is encouraged to have more faith. And regularly and ruthlessly at worship, Peninnah flaunts her fertility in the face of Hannah.

She is loved by a husband who just doesn’t get it. Elkanah tries to encourage his spouse, but he does not understand the intensity of her pain. (1:8)

She is pastored by depraved ministers. The worship service is led by an elderly priest, with a dysfunctional family, who judges her improperly. (1:13-14)  He is assisted by two other ministers — Hophni and Phinehas — who have vile reputations in the community and are not beyond trying to seduce her. (3:12, 22)

To top it all off, all of this pain, suffering, and sin are occuring under the watchful gaze of her Sovereign God. There is no doubt about it, God is the one who can fix what ails her in a moment, and he is choosing not to do so.

However, while being deeply distressed and weeping bitterly, Hannah prays. In the midst of her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life, she properly worships her Sovereign God. She is a female Job who properly handles her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad existence.

First, she does not allow her dysfunctional priests to discourage her worship.

Friends, we cannot let the sinful “father figures” in our lives discourage us from communing with our Heavenly Father and Great High Priest. They cry with you. They sympathize with you. They are able to understand your temptations, tests, and trials. Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Even when he does not quickly solve your earthly problems, he ever exists to comfort your weary soul. Christ is the fountain of living water, not our fathers, husbands, and elders.

Second, she is aware of the “Lord of Hosts,” or as Martin Luther penned in his hymn, “Lord Sabbaoth his name.” God is the one who has the whole world in his hands. He is the one harming her, and he has the might and power to come to her rescue. (1:11)  He, who closes the womb, can open it at his discretion.

God is responsible for the pain in your life. In an effort to defend God’s honor, some diminish his power. However, when one looks at the stories of Job, Joseph, Ruth, and Hannah, one sees God’s all-encompassing, providential control. When Satan buffets, God is actively watching. When children are killed, God is there. When righteous men are thrown into pits and into prison, God is on the scene. When famine ravages a land and husbands die too young, God ordains such. The Lord rules over the non-fertile womb. He also commands his dysfunctional church. God is not the author of sin, but he is sovereignly in charge. Therefore, in your time of trouble, do not diminish his omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence. He watches all, and he can cure all when and if he desires.

Third, she is aware of her position. Three times Hannah presents herself as the servant or slave of God. (1:10-11)  She exists to honor, magnify and serve the Lord. His will is supreme; not her desires, passions and promotion. In her prayer, she is not demanding something owed, but requesting further grace.

Therefore, as as we hurt and pray, may we have the attitude of Hannah and Jesus. May the phrase, “Not my will, but thine be done” permeate our prayers.

Fourth, she is passionate about using God’s gifts in God’s service. She is not asking selfishly, but missionally. If God were to change his current course of action and give her a son, she would willingly offer him back to the Lord.

What will you do if God answers your prayer?  If he grants you extended life, will you live it for him? If he grants you children, will you give them back to his service? If he gives you financial prosperity, will you give it away? If he grants you a spouse, will you sacrifice all to improve your mate? How will you respond if God grants you more undeserved grace? Perhaps the best way to answer the question is to see what we have done with our previous blessings.


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