Hannah is a faithful, submissive, sacrificial, and prayerful saint. She is a godly gal. However, despite her commitment to Yahweh, she is a wounded, weeping, and grieving woman. She is one consumed with “great anxiety and vexation.” (1:16) Why is this? What’s the problem?
1. Hannah is unable to have children. She is barren, for “the Lord has closed her womb.” (1:5)
2. She is in a polygamist relationship. Elkanah, her husband, has taken one named Peninnah to share his house, his table, and his bed. Hannah has only half of her husband’s affection and allegiance. 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.
3. Peninnah has been granted children by the Lord. Consequently, 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.
4. Consequently, she questions her worth. In her culture, children are the mark of significance. Her neighbors want her to have children. Her husband wants her to have children. Desperately, she desires to give birth to sons and daughters. However, she cannot make it happen. She cannot perform. Sadly, she and others might look with pity upon her as a “loser.”
5. This leads to being maligned and held suspect by her neighbors. Behind her back, many wonder what sin she has committed to receive the cursed closing of the womb by the Lord.
6. Hannah’s misery continues as Peninnah mocks her, taunts her, and flaunts her fertility and fruitfulness in Hannah’s face.
7. When Hannah worships, she is further burdened. She reads of God’s promise of children. She knows God is the one who grants such blessings to his covenant people. While at church, she sees many rejoicing in how God has come through and provided. At church, she is encouraged to repent. She is encouraged to have more faith. She is encouraged to pray, but God does not show up “year by year.” (1:7) She knows, all of this pain, suffering, and sin are occurring under the watchful gaze of her Sovereign God who is supposed to be her Heavenly Father. There is no doubt about it, He is the one who can fix what ails her in a moment, and he is choosing not to do so.
8. In addition, she is loved by a husband who just doesn’t get it. Elkanah tries to encourage his spouse by saying, “Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1:8) But he is naive and insensitive; he does not understand the intensity of his bride’s pain.
9. Her ministers are not that sharp either. On one certain day, an elderly pastor judges her improperly. (1:13-14) He finds her style of worship not to be in accord with his preferences, and he deems her to be intoxicated.
Wow … Hannah cannot get a break. But despite her physical dysfunction, her marital frustration, her emotional heartache, her unjust treatment, her sinful leaders, and her personal doubts and struggles, Hannah prays. Yes, despite her “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life” she worships her Sovereign God and calls upon the “Lord of Hosts.”
And, at the proper time, God answers her prayer. When all is said and done, her womb is opened, a healthy son comes forth, her reproach is ended, her emotions are uplifted, her God is honored, and God’s kingdom is furthered — for Samuel will become the great prophet of Israel in that day.
Therefore, how can we be encouraged by this passage?
Let us be encouraged not to buy in to Prosperity Theology. Sometimes God grants a measure of health, wealth, and prosperity to the wicked. Sometimes God grants such to the righteous. He is the One who sovereignly makes some rich and others poor. He is the one who grants some popularity and causes others to be disregarded. God opens some wombs and closes others. One’s material prosperity has nothing to do with one’s faith. Friends, turn off your television preachers. Get rid of your “name it and claim it books.” Open your Bible and see how God’s favor has nothing to do with material grandeur.
Then, let us be men and women of prayer. God answered the petitions of this desperate woman, and he still loves to answer the petitions of desperate worshipers today. Go to him. Express your desires. Pray, “not my will but thine be done.” Know that he will always answer with the most wise “yes, no, or not yet.” But be very aware that God promises answers to prayer. He shows up and keeps his promises. And sometimes, he grants you exactly what you ask because it is fun for you and best for his kingdom purposes.
So, come on church. Let’s be people of passionate, gut-wrenching, desperate prayer. Let’s ask God to perform because we cannot. Let’s be a household of humility and faith, and may this be proven by our prayer gatherings. God loves it when he children offer forth “intoxicated looking” prayers. Let’s pour out our hearts before our Good, Good Father, and watch how he comes through in his own timing. And let’s do it together.