I love the story of Hannah.
Her life is so rich with the beauty of the relatable.
This morning I just needed time with Hannah.
The story of Hannah starts in 1 Samuel 1. Out of love and respect for your time, I have cut this story down and extracted the highlights (you’re welcome!)
There was a man whose name was Elkanah
He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah.
Peninnah had children,
but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship to the Lord Almighty
Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah
But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her..
and the Lord had closed her womb.
Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival (Peninnah) kept provoking her in order to irritate her..year after year.
Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.
Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
..by the doorpost of the Lord’s house, in her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli (a priest of the Lord’s House) observed her mouth.
Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.
Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord! I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”
Then she went her way..
and her face was no longer downcast.
Good stuff, right?
How can you not love Hannah?
Hannah knew what it was to be bullied.
She knew the pain of feeling like she wasn’t measuring up.
Hannah had to face jealousy and bitterness. Her rival could give her husband children. Oh the pain! The biggest bully in her life was getting the blessing she longed for. (Haven’t we all kind of been there?)
knowing the teasing was coming
knowing it would make her cry, which probably embarrassed her more
knowing that the pain of it all would make it hard to eat
knowing all of this waited for her, this thing remained “..year after year.
Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord…”
Hannah went anyway.
Despite all that she would face.
Hannah went to the Lord anyway.
Hannah realized the worth of time with God.
And having nothing to offer but her pain, she threw herself down at the steps of the house of the Lord.
And its a lovely image- because even agony becomes beautiful when it leads us to Him.
And suddenly we find Hannah saying “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord!” And I have heard teachings on this before – that Eli was able to make a prophesy in that moment and to comfort Hannah “may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” And since Hannah went home and eventually gave birth to Samuel, it would be safe to conclude that it was Eli’s words that ushered comfort into Hannah’s heart.
But suddenly I am not so sure that is the whole truth of what happened here.
I think what brought Hannah comfort in that moment was fully, completely..God.
She went and sought the Lord the earnest prayers poured out. Her heart cried to the heart of her Creator.
And then, sure, Eli showed up and watched her.
And thought she was a drunk woman.
And our sad, downcast Hannah begins to preach what seems to me like a pretty convicting word to the priest “I have been praying!” (As in “And you’re a priest, shouldn’t you know what genuine prayer looks like?”)
Seems to me that Hannah had already found her Strength again.
Before Eli enters the scene, God does.
In Hannah’s willingness to hold out her broken heart – God takes over, providing strength and hope.
Maybe Eli had a vision, or maybe he confirmed one or maybe he was reminded in that moment that God hears honest prayers.
But in the end..
what saved Hannah
what calmed the torrent of tears and agony
what assured and strengthened Hannah
..was taking her heart to the Lord.
And it works this way for us today.
The only thing that will ever heal, calm or strengthen a hurting heart is the Lord.
And then Hannah walked away.
And the bible tells us “her face was no longer downcast”
That’s right, it wasn’t.
It was lifted..
to the heavens
towards the Keeper of Promises
to the Deliverer, the Comforter
..to the Giver of Joy.
Pour out your soul, friends.
And let Him lift your chin, and lift your spirit.
Praying for a Hannah-like Heart and Authentically Yours,
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces ~ Psalm 34:5