God Hears Our Pain – Hannah’s Story

Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah.  Peninnah is able to have children. 

Hannah could not conceive.  Not an uncommon problem but it is a personal issue, a sensitive issue, a private matter… here it is a female problem but we know men have problems too.  It is a problem that affects a person psyche and feeling towards self, not something that you want to make public.

“The Lord had closed her womb”: A better understanding of these words are offered in commentaries in which “a woman in OT times who could bear no children was viewed as cursed by God.”  So it is written in a way that makes it appear that it was God’s doing but God had nothing to do with her being able to conceive.  Her condition was interpreted as God’s doing.  Her condition is a result of the sin that is in our fallen world.

She was a target of hurtful words from her rival… not so much to make her angry as to cause inner turmoil and pain… “So it was year after year.  Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and could not eat.”

Hannah endured for many years this internal pain.

Hannah did not retaliate against Peninnah.   It speaks highly of her that is often a weakness in us.  Whenever we are offended, it is easy to lash back at someone who has hurt us.  Hannah did not.

One thing we can learn from Hannah is how we can tame the tongue.

How to tame the tongue: (taming the tongue involves knowing that things you should not say to men may often be said to God.)  Voice any complaints only to the Lord.  Remember that vindication comes only from the Lord.  If you are a victim of an injustice (not talking about a crime, there is a difference, we can learn from Hannah, to take it to God)

Often our lashing out or angry feelings that we voice to others are the complaints in our hearts that are cast onto those around us.  We like to air out our grievances on others when we should air then out to God.

Instead, year after year, she would come before the Lord with her pain.  Her need was not something that humanly could be met nor understood.  Not even her loving husband, Elkanah.

Her husband, 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?”  (So typical of a guy’s insensitive response. Contrast the insensitivity of man versus God.   Sometimes, even our closest loved ones just don’t understand.)

Though we read of how she poured her heart and soul to the Lord, reality, it was probably not the only time she had done so.  In her despair, the only thing she can do is to pour her heart out to the Lord.  She is angry, frustrated, hurt, “in bitterness of soul (in the pain deep within) Hannah wept,”

 Realistically, she probably a sense of hopelessness, futile.

 She continued to cry out to the Lord, making known her feelings, venting if you will her complaint to God.

I believe that she knew that if anybody could change things, God could.

She put her faith and her trust in God. 

Vs. 11 – She made a vow, a promise to the Lord; if she would be able to conceive, she would give up the child into the Lord purposes.

Was she desperate?  Probably.  Was she crazy? No because I believe she knew not only what she was doing but who God was to her that made her vow not a crazy idea.  How do we know how she felt about God and what God meant to her?

Well, as she expressed her vow and desire, it is in an attitude of humility and knowledge of her relationship to God.  “if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me…”  Although she expressed great pain, she also expressed great respect for who God is.  

She knew who she was in God’s eyes.  She didn’t demand God or call upon God as if He were a genie in a bottle, grant me my wish.  I command you… How many of us have asked God for something with a bit of an attitude that somehow God owes us, like we deserve it or it is our right, or that He is obligated.  (I love my boys and though it seems like I give them much, I don’t give them everything they ask all the time.)

Her promise was because of a relationship with God and made in relationship with God. 

She was not selfish in her request.  Though she made such a promise, she was going to leave it towards God to answer it whenever.  She left it for God to decide.  She gave up control over the situation.  God, if it be to your glory and your purposes, let it be done.  She had the “not my will, but yours be done” attitude.

Again her promise was because of a relationship with God and made in relationship with God. 

We see later that her honoring of her promise showed that there was something more in her heart than the usual promises, that by nature, we would make, yet NOT keep.

She had a genuine relationship with God.  She really had to trust God for her to give up her son like that.  It is not hard to conceive the difficulty of her vow and promise.  Just imagine giving up your child.

You know how hard it is to give up your child into the care of the priesthood, no longer to see the child grow daily, interact, etc.

Application:

A lot of us, we ask for things… money, car, companionship, a child, a spouse, talent, gifts, abilities, etc.

Are we willing to give it back to God?  What is our motive and attitude towards the requests we make with God?  Humility or Haughtiness (pride)… selfish or surrender… Are we thinking about ourselves alone or does God’s will and freedom to act, in whatever and whenever way He chooses, have a greater priority in our requests.

What can we learn from Hannah?  With God all things are possible… when we surrender our will, our agendas, our own desires and allow God to be God, He works in our lives.  

Hannah experienced the reality of God.  Her cries were not to an inanimate object, a statue, a picture or a thing, but to the Living God.  “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.”

It is important to know why you believe not only from a propositional point of view but also from an experiential point of view.

Biblical concepts, principles, and teachings remain just that unless we allow ourselves to experience them in our lives.

God is faithful.  He hears the cries of our hearts.  Even in our anguish and grief, the Lord does not reject our honesty and sincerity.

Do you know personally what it means when people say God is faithful?  Do you have your own personal experience?  How about God is good and merciful?  Do you have a personal experience of his goodness or mercy? 

As we face a year of challenges, let us learn from Hannah and how she faced her challenge in life.

 

Pastor Daniel