Hannah felt her pain very deeply, in the depths of her soul. She had been taunted and tormented by someone who should have been doing life with her. She had been put down and ridiculed for something that was completely out of her control, for something she herself longed for with every fiber of her being but was unable to make possible. The injustice of her life must have weighed heavily on her, especially in the days and weeks leading up to the annual trip of sacrifice at the temple.
I wonder if Hannah and her sister wife Peninnah were always at odds. I wonder if they were in competition from the day Elkanah married Peninnah as his second wife. Did Hannah always feel compared to this second wife? Did she wonder why she wasn’t enough for her husband alone? Or did this second wife come about because of Hannah’s “failure” to produce children for her husband, as we so culturally important to them? Did Hannah always seem less-than compared to other women, even before this new torment began? Or was it the result of being taunted by this woman, this person who should have been her ally and friend, doing life together with the same man? Did she feel so utterly helpless, depressed, crushed, for more reasons than just her deep longing to bear a child, a son for her husband who loved her and wanted to show her off?
I know what if feels like to feel less than because of something you cannot possibly control. I’ve been “heavy-set” for most of my life as a result of a medical condition that they are only now beginning to understand in the medial world. My weight has always just been a fact of my life for me, just a part of who I am. But I’ve never really thought it held me back from doing what I wanted to do until the day I was told I was too large to be a part of a missions organization. I had already been through three other rejections for other reasons that I could not remedy immediately, but this one… I knew it might be an issue once I got to the field, but I had not imagined being rejected before I could even begin. And while I was not taunted as relentlessly as Hannah, I did feel the enemy begin his usual tactics of abuse in my heart and mind. It was this last, fourth rejection that led me to deep, soul-breaking cries to the Lord I knew was calling me to more. “How can I do what I long so desperately to do, Lord? How can I even get there, much less be able to achieve the dreams You have put in my heart with this ‘thorn in my side’? Why did You give me this passion, this burning desire to go and find more of You and share You with more and more people if it is not truly possible?” My heart cried out to Him in a way that I can only imagine Hannah did as well. And while our desires were different, the pain behind them was very much the same. Like Hannah, I longed deeply for something, and had for some years. And Like Hannah, I needed God to be the one to bring it to fruition in my life. Like Hannah, I was being held back, ridiculed, taunted for something that I could not fix if I wanted to. And like Hannah, the only thing I knew to do was to fall before Him and cry until there were no words left to cry.
I read these words today and I am instantly connected to the heart of Hannah and the pain she carried. I understand her fear when others don’t recognize her pain for what it is and accuse her of misdeeds. I feel her frustration with life as she bargains and pleads with God to make things change. And I laugh happily in my heart as I feel her joy at the birth of her son, Samuel. My soul dances with joy at the scene of her in the temple with her son, showing Eli the priest what God has done in response to her heartache.
Now, as I walk into my second year on the mission field, I celebrate even more a God who knows our hearts so intimately. I praise a God who not only puts the passions in our hearts, but walks with us each and every step of the journey until He sees those passions turn into realities for His kingdom, for His name sake, for His glory! How great is the God we serve that would not only choose to include us in the work He is doing, but to use that inclusion to draw us more into Him, into a deeper understanding of who He is and how much He loves us?! Just like Hannah, I recognize that I could not accomplish anything of value in this life without my loving Father. And like Hannah, I give it all back to Him! Thank You, Lord, for loving me enough to want to include me in Your plans. Thank You for putting passions and dreams inside of me that can only be filled by You, ensuring that my relationship with You grows deeper and stronger with each new journey. Thank You for being a god that not only puts these passions in our hearts but makes a way for them to become a reality in You. Your goodness knows no ends. Your love and desire for us knows no ends. Your amazing understanding of the depths of each of us knows no ends. And I am forever grateful to serve a God like You! Thank You, my Provider, My Love, My King, My Friend! I don’t deserve Your love and yet You give it so freely. Thank You, Abba!