In my journey to become a crisis chaplain, the first lesson I recall being taught was to never minimize someone’s loss. As you gaze though your neighbor’s window, the death of her little poodle or the pink slip included in his last paycheck may appear to you as minor inconveniences, but to those experiencing them, they can be devastating.
What motivated Hannah to desperately beg for a child when, as part of the “deal,” she was so willing to give him away (I Samuel 1)? I know that she was placing him into the hands of the priests and little Samuel would be dedicated to serving the Lord, but Hannah would still be separated from him. It almost seems that she was praying for the experience of bearing a child instead of the joy of having a child to share life with.
But maybe Hannah’s loss, all those years of watching other women nonchalantly bear and rear children while her yearning went unfulfilled, maybe that emptiness helped her understand that the important part of childbearing was not just having children, but was connecting them with their heavenly Father. Or maybe that hole in her heart was so big that she was willing to endure the pain of separation that would come later for the joy of Samuel’s company during those early years. Regardless of what pushed her there, the priest found her in the temple, pouring her heart out to the Lord, asking Him to give her a child.
But maybe there was more going on than just a barren women wanting a baby.
Israel’s religious system was in a mess. God’s Law instructed that certain portions of meat sacrifices were to be given to the priests. These priests, however, refused what was designated for them and required the worshippers to give them the portions that the priests preferred. These men, who were supposed to be intermediaries between God and His people, were ripping off those who came to worship, committing acts so egregious that, if justice had been served, they would have been stoned to death.
But justice was not being served. The High Priest refused to bring order to the sinful mayhem his sons were creating.
Still, the sincere Israelites continued to worship. Many, like Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, made the journey to the temple every year. Despite the perversion of holiness that surrounded them, they kept their commitment to honor God – just as His Law instructed.
When Samuel was finally born and weaned, his mother brought him to the temple to worship. As she committed her son into the hands of the priest, she prayed a prayer that, on the surface, seemed to refer to her detractors and those who had ridiculed and teased her when she was childless (I Samuel 2). But as you consider her words, she could just as easily be speaking for the entire nation who was suffering under the priests who were making a mockery of their worship. Her prayer of thanksgiving could have been a prophetic message to the whole family of God that He was soon going to set them free.
Hannah probably did not know it then, but her son, Samuel, would be the catalyst for the change God was about to bring in Israel.
That sense of loss that Hannah felt as a barren wife may have been made more intense because her neighbors were crying out to God for deliverance from the wickedness that surrounded them. God needed somebody to want a child so badly that they would dedicate the baby God gave them to His exclusive use. This child would know nothing but the things of God, and his parents would make vows that would ensure his complete commitment.
Hannah did just that. She received her child and Israel gained a revival.
Hannah had the right approach to personal loss and trouble: take it to the house of God and deal with it in the prayer room. She could have gotten angry, fought with her enemies, and grown into a bitter old woman. Israel’s revival would have come from another source, but she would have died childless.
There may be more to your trouble than just your situation. God may have chosen you to be a blessing to those around you. Don’t grow angry and bitter because of your situation. Learn from Hannah and take it to the only place where it can be wholly resolved.
That’s the only way to deal with your trouble. And in the dealing, you just might set your friends free, too.