Hannah is probably one of the more familiar Biblical characters, but I've found that if you approach text with new eyes each time ,new revelations arise. Studying Hannah recently healed me in places I didn't realize I actually needed to heal.
Hannah's story can be found in 1 Samuel chapter's 1 & 2. At the onset of the story we learn that Hannah has had a lifelong struggle with infertility, and she is married to a man (Elkanah) who just so happens to have a 2nd wife with immaculate fertility. Homegirl was popping babies out with no problems! I'm sure we can all imagine how difficult that reality was for Hannah. To be surrounded by fertility and not have the ability to produce.... that'll preach. What made matters worse good old Peninnah (lets call her Penny) was one of these "look what I have that you don't women." Scripture tells us Penny chastised Hannah with her reality, yet Hannah showed Grace. (Which is what her name actually translates to, talk about God knowing the plans He has for our lives). We have to learn to practice Grace, despite the temptation to spew back hate.
As I started to think about how Hannah must have felt, I realized that that feeling was pretty familiar. My husband and I have both been battling with infertility, for the last year and a half or so... From cancer scares, to hearing it just may never happen for us... we have tackled it all. Ive always been one of those women with maternal instinct that dreams of having a house full of kids to love; swallowing the reality that the process to get to this dream will be long and hard, leaves a real lump in your throat. If I am honest, sometimes it feels like no one really understands this plight, unless they are encountering similar issues of their own. When everyone around you can conceive, and does, it can feel equivalent to Penny's taunting... even though deep down you know that is not what is happening. It is easy to look at the fruit in everyone else's life and wonder why your tree is over there looking all bare.
Hannah's story made me realize however, that infertility plagues all of us. While I may have been deemed infertile in the natural, several people struggle with infertility in the supernatural. If we really do a self- check, some of us will realize we are infertile in our careers, marriages, creativity, and dreams. Not being able to conceive ANYTHING can leave a real sting in your life. Hannah learned how to fight the sting, and showed me we all have the same power.
In 1 Samuel chapter 1 Hannah goes to the temple and prays fervently. In fact, she was so enthralled in her prayer that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk! I can see a woman who has been beaten with her circumstance, and is ready to give all of her weight to God. A woman who realizes that hiding her feelings is pretty pointless, God knows how she really feels anyway. Hannah is saying God I am angry, I am hurting..I have been mad at you, I have been mad at the world. And most of all, I may not understand why this is happening to me, but I do know that I need you to fix it. How many of us are this honest? God never told us we had to hide our emotions, but He did tell us to lay down our burdens for Him and LEAVE THEM THERE.
We can't ask God to fix it and then refuse to let him do so. Hannah is saying God I am giving this to you and I am going to stand in faith and believe that it is so. In her prayer Hannah tells God that if He will give her a son, she will give him back. Some may think this is completely off base, are we supposed to bargain with God? I think it depends on how you look at the request. I believe that Hannah was at a place of complete surrender, and in doing so she decided to show God that the one thing she wanted the most she could and would let go for Him. That's growth. Hannah was telling God I have wanted this for so long, but my relationship with You is still worth more. That should be convicting. How many times do we petition for something, allowing the idea of it to be the most important thing in our lives. We never consider that maybe God needs to see we haven't lost focus. Our first priority should always be Him, when anything takes precedence over that it is hard for Him to give it to us. We have to show our Father that we can maintain our relationship with him before he can trust us to maintain our relationship with anyone or anything else.
I also found it to be noteworthy that Eli begins to speak life into Hannah's dead situation. Eli tells Hannah her prayers have been heard and to leave in faith that God will answer. We have to be ok with sharing our perils and receiving positivity! Let's be honest, sometimes when we are down in the dumps we tend to want to wallow in it. If you don't want to admit it I will.. I have rolled my eyes at the "it'll happen for you," pep talks on several occasions. Sometimes it just seems like, of course you are positive you are not dealing with what I am. But the truth is God sends us support systems, and we should be thankful that He thinks enough of us to consider this need as well.
When Hannah finally receives her son, Samuel, she tells her husband that when he is weaned (so about 3 years old) they have to take him back to Eli to serve the Lord. Elkanah agrees. Now think about this, Elkanah did not make this promise to God, and Samuel is his son too. It would not be off base for Elkanah to respond with a simple , "Nah.. we aren't doing that." Instead, he tells Hannah since she made a vow to God, they will keep it. Challenge yourself to really have faith in the spouse you have been given, honor their relationship with God, and support the vows they make. Being one with your spouse in the face of peril, will always gets you further then you can travel alone.
When Samuel is of age Hannah does exactly what she said she would do. I can only imagine how difficult this was. Making a vow doesn't make the pain less painful. But what happens next is what in my opinion makes Hannah a biblical role model. Hannah gives Samuel to Eli, and then praises God. She actually has almost an entire chapter dedicated to this powerful prayer. This act of nobility speaks to the idea that although we don't always know why things happen, we do know that God is still on the throne. He promised to never leave us, He did not promise that trials wouldn't arise. Praising past the pain has to become our lifestyle, it truly is the only way to swallow those blows that will inevitably come our way.
Samuel goes on to be one of the wisest men mentioned in our Great Book. He is a prophet that anoints both King David and King Saul. Hannah's faith not only turned her infertility into fertility, her production went on to manifest into the lives of nations to come. And to ice the cake, Hannah goes on to have 5 more kids. God tested Hannah's faith and then multiplied her offering. What faith test are you enduring in your life right now? Let go of the struggle, so our Father can give you double for your trouble!