You ever want something so bad that it hurts? That’s one of the first thoughts that came to mind when reading through the early parts of 1 Samuel for today’s reading. Look at Hannah’s story as it plays out here. She was dearly loved by her husband, but despised by his other wife. Hannah is barren and as a result, she is talked down to and made fun of by Elkanah’s other wife. For some reason Elkanah seems to be clueless about the effect that Peninnah’s provoking had on Hannah. Nevertheless, Hannah finds herself in the temple at the time of year where they would go to Shiloh to make sacrifices to the Lord. This year is a little different than years past in that she seems to be at the end of her rope. Here, she finds herself begging of the Lord for a son. The passage here says that she was greatly distressed (the word for distressed here alludes to pain). In other words, she was so upset that it hurt. So Hannah prayed this prayer:
She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. – 1Sa 1:11-15 NASB
Part of this story reminds me of the time I walked in on my wife while she was praying. Her eyes were closed, and she was really animatedly carrying on what looked like a pretty serious silent conversation. Eyes closed, lips moving, facial expressions, but no sound. I thought we might’ve driven her crazy, but it turns out she was just praying.
As the chapter progressed, we learn that Hannah is blessed with a son, and she does indeed dedicate him to the Lord’s service. She finally got the one thing that she’d longed for and then kept her promise to the Lord by giving Samuel back to the Lord.
“For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. “So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. – 1Sa 1:27-28 NASB
Makes me think of how tightly and selfishly I’ve held on to the things that God has blessed me with. As if I could do better with it than He can. As I’m reading the story of Samuel’s birth, I’m compelled as a parent and as a believer to open my hands the way that Hannah did. How many of us pray the way that she did? She wasn’t afraid to put herself on the line and kept her word with the Lord. In the next chapter, we will see the results of her faithfulness as God blesses both Samuel and Hannah. Today I ask these questions: Is there a God given desire for anything that you want so bad that it hurts? Are you holding on to the blessings from the Lord instead of offering them back to Him?