As the morning sun woke Hannah from her slumber, the familiar feelings of disappointment and discouragement welled up deep inside of her. It was the day of the year she dreaded the most. When she would travel with her family to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. Oh it wasn’t that she didn’t love God. Instead, it was the harassment that Hannah would face from her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, that her heart couldn’t bare. For God had blessed Peninnah with many children. But for Hannah, the Lord has closed her womb.
Every year it was the same. They would travel to the house of the Lord sacrificing and feasting. And each year, Hannah was tormented ruthlessly at the temple by Peninnah because of Hannah’s barrenness. Peninnah took great joy in taunting Hannah in front of the others. She boasted about the great favor God had for her, as shown through her many sons and daughters. While gleefully holding over Hannah’s head, the lack of favor God had for her, evidenced by her empty womb. And when Hannah could take no more ridicule, she would weep bitterly, refusing to eat. All to the delight of Peninnah.
Elkanah her husband, loved Hannah deeply. He saw her misery and the tears which endlessly streamed down her face. Trying his best to comfort Hannah he asked, “Why is your heart sad? Aren’t I better than 10 sons?” But there was no way he could understand the deep ache and pain Hannah felt. He didn’t know what it was to feel rejected, not good enough, and punished by God. And had no idea of the anguish and resentment she endured, watching others being blessed while she remained forgotten. No. Elkanah had never tasted the salty bitterness of the tears of brokenness.
This year at the temple was no different from the previous. Again Peninnah’s pattern of persecution began. But this time it was more than Hannah could bear. This time the toll of the years of sorrow and disappointment brought Hannah lower than she had ever been before. She fell to her knees from the weight of her anguish. And in complete brokenness and humility, surrendered to God all of her hurt, circumstances, and deepest unfulfilled desires. In prayer Hannah called on the Lord to remember her, striking a deal that if He blessed her with a son, she would give that beloved son back to God for His service.
Watching from a distance was the priest Eli who, mistaking her passionate prayer for drunkenness, came over to reprimand Hannah. But far from finding a woman drunk on wine, Eli instead found a woman sober from the peace she felt from releasing her troubles to God. A woman with a new, refreshed, confidence in the Lord. And a woman free from the weight of the baggage that once tortured her soul. And so Eli sent her off in peace with a blessing that God would grant her petition. And with a slight smile, and renewed faith, Hannah went happily on her way to rejoin the feast.
In that moment Hannah’s circumstances hadn’t changed, but her heart had. Instead of wallowing in self pity and bitterness, Hannah instead put her faith and trust in God. And now she would wait in that faith patiently until receiving her answer. And that answer came some time later when Hannah indeed became pregnant with a son. Saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord,” Hannah named him Samuel, meaning “heard by God.”
She broke into a beautiful song of thanksgiving to the Lord, and because He was faithful to her, Hannah in turn was faithful to God. When the time came six years later for Samuel to live and serve in God’s temple, Hannah and Elkanah brought Samuel to the Lord’s house. And every year after, Hannah proudly and lovingly made Samuel a beautiful new robe, which she brought to him on her annual visit.
Then the Lord remembered Hannah again, blessing her with sons and daughters to help fill the void of the one she had dedicated to Him. And Hannah learned that when we come to God in humble brokenness, laying the barrenness of our lives at His feet, and trusting in complete faith, He will trade our bitterness for blessings, and sorrows for joy.