The book of Samuel starts with the story of Hannah, Elkanah and Peninnah. Hannah was married to Elkanah and was said to have no children, although she desired to have a child. Her rival (Peninnah) on the other hand, had sons and daughters with Elkanah, but that wasn’t enough to win his full affection as Hannah was said to be much loved by Elkanah. Due to her jealousy, Peninnah grievously provoked Hannah because of her supposed barrenness. Furthermore, in a culture where there was a stigma surrounding this, Peninnah’s provocation was made worse and unbearable.
We are however told that it was the Lord who had closed Hannah’s womb (1 Samuel 1:5-6). While this is in no way a comfort and may even raise questions as to why a loving God would do this, with the benefit of hindsight, we are reassured that there was a purpose behind this temporary barrenness. Furthermore, if God caused it, then we know that He is able to work all things out for our good and for His glory.
We are then told that in Hannah’s distress and desperation, she went to the temple, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly (1 Samuel 1:10). She had reached the point of brokenness and acknowledgement that God was her only hope and help in this situation. Her husband’s love and affection were not enough to comfort her sorrow and hurt. It was also at this point that the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34) said to herself in faith, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well”.
When we find ourselves in a desperate situation and realise that God is our only hope, strength and comfort, that is often when a daring and an authentic faith arises in us.
In her distress, Hannah made a vow and prayed to the Lord, saying…
“O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).
This prayer appears quite simple, but the narrative suggests that Eli the priest had observed her praying and had mistaken her for a drunkard! She was utterly broken and wrestling with God in her heart and pleading her case before Him.
The passage then says that, after she had finished praying, she “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:18).
How is it that one who was distressed and would not even eat, could leave the temple with her mood and countenance changed although she had not yet received her request?
Such is the power and assurance of faith. It comforts and gives one the assurance that their prayers have been heard and answered by the Lord.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” Hebrews 11:1
When you feel troubled and anxious about life, don’t just sit in the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, but like Hannah, use it as a fuel of prayer and faith, and see how the Lord works things out for your good.
May your mood and countenance be changed for joy, as you seek the Lord in faith today.