The story of Hannah is a Mother’s Day favorite. (Maybe some of you heard a sermon about her this past Sunday!) She’s often set up as the “model mom” who prayed diligently for a son and was faithful to train him in the ways of God before giving him fully to serve the Lord as a prophet. While moms can definitely learn from her example, I think there are other key principles her life teaches that are applicable to everyone.
God Has A Plan For Our Difficulties (I Samuel 1:4-5) – Adversity comes from a lot of sources… It surfaces in bad choices we make. It’s inflicted on us by others, the natural world sends it, and sometimes it even comes directly from the devil. (Job 1) Most of us are more comfortable with it coming through those avenues, but in the story of Hannah, Scripture clearly says that her inability to bear children was because “the Lord closed her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:5b-6a) It’s hard for us to imagine why God would keep her (or us) from having what we want or delaying our heart’s desire, but He always has a purpose for allowing (or causing) the things that come into our lives.
Don’t Let Your Enemies Define You (I Samuel 1:6-9) – Elkanah was the husband of two women. His first wife, Hannah, was deeply loved even though she could bear no children. (vs5) Peninnah, his second wife, may have played the more functional role of bearing children to be his heirs. So one woman had love, but no children; the other had children, but no love. It’s no wonder the Bible calls these two women rivals! Verse 6 says Peninnah provoked Hannah, irritating her day after day. Knowing the depth of her desire for children, it’d be easy to image the kind of things Peninnah might have said. Hannah could have easily begun to believe the lies this woman used as weapons against her. If you have someone in your life like that, you know Hannah’s pain, but you must be careful not to believe their words as truth. When we grab onto the opinions of others, and begin to define ourselves based on their judgments or expectations, Satan fuels that thinking to destroy our effectiveness and ability to follow the Lord. Our best defense against is that kind of assault is to believe the truth, realizing that through Christ are we FULLY ACCEPTED by grace and faith.
Anguish Over Problems Doesn’t Equal A Lack Of Faith (I Samuel 1:10, 16) – There is an assumption in a lot of Christian circles that if we have rich faith, it will cancel out negative emotions associated with our problems. However, Hannah had deep anguish over her barrenness. The Bible describes her attitude as “bitterness of soul,” “weeping,” “grief” and “deeply troubled.” God made us to be emotional beings, and to express what we feel, but instead of dwelling there, we need to do as Hannah did and allow suffering to drive us to God.
Make Prayer a Priority (I Samuel 1:10-16) – Hannah gave herself to the Lord through prayer. In fact, she was so consumed with pouring out her soul to Him that she was unaware of her appearance to those around her. So great was her outpouring, that at one point, Eli the priest confused her fervency with being drunk! Hebrews 4:16 challenges us to be bold in our pursuit of the Lord, and to persistently bring our needs to Him. Prayer should never be our last resort after we’ve tried everything else. We need to reach out to the Lord first, remembering that He knows best how to guide us through our trials.
Draw Strength from Knowing God (I Samuel 1:17-18) – After visiting the temple in Shiloh, the scripture says that Hannah went away and was no longer ‘downcast.’ At first glance, it may appear her spirits were lifted because she got what she wanted and would soon have a child. But I don’t think that’s the case. Notice that her attitude changed before she was pregnant. In verse 12, the King James Version says, Hannah “prayed before the Lord.” The implication here is that she was in the Lord’s presence, and that she had an encounter with Him. She wasn’t just going on and on about her problem. She was connected with God. He was her central focus. Her pattern is the secret to a changed attitude even if our circumstances stay the same.
After the Blessing, Remain Faithful (I Samuel 1:21-27) – In verse 11, Hannah promised the Lord that if He would give her a son, she would dedicate him to Lord’s service. That meant that as soon as he was weaned, she would take him to live at the temple, miles away from her home. As the years passed and affection for her son grew, it would have been easy to rationalize her commitment away, but instead, she honored her vow. When Samuel was about four or five, she and Elkanah took him to the temple to live with Eli for the rest of his life. Hannah knew God was the spark that gave her boy life, so it was only natural that she would give Samuel back to Him. So how should we respond to God’s incredible graciousness toward us? With faithfulness. He’s given us life, both physical life and spiritual life, and our response should be like Hannah’s. Willingly, we should offer our lives back to Him in full and unreserved service.
Be a Person of Praise – (1 Samuel 2:2-11) – Chapter 2 opens with Hannah’s prayer to God as she was about to leave Samuel at the temple to begin his life of service. It’d be easy to think that she would be sad at the prospect of leaving her son behind, but she’s not mourning; she’s rejoicing! God had filled Hannah with Himself and that changed her outlook on everything. While she realized that life is filled with poverty and wealth, death and life, (vs 6-7) she also knew the God who is in control of those things. (vs 8-10) I think that’s a very important lesson for us. If we get our eyes off what causes us heartache and hurt, and put our focus on the Lord, then in the midst of difficulty, God reveals Himself to us in ways that we’ll never get when things are going our way. Often the key to enduring the unexpected is choosing how to think. No matter what you face, you can always find something to praise God for… and that will keep your focus in the right place and allow Him to reveal Himself to you in ways you would ever know otherwise.