God takes our unfulfilled desires and transforms them in His joy. He hears, He answers and He blesses beyond what we can imagine. Hannah was a woman who experienced disappointment and hurt, but saw God come through for her in an amazing way. She asked for a baby, and God gave her more. He opened her womb physically, but He also opened her heart to surrender, immersing it in the fountain of His rejoicing. Like Hannah, we too can give up our unfilled desires to God, trusting that He is always good.
H A N N A H ‘ S H U R T S
The story of Hannah begins with a long series of hurts. Firstly, she has no child and in her time, to be a mother was to be blessed, while barrenness was frowned upon. To make things worse, her husband’s other wife had many children and often provoked Hannah. Imagine the dinners Hannah must have endured – children all around, none of them hers, and to be constantly reminded that while others were mothers, she had been denied that social status and personal joy.
Her husband, Elkanah, makes an effort to comfort her by saying, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” The Bible tells us that he loved Hannah despite her being childless, and would give her a double portion at the time of offering. Nonetheless, Hannah is not comforted. She enters the temple and cries out to God in her heart, but Eli thinks she is drunk and Hannah has to explain her situation. She says to Eli,
“Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” – [1 Samuel 1:16]
Eli then gives her this blessing,
“…Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” – [1 Samuel 1:17]
After this, Hannah “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” – [1 Samuel 1:18]
What can we learn from Hannah’s hurts?
One thing I see is that God can comfort us when no one else can.
H A N N A H ‘ S P L E A
When Hannah enters the temple, she makes a vow to God saying,
“…O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and do not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord vall the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” – [1 Samuel 1:11]
She prays, weeping and pouring out to God the anguish of her soul. The Bible also tells us that Hannah was praying in her heart so her voice was not heard. Hannah had a great desire that was unfulfilled, and one that was causing her great distress. She tells God about this desire, asks if He would give her a male child, and promises that if she were to bear a child, she would dedicate the boy to God.
In this, Hannah takes her desire, and gives it to God. She turns her attention back to God and recognises that:
- He is able to do all things, and
- All things are from Him and for Him.
Hannah submits her hurts to God and asks not only for His comfort, but that He might remember and restore her. Here she demonstrates faith as she makes her petition known to God. The Bible tells us that God knows the desires of our heart and is faithful to fulfill them, though not always in the way we expect.
[Psalm 37:4] – “Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
What can we learn from Hannah’s plea?
I see this – in making her plea before God, Hannah turns her attention from her unfulfilled desire, to the faithfulness of God and entrusts Him with the desire of her heart. We can do the same in recognising that God understands our anguish, knows our innermost desires and is faithful to restore us. Let us come before God in faith, let us pour out our heart to Him, let us recognise that He is able, that He is Lord of all, and let us entrust Him with our every desire.
H A N N A H ‘ S A N S W E R
The Bible does not tell us exactly how long it was between Hannah’s plea and when her son, Samuel, was born. It simply tells us that God remembered her and in the process of time, she conceived and bore a son. The first thing we learn from Hannah’s answer, is that God works all things in His time. There is a faith in trusting God and persevering in His hope.
When the child is born, Hannah names him “Samuel”. The name means, “heard by God”. So, Hannah remembers how she asked God for a male son, and how He heard and gave to her as she had asked. Will we acknowledge and worship God when He works miracles in our lives?
Subsequently, Hannah weans the child, before bringing him to the temple and telling Eli about how God had indeed granted her request as she had asked.
“’For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshipped the Lord there.” – [1 Samuel 1:27-28]
The most wonderful thing about the story of Hannah, is seeing how this answer from God inspires her worship. The beginning of 1 Samuel chapter 2 records a prayer from Hannah and shows us how her heart is transformed. It is flowing with references about how God lifts up the weak, how He remembers the innocent, how He is in charge of the whole earth. Here are just a few snippets from Hannah’s prayer.
[1 Samuel 2:1] – “My heart rejoices in the Lord,
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”
[1 Samuel 1:7-8]– “The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He has set the world upon them.”
How is Hannah’s heart transformed by God’s miraculous answer in her life?
She rejoices in Him, recognising that her strength in in Him. No matter how the world sees us – whether we are poor or barren in its eyes, we can know that God truly knows us and has made us rich and full in Him. Our strength is in God, He is the one who exults us. Therefore, let us worship and adore Him.
Genesis to Revelation: Hannah’s Plea