Week 6: July 3

Pouring Out My Soul (Hannah) by Deb Williams

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DAY 1 - Who is Hannah?

Although Hannah’s story covers only a small slice of scripture, it remains both impactful and relevant for us today. As you read the following passage, imagine that you are present and watching as the story unfolds. Allow yourself to experience what Hannah might have been experiencing.

Please read I Samuel 1:1-28

Elkanah, was a Levite and had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. We know from other accounts that polygamy was common in the Old Testament but surely not sanctioned by God. In fact when we read in other books we can see the havoc often created with more than one wife.

It isn’t clear in the scriptures which wife Elkanah married first, but we are told that Hannah had no children, while his other wife, Peninnah, had many.

The ability to bear children was an important part of the culture, yet Hannah’s infertility didn’t matter to Elkanah. The Bible makes it clear how deeply he loved her. Yet she endured pain as the ‘other wife’. Peninnah mocked and ridiculed her.

Hannah isn’t the first woman described as ‘barren’ in scripture. It’s a terrible thing to be labeled for what you can or can’t provide. Imagine the stigma she was under. There is mention of others who suffered infertility such as Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Rebekah who was married to Issac and Rachel the wife of Jacob. These women dealt with their inability to conceive in various ways - a concubine to provide an heir, angry questioning and blaming. However, Hannah accepted God’s promise with a strong faith, a sign of her godly character. The other three did not. This doesn’t mean Hannah didn’t struggle.

We read in I Samuel 1 that Hannah was reduced to tears because of Peniniah’s taunting. How difficult this must have been for her. Can you imagine struggling to come to a place of acceptance while at the same time being tormented by another? Her pain must have been unbearable. She had no support. Even Elkanah’s attempt to console her was to convince her that having him as a husband was better than 10 sons - a poor comfort for his heartbroken wife. Hannah’s suffering was also prolonged. As we read of Hannah’s experience we also see how it was compounded by the lack of compassion and misunderstanding from Peninnah, Elkanah and even Eli the priest. This brings up the question for us as to how we might respond to others in their suffering. Interestingly the Hebrew word for compassion, ‘rachamim’, comes from the root ‘rechem’, which literally means ‘womb’, a quality that God desires to birth within each of us. We see this in the New Testament as well.

Ephesians 4:32a tells us, "Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding]" (Amplified Version)

Is there someone you know who has been experiencing a season of suffering? Have you been able to empathize with them in their heartache and struggle? How does God desire for you to demonstrate compassion? Have you grown impatient with them?

Do you know of someone who desperately wants a child? What ways could you support them in their pain and longing?

Please take time to journal your thoughts. Offer a prayer of confession to God for areas of your life where you lack compassion and kindness.

Listen to the following song. As you do, ask God to birth His compassion in you.

My Prayer for You by Alisa Turner

DAY 2 - There's More to the Story

In the book, Men and Women of the Old Testament, Charles H. Spurgeon describes Hannah as having a ‘sorrowful spirit’, this isn’t anything we necessarily strive for is it? He also describes her as a loving woman, gentle and thoughtful. Hannah’s suffering with infertility had produced these character qualities in her. She had become a woman of prayer and of bold faith. It had deepened her in ways we can only imagine.

We read in I Samuel that during one of the sacrificial meals when the taunting and the pain had become unbearable, Hannah got up to go pray in the temple. Scripture describes her in deep anguish and crying bitterly as she poured out her heart to God. Can you imagine the raw emotion she was expressing to Him? And then she prays a bold prayer, promising to give her child back to God if He would bless her with a son. He would be raised in the temple as a sign of dedication.

Eli the priest assumes she was drunk as she silently prayed in the temple. He is harsh as he confronts her yet we read of Hannah’s gentleness as she answers him and explains what she is doing. Eli then tells her to go on her way in peace that God would grant her request. We read that Hannah, ‘ went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.’ With faith she believes Eli and in God’s provision.

In God’s presence, Hannah was fully able to walk into her sadness and desperation. She was authentic in her pain and turmoil.

‘As strange as it may sound, desperation is a really good thing in our spiritual life,’ says author Ruth Haley Barton. ‘Desperation causes us to be open to radical solutions, willing to take all manner of risk in order to find what we are looking for. Desperate ones seek with an all-consuming intensity, for they know that their life depends on it.’

Is there a current situation in which you are desperate? Have you been authentic in God’s presence about it? Have you poured out your heart to Him as Hannah did?

God, you alone know of my pain and struggle. Will you meet me as you met Hannah? Journal your prayer to Him.

DAY 3 - Hannah's Prayer of Praise

Scripture tells us that when the family returned home, Elkanah slept with Hannah and she conceived! She gave birth to a baby boy and named him Samuel. Her prayer was answered! The following year when it was time to go back to the temple she remained behind telling Elkanah that she would return when Samuel was weaned. It’s unclear as to what exact age this would have been, anywhere from 3 to 5 years of age. But we do know that after Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to the temple along with a bull to sacrifice and all the fixings for a big feast! She reminded Eli of who she was. ‘Remember me?? I’m back.’

“I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there. - I Sam 1:26-28

What a beautiful offering to God! I can’t help but wonder how she felt leaving young Samuel with Eli that day, can you? Take some time to read her prayer of praise and gratitude. It’s so powerful! Hannah relinquished Samuel to God. It was an act of surrender.

Read her prayer when she returned with Samuel.

Then Hannah prayed:

 “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.

Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me.

No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

  “Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don’t speak with such arrogance!

For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done; he will judge your actions.

   The bow of the mighty is now broken, and those who stumbled are now strong.

Those who were well fed are now starving, and those who were starving are now full. The childless woman now has seven children, and the woman with many children wastes away.

The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.

The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.

He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone.

Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.” - I Samuel 2:1-10

Powerful isn’t it? Can you catch the different ways in which God answered her prayer?

  • God made her strong
  • He judged those who taunted and ridiculed her
  • He lifted her up in her time of need
  • He vindicated her and set her in a place of honor

What else do you notice in the prayer? How had God answered her prayer? In what ways has He answered your prayers?

DAY 4 - What do we learn from Hannah's story?

Our prayers matter to our heavenly Father

Hannah went to God with her pain and heartache. In prayer, she gave God her needs and expressed her grief. She also chose to relinquish that which was precious to her. Through it all, she came to know God better. The Hannah at the beginning of the story is a very different woman from the Hannah at the end. Her life had been shaped by prayer.

God’s love and care for us extends beyond just the answers we long for. Our growth and development as His children is a primary focus. As we grow in Christlikeness we are more able to see our circumstances from His perspective. He desires our communion with Him in our joy and our pain.

Suffering deepens and matures us if we cooperate with God’s work in our lives -

Hannah’s release of Samuel positioned her to receive even more from God. The account tells us that each following year as Hannah came to the temple to worship she would bring a new coat for young Samuel and Eli would bless her and Elkanah saying ‘may the Lord give you other children’. In fact she went on to have 3 more sons and 2 daughters.

Richard Foster, in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, writes:

'The Prayer of Relinquishment is a bona fide letting go, but it is a release with hope. We have no fatalist resignation. We are buoyed up by a confident trust in the character of God... God is inviting us deeper in and higher up. There is training in righteousness, transforming power, new joys, deeper intimacy.’

Hannah’s faith and trust in God had deepened as a result of her experience and suffering. She could have become bitter and angry. She could have taken matters into her own hands. Instead she allowed God to do the greater work in her heart and soul. Our growth and development as His children is a primary focus. As we grow in godliness we, like Hannah, are more able to see our circumstances with His perspective.

It takes compassion, persistence, intentionality and love to walk with someone who is suffering -

The needs of those who are suffering are many and involved. Sometimes they are practical things such as meals, transportation, child care and house cleaning. Other times they are emotional which involve encouragement, listening, acknowledging pain, cheering effort and progress.

There are often spiritual needs which may require presence, more listening and gentle reminders of God’s truth. Often we respond to the initial need but fail to continue the support when we once again become involved with our busy lives.

As you take time to reflect today, who are the Hannah’s in your life? Ask the Lord to help you discern what needs they have.

Where are the places in your life that God is developing His likeness in you? How are you actively cooperating in the process? Are you willing to relinquish your own plans and dreams for His plans for you?

Reread Hannah’s story today. Praise God for His involvement in your life.

Day 5 - Meditation

Hannah’s life serves as a beautiful example of one who moved toward her God in her suffering. She authentically expressed pain and heartache to Him and her faith in His provision. Her story is a reminder to us today that God is intimately engaged with us in our pain and circumstances.'

Take some time to reread the prayer at the end of Hannah’s story, her heart’s expression to God.

What is on your heart to express to Him? Is it an honest, authentic pouring out of your pain and anguish? Is it a praise for the way He has intervened on your behalf? What needs to be spoken, aloud, to Him?

Choose to rejoice in God’s tenderness today, joining with the ancient praise of all God’s people in the words of Psalm 103:

The LORD is like a father to his children,

    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

For he knows how weak we are;

    He remembers we are only dust.

Our days on earth are like grass;

    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

- Psalm 103:13-15 (NLT)

Listen to the following song, a hymn, the reminder of His great love for us.

How Deep the Father's Love For Us by Austin Stone Worship Live