December 25, 2009
What We Want vs. What We Need
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor
So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.
She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."
1 Samuel 1:20
Did you get what you wanted for Christmas today? Or did you get what you needed?
What we want and what we need do not often go hand in hand. I should know. There are things that I have wanted in my life for a long time now, that apparently the Lord has not seen to be necessities. At least not yet.
I know he knows what is best for me, but it is still hard to wait. And it is difficult not to look longingly at what others have received and wonder why I, too, cannot be the recipient of such things in my life.
This kind of struggle is not new to any of us. And Hannah, who we read about in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, is a great example of how to live when what you want is not yet something God says you need.
For years Hannah had wanted to become a mother. To bear a child. To give her husband, Elkanah, a son—just like his other wife, Peninnah.
Being barren was considered a disgrace for a woman in those times, so Hannah most likely felt ashamed and alone and perhaps like a societal outcast. Instead of turning away, though, Hannah took her sorrow and her request for what she wanted to the Lord.
We don't know for sure how long she waited (perhaps years)—and we don't know the exact purposes of God's timing in her life—but we can still learn a great deal from Hannah's example …
- She was persistent and continually sought the Lord. She did not give up and stop asking the Lord for what she wanted. Like clockwork, Hannah kept bringing her request to God, year after year at the temple in Shiloh (v. 7). No doubt her want continued to drive her to the Father and most likely deepened her relationship with him.
- She was blessed with a lifeline. I am quick to forget that the beauty in the midst of Hannah's pain is that Elkanah loved her very dearly (if not more than Peninnah). I am sure this buoyed Hannah to make it through the years when she may have wondered if God would ever answer her prayer for a child. God was gracious in giving her a loving husband (v. 5, 8).
- She did not give in to ridicule or naysayers. Even when Peninnah (who was fruitful and had children) provoked her and taunted her because she was barren, Hannah did not add insult to injury (v. 7). She did not become nasty and retaliate when ridiculed for her condition or her faith.
- She shared her "want" and was encouraged by others. When the high priest Eli observed Hannah praying in the temple and inquired as to her condition (he thought she was intoxicated because she was praying silently, but her lips were moving—v. 14), she shared with him what she was asking of the Lord. When Eli saw what was really going on, he encouraged her and asked God to answer her request (vv. 12-17).
- She gave back to God what he had given to her. When God blessed Hannah with a child, she did not cling tightly to him. She kept her promise, let her son go and dedicated him to the Lord (v. 11, vv.21-28). How unbelievable is that? To accept and then release back to God something he has given to you that you have prayed and prayed and prayed for? That is model faith!
Like Hannah, are you waiting on the Lord to give you something you want in your life today? A new job? Reconciliation in your marriage? Blessing in your finances? A cure from illness? To find your soul mate? Victory over an addiction? A baby?
Each of us has something we want in our lives. But is up to God to decide if this is something we really need. May we continue to come to him with joy and thankfulness, as we acknowledge that he knows what is best for us in our lives.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Do you know that God has already given you what you need for this very day? Ask him to help you accept his plans and timing for your life—even when you don't understand. Then, make a list of all the lifelines he has given you while you wait (people, circumstances, things, etc.). Post this somewhere you can see it, while you continue to lift your requests to him.