"But to Hannah he (Elkanah) gave a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had given her no children. This embarrassed and grieved Hannah."
I Samuel 1: 5, 6, Amplified Bible
"Contention In The House" Part II
"Pity" - A regrettable or disagreeable fact or situation.
"Pity is exhaustible. What a terrible discovery!"
What does the word "pity" mean to me?
Have I ever personally felt as though people treated me as though I were "pitiful"?
How did it make me feel?
"Never look down on anyone unless you are giving them your hand to help them up."
"Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind is bearing me across the sky."
Before the car accident that nearly killed Jim and me, I had heard some real horror stories about how disabled people were treated by those who deemed themselves, "normal." Having been active and able all my life, I had not experienced first-hand any of the situations I heard about.
All it took was a few weeks in a wheelchair for my eyes to be opened, and I must say that I quickly recognized the truth in Martha Graham's statement, "Pity is a corroding thing."
Let me explain what I mean by stating that to me, pity is way too often exposed when we look down on someone; put a band aid on their problems; and then pat them on their head and say, "There, there, this will make it all better. Chin up. Put on a happy face!"
After reading the passages of Scripture found in I Samuel, Chapter 1, there are several observations I want to make. Hannah was missing out on something she longed for - having children. So Elkanah decided he'd "take pity" on poor Hannah and give her a "double portion" of things - in this case food.
I'm not certain how or why Elkanah thought this gesture would replace Hannah's desire for a child but he did and his actions only made for more conflict in the family. This isn't all. In I Samuel 1: 8, when Peninnah had it with Elkanah's special treatment of Hannah, and she began to take her anger out on her rival. Elkanah found Hannah devastated and said to her, "Hannah, why do you cry? And why do you not eat? And why are you grieving? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" (I Samuel 1: 8, Amplified Bible). It's as if Elkanah was patting Hannah on the head saying, "There, there, you have me." Never understanding that Hannah's pain could not be solved by his, "I am worth more than children" statement. And this is my point about how we sometimes confuse pity with compassion. Alice Hobart said, "Nothing is so binding as pity" and this statement is clearly displayed by the actions and words of Elkanah to Hannah when he basically informed her: "You have me, you don't need anything else."
To help us contrast Elkanah's response to Hannah with another response recorded in Scripture, let's look at Luke 7: 13, 14 where Jesus met a woman who had lost her only son. Like Hannah, she too, was childless. Dr. Luke tells us that, "When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.' And He went forward and touched the funeral bier, and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise from death.'"
Both women were childless. Both were weeping. Both needed help. But in the case of Jesus, He didn't say to the grieving widow, "You have me, get over it." Instead, Jesus' compassionate heart compelled Him to do for this woman, not only what she or any other person couldn't do, but add to this fact, Jesus took time to do for her what she really longed for and needed to bring her complete healing - healing that would make her whole. This wasn't some show of transient pity but the natural outpouring of a compassionate heart. Choan-Seng Song, a Christian theologian from Taiwan describes this heavenly compassion in this beautifully expansive way: "The power of God's reign is not exhibitionistic. It is self-effacing, self-concealing. That power, like the leaven buried inside the mass of dough, is a fermentative power in the depth of humanity, in the womb of God's creation. It is the power of compassion. It is the power of the cross."
Pity makes me feel sorry for you - compassion compels me to take you in my arms and hold you knowing full well that I am not the one who can heal your pain, but my Father can.
In 1984, a group of Methodist women ministers penned the words to one of the most inspiring prayers I've ever read. Here is what they wrote:
"We all bleed,
we bleed for ourselves—
we each have our private pain
we bleed for others;
and we bleed for a wounded world.
If we did not bleed for others
in some measure,
would we not be spiritually barren?
Unfit for our calling,
incapable of conceiving and
nurturing new life,
forming relationships and
But if the pain takes over
and the bleeding becomes constant
do we not then find that
we have lost touch with our Lord?
He is obscured by the crowd of our concerns.
The crowd of our activities
the crowd of our own words.
Jesus, help us to touch You now,
to lay before You our own and
the world's pain.
Help us as we wait in silence
to feel Your healing hands
Within the confines of our homes and families, may we let our heavenly Father expand our hearts with His unfailing compassion - a compassion that loves even the very worst in us and among us.
guide us with Your
and compel us with
Your perfect love to
love according to Your will."
"Tender God, touch us.
Be touched by us;
Make us lovers of
compassionate friends of all.
Gracious God, hear us;
Speak us into acting
and through us,
recreate the world."
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $10.00.
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