A Pilgrimage Fueled by Hope: No, My Lord
By Sharon W. Betters
But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” -1 Samuel 1:15 ESV
Hannah’s story teaches us so much about being a life-giver rather than a life-taker. Remember how distraught Hannah was during the family dinner? Her agony over her childlessness was obvious to Elkanah who tried to comfort her with his love. Many believe Hannah did not complain to Elkanah about her sister-wife Peninnah, because he did not mention his second wife’s mean spirited words but instead identified her empty womb as the source of Hannah’s grief and unhappiness. I admit, if I were in Hannah’s shoes, I am pretty confident I would be complaining to my husband about Peninnah’s taunts. I would demand that he do something to stop her. Remember the story of Sarah and Hagar? Sarah gave Hagar to her husband Abraham, as a surrogate to bear Abraham’s child (Read Genesis 16 for the full story.) Once Hagar was pregnant she taunted and tormented Sarah. Sarah blames Abraham for her unhappiness. Abraham reacts like any red-blooded male and tells Sarah to do whatever she wants to Hagar. Sarah is no life-giver in this story. She mistreats Hagar to the point Hagar takes her child and runs away. Be honest, do you understand Sarah’s rage and hateful response?
Contrast Hannah with Sarah in the way they each deal with a mean spirited, jealous woman. There is no record of Hannah striking back at Peninnah, no record of her demanding that her husband Elkanah fix this.
We get another glimpse of Hannah’s default mode when Eli the priest accuses her of drunken behavior. Now, put yourself in Hannah’s shoes. Year after year, Hannah faithfully worshipped God with her family. Year after year, she returned to worship as a childless wife. How do you think childlessness affected her view of herself in a culture that considered children a mark of blessing? Year after year, her sister-wife taunts and torments her, challenging her about her womanhood and maybe tempting her to question God’s goodness. Hannah has hit the wall and runs to the Temple where she pours out all the deep grief and pleads with God to give her a son. Eli the priest condemns her behavior. What is your auto-response to such an unfair declaration about your character?
As Hannah’s emotions poured out of her like water, her body writhed in pain, Eli speaks words I am confident he wished he could take back:
Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” -1 Samuel 1:13-14 ESV
For many of us, these would be fighting words, but not for Hannah. Hannah’s response once more reflects a woman deeply in love with her God. She doesn’t strike out at Eli or demand an apology for comparing her to his own worthless priest sons. Hannah models for me how to put to death emotions that are out of control and to speak truth calmly and forcefully. Hannah speaks respectfully:
No, my lord. I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation. -1 Samuel 1:15, 16 ESV
Hannah does not tell Eli about her longing for a child or that she made a vow she would bring her first-born son back to God’s house if God gave her the desires of her heart. It seems something in her countenance, her words, and her response moved Eli to believe her words. He blesses her with words that encourage her to trust God with her pleas. I love how what could have been a nasty altercation between Hannah and the priest Eli, results in a sweet blessing for Hannah:
Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to Him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. -1 Samuel 1:17-18 ESV
Hannah’s love for her God shaped her response to Eli’s unfair exhortation. Does this vignette bring to mind a sticky situation in your own life where you need to speak truth as Hannah did, but in a way that does not accuse, inflame or turn a small altercation into a nasty, out of control emotional explosion?
Oh Lord, we want to fall more in love with You so that our auto-response to difficult people or unfair allegations is respectful and truthful. For some of us, this is a foreign concept. May we seek forgiveness for those times when we missed an opportunity to be life-givers rather than life-takers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon W. Betters is author of Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness and co-author of Treasures of Faith. She is Director of Resource Development and co-founder of MARKINC.org, a nonprofit organization that offers help and hope to hurting people. Sharon enjoys quality time with her husband, children, and fourteen grandchildren.
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