Hope for the Barren Heart

Fear is natural. Faith is supernatural. When we don’t understand and can’t overcome, we react in fear. It’s a natural response of humanity. Our fear may paralyze us in depression or indecision. Or our fear may motivate us to unwise actions.

When we turn to God, and when we trust in Him, we react in faith. It’s a supernatural gift of faith. Our faith can provide perseverance to hold on. Or our faith may be rewarded beyond our own expectations.

She was barren. Not only would a child validate her as a woman in her culture, that child would provide her security in old age. He married another. He kept her, but he also needed children for work and security. The other had children. Not only did she provide what the first wife couldn’t, but she mercilessly troubled the first wife for that reason. Hannah, Elkanah, and Peninnah. The wife, the husband, and the other. First Samuel tells their story.

What’s your trouble? How are you discouraged? How do you handle unmet expectations? What causes you to question God? Consider Isaiah 55:8-11.

You may not know either the cause or reason of your difficulty. In Hannah’s case, we know both. Amazingly, verse 5 tells us the cause of Hannah’s inability to conceive—God had closed Hannah’s womb. That answers how. The answer to why is on its way.

Believing He is sovereign—possessing all the authority and ability—to cause or allow whatever He desires, we know God can do anything. But will He? How can we challenge the God of everything with our personal needs that seem to be, in comparison, nothing?

As was their custom in those days before Christ, each year the family went to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices to God. Elkanah, the husband, would give a portion of the meat to the other wife, Peninnah, and all her children. He would give a double portion to Hannah. As if Hannah’s childlessness wasn’t enough, the merciless other, “her rival” Peninnah, would taunt her so severely until she would weep and not eat says verse 7. Imagine the insult to injury, the heartache and pain.

What do you do when faced with a mountain you can’t climb? How do you deal with disappointments? How do you handle others who add to your pain? Enact Psalm 143:1-6.

Hannah prayed. Hannah wept. Even her loving, double-portion giving husband, didn’t seem to get it. He had asked in verse 8, “Why are you crying?” We want to respond, Elkanah! Dude. Here’s your sign. You shouldn’t need to ask. And, to make it worse, he also asked, “Why are you troubled?” The Hebrew literally reads, “Why is your heart bad?” He wasn’t asking, “Why are you down?” but the insensitive, “Why are you resentful?”

God bless every dumb-question-asking husband everywhere; we aren’t alone in our cluelessness. It’s like he, too, was insinuating, “It’s your fault.” Oh, Hannah, no wonder you were so broken. The people who could have most helped either tormented you or didn’t understand.

What do you do when others don’t get it? How do you cope with pain that no one seems to understand? Where do you find respite from the battle of guilt? Live Matthew 11:29-30.

Hannah prayed. Hannah wept. She even made a vow dedicating to God the child she so desperately wanted. Eli, the elderly priest, saw her in the temple praying silently with moving lips. Silent prayer wasn’t the custom then, so Eli—one more person who should have understood and offered comfort—called her out as a drunk. Hannah explained she hadn’t been pouring alcoholic drinks, but pouring out her heart.

Eli speaks a blessing over her. And somewhere in that exchange Hannah’s brokenness rose on the phoenix wings of faith. Verse 18 indicates her faith-filled heart, “Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.” Literally, she was no longer looking to herself, but to God.

If we knew how long, how hard, or how much, then we couldn’t call it faith. That’s the miracle of faith. It’s a supernatural gift of God to overcome our disappointment, strengthen our weakness, better our failures, heal our brokenness, and provide our needs.

And wouldn’t you know it, Hannah conceived and bore a son. Don’t you love the simple euphemism of that amazing event recorded in verse 19, “The Lord remembered her”? Used by God, remember doesn’t mean to call to mind, but to give special attention. Indeed, through Hannah, God was working His redemptive plan.

Her son Samuel’s name is a word play of two Hebrew words meaning “asked of God” and “heard of God.” Hannah asked; God answered. When Samuel was weaned as a toddler, she took him to the temple to live and serve as she had vowed to God. What an incredible gift! Your only son. We’re recipients of the blessing of God doing the same thing.

What’s your prayer? What do you need that only God can provide? What do you desire that only God can fulfill? What is so big that God alone can make it so? Exercise Psalm 62:5-8.

Hannah’s brokenness became faith, faith found freedom, and freedom welcomed promise. When life is easy—no worries, no troubles, no fears—or when we think we’ve got it under control, we don’t think we need faith. Faith is what you need when you can’t meet your need. Faith is power when you have no power left. Faith is hope when everything seems hopeless. Faith knows our God is “able to do above and beyond all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Article courtesy of HomeLife Magazine

Aaron Householder is a husband, father of three, and pastor who enjoys learning “the rest of the story.” Don’t miss the rest of Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 2:1-26, especially verse 21. You’re welcomed to be encourage through more faith stories at aaronhouseholder.net.

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