The first course for the post-grad in becoming a mature Christian.
God’s sovereignty my weakness
Learning to trust God’s wisdom and timing through shattered dreams
Hannah was barren.
Barren women seem to be God’s preferred vessel for raising up history makers. Why is that?
Because the breakthrough moment is not having the child, or finding the husband of your dreams, or the healing, or the promotion, or anything else. Breakthrough is when I humbly and with all my heart believe that God knows best. Maturity is a journey. And close to the destination is a place called ‘Trust God’. When you have lived there for a while you are ready to change history.
Hannah lives at a time when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This made finding a loving godly man hard. But Hannah seems to have a good man, and it seems like he loves her, except here’s the problem, Hannah doesn’t really have him. She is sharing her husband Elkanah with the overly fertile, bitchy, second wife Peninah!
She might be future mom to history maker Samuel but does Hannah feel like a history making mom to be? No, she’s not walking on sunshine saying stuff like “sticks and stones Peninah… God is good all the time, all the time God is good, I’m too blessed to stress”. Have a look at verse 7, 8, 9 and 15 again, she’s really struggling. It’s as if the Bible gives you permission to struggle through God’s graduate school programme.
So, in the face of being ridiculed for not being able to have children, with her face buried in ‘snot en trane’, how will she respond to years of disappointment?
- Accept Defeat Acquiesce to the challenge; get comfortable with disillusionment, quite praying, quite obedience, quite gym, live off cookie dough ice cream & rom coms. Just settle for 2nd best, wear the shortest skirt gets the biggest jerk as a boyfriend, don’t try anything that takes risk, and don’t commit to anyone for fear of failure, etc.
- Embrace Bitterness Hannah could have embraced her anger and chucked it in the face of the world, she could have repaid Peninah’s insult, and bought a few angry bumper stickers for her Camel, and drive it badly like a crazy woman on their way home. You’ve met this person.
- Help God Take matters into our own hands and help God out. Abraham and Sarah couldn’t fall pregnant what do they do? Sarah suggests that Abraham should sleep with her maidservant Hagar so that Sarah could adopt her child. Look how that worked out! When we take matters into our own hands, by running ahead or lagging behind God’s plan we end up compromising the commands of God, to get the blessing of God.
- Turn to God Run to God, even when we don’t like what he is doing.
I hate asking for anything. But I’ve come to realize that God grows healthy humility in my heart through getting me to ask of him most when I have received from him the least, pray most when you feel like it the least because it’s at those times when God is shaping your prayer. She runs to God. She throws herself at the “throne of grace” (Heb 4:16). She embodies what Jesus taught “Father… give us our daily bread” (Matt 6:11), “ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking” (Matt 7:7).
So, should we thank the ‘Peninah’s’ in our lives? If it were not for her mockery, Hannah would not be driven to pray the kind of history altering prayer she prayed “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me… give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life” (1 Sam 1:11). An interesting thought from something I read recently… During the reformation John Calvin was headed to Strousbourg. His desire was to study and write in support of the protestant reformation. But he couldn’t travel directly to Strousbourg because of a war between Francis I and Emperor Charles V. So, in order to dodge the fighting he travelled via Geneva. When he got to Geneva William Farel threatened him with the judgement of God if he didn’t stay and continue the reformation in Geneva. Geneva was really important for the reformation. But shall we say that we owe Calvin’s impact on the reformation to Francis I and Emperor Charles? Shall we say thank you Peninah for annoying Hannah and driving her to pray more effectively? Or shall we see that God uses even the trials and constant disappointments, the mockery of others and the tears as instruments to shape even the prayers we pray. So, let’s trust him when we understand and when we don’t. And never say never!