Of all the people we’re introduced to in the Bible, the one I most relate to is Hannah. In my recent struggles for contentment in God, I turned once again to the familiar passage of 1 Samuel 1-2.
Hannah is a woman who knew unmet longings. Just like my desire for a husband is good and natural, her desire for a child is good and natural. She wanted to be a mother: something that as a woman, God designed her to do.
One thing that always stands out to me about this passage is Hannah’s emotions are spelled out for us. Hannah calls her childless state an “affliction” (v. 11). It wouldn’t be hard to imagine what a woman longing for a child might be feeling, but the Bible makes it clear:
“…her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her…” (v. 6, ESV)
“…Hannah wept and would not eat.” (v. 7)
Hannah’s husband: “Why is your heart sad?” ( v. 8 )
“I am a woman troubled in spirit.” (v. 15)
“…my great anxiety and vexation.” (v. 16)
Clearly, having a son was not a passing fancy for Hannah, any more than my desire for a husband is a fleeting thought in my life. In fact, I just noticed for the first time that in verse 7 it gives us a bit of time reference for the events: “So it went on year by year.” Year after year! While we don’t know how many years, I’m sure it was quite a few or it wouldn’t state it like that. During this time, not only did Hannah remain childless, she was being provoked by her fertile counterpart, likely daily coming into contact with her and her growing family. Her childlessness is being rubbed in her face (something that I’m thankful not to have experienced).
The thing is, though Hannah was missing something that she rightfully desired, she was also blessed. She had a husband who loved her and was well cared for (let’s leave out the bigamy as a topic for another day). Compared to many who suffered in Israel, she had it made. I can say the same for myself: I have been overwhelming blessed in almost every way. Except for a companion in life, what more do I lack? But like Hannah, what I lack seems to eclipse all the many blessings.
What I love so much about this little vignette is Hannah’s response to her unmet desire. She offered herself to the Lord, emotions and all. Though her desires were a mix of sinful and godly (as mine are…I love that the Bible doesn’t gloss over it’s hero’s–and heroine’s–sins), she brought them before God. My favorite verse in this passage is verse 10:
“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.”
Now this I can definitely relate to. The good, the bad, and the ugly, all wrapped up together in one sticky mess. She took her unmet longings and all the emotions tied up with them to the One who could fix them–and her.
And the Lord answered her prayers. I love the language the Bible uses to describe the conception of Samuel: “…and the LORD remembered her” (v. 19). When (Lord willing!) I’m pregnant with my first child, I think that’s how I’d tell my husband, “The Lord remembered me.”
Of course, this was likely not the first time that she prayed to God. No doubt, this was a familiar scene for Hannah, offering up her desire for a child again. But in His timing, God answered. This gives me hope–not a promise, but hope–that God will answer my prayers for a husband.
And until that time, I will wait, continually giving up my desires to the One who can fulfill them and use them to mold me.