Sometimes it is tough. The events of life, the pressures of work, the mounting bills and all of the other junk we have to endure. But during all of that, we must remain committed to our families. If you are married, that means your spouse and children, if not, your parents and siblings.
Scriptures tell us about a woman who was forced to endure such struggles. Her name is Hannah. Hannah had a major problem because she was unable to have a child. Now, I am not sure I can paint how deep the humiliation and pain Hannah was experiencing. I mean, in the mindset of the people in her era, if a woman could not have a child, it reduced (or eliminated) her role as a female. As they saw it, she was not a whole woman. You may object to that, but that is because you are thinking of our modern culture.
Apparently, it was typical for the village women (at least some of them) to poke fun of her for being barren. As they saw it, she could not perform the very thing she was born to do, which reduced her value.
If her husband wasn’t wealthy enough to marry a second wife, then he would never have an heir, which meant that when he died, his life would, because his family line would end! In ancient minds, this was the woman’s fault. Not only would his family line end, if he was to die, his wife would no longer have anyone to care for her! We can only imagine the terrible state of mind a woman like Hannah endured.
The woman who tormented Hannah the most, was her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. Now granted, Hannah wasn’t in any physical danger, but her emotions were torn apart because there was nowhere she avoid Peninnah. Hannah’s only option was to stay and pray! Maybe you remember the story:
This is the story of Elkanah, a man of the tribe of Ephraim who lived in Ramathaim-zophim, in the hills of Ephraim
His father’s name was Jeroham,
His grandfather was Elihu,
His great-grandfather was Tohu,
His great-great-grandfather was Zuph.
He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had some children, but Hannah didn’t.
Each year Elkanah and his families journeyed to the Tabernacle at Shiloh to worship the Lord of the heavens and to sacrifice to him. (The priests on duty at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas.) On the day he presented his sacrifice, Elkanah would celebrate the happy occasion by giving presents to Peninnah and her children; but although he loved Hannah very much, he could give her only one present, for the Lord had sealed her womb; so she had no children to give presents to. Peninnah made matters worse by taunting Hannah because of her barrenness. Every year it was the same—Peninnah scoffing and laughing at her as they went to Shiloh, making her cry so much she couldn’t eat.
“What’s the matter, Hannah?” Elkanah would exclaim. “Why aren’t you eating? Why make such a fuss over having no children? Isn’t having me better than having ten sons?”
One evening after supper, when they were at Shiloh, Hannah went over to the Tabernacle. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance. She was in deep anguish and was crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.
And she made this vow: “O Lord of heaven, if you will look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you, and he’ll be yours for his entire lifetime, and his hair shall never be cut.”
Eli noticed her mouth moving as she was praying silently and, hearing no sound, thought she had been drinking.
“Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your bottle.”
“Oh no, sir!” she replied, “I’m not drunk! But I am very sad and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Please don’t think that I am just some drunken bum!”
“In that case,” Eli said, “cheer up! May the Lord of Israel grant you your petition, whatever it is!”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed, and went happily back, and began to take her meals again.
The entire family was up early the next morning and went to the Tabernacle to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah, and when Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her petition; in the process of time, a baby boy was born to her. She named him Samuel (meaning “asked of God”) because, as she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” (I Samuel 1:1-20)
Amazing! Hannah obviously considered Samuel to be a gift from the Lord. I am sure that as Samuel was growing up she would tell young Samuel, “God gave you to me! I am anxious to learn what He has planned for you.”
As I was reading this story, it dawned on me that, as parents, we have the power to either build up our children – or to tear them down. We do this through our words. You know that old adage, “Words can never hurt you“? That is not true. We need to offer our kids encouragement, prayers, and hugs. When we demonstrate our love it strengthens those who are most precious to us.
Sadly, some of us live with people who make life difficult. Daily, they inject their condemnation and discouragement. Our Father understands their situation just as He was fully aware of Hannah’s. This morning, I encourage you to draw close to Him and experience His love and commitment to you. Then express the same love and commitment to others.