On the Road Marked with Suffering
Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
"Not so, my lord," Hannah said, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief." 1 Samuel 1:13-16 (NIV)
Most couples wait for a child through nine months of pregnancy. The six months that my wife, Pam, and I waited to hear from China about the little girl we've adopted seemed like six years.
Hannah's wait was longer and harder. Tom Petty's hit "The Waiting" might have been her theme song:
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.
Despite her long inability to bear him children, Hannah was Elkanah's favorite wife. His strong and, perhaps unwisely, obvious preference for her provoked jealous fits from his other wife, Peninnah, whose scornful words were wounding. In an age when people assumed that infertility was evidence of God's curse, Hannah also endured unspoken judgment from her relatives and neighbors.
One day at the Temple, Hannah went to the Lord with her pain and disappointment. God's house was a safe place to release a prayer so anguished that words could not come. Pleadingly, she promised to dedicate her son’s entire life to Him.
From her behavior, Eli the priest at first assumed the worst. Then seeing her devotion, he was moved to bless her: "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him" (1 Sam. 1:17). Having admitted her helplessness and her dependence on God, Hannah regained confidence in His plan and purpose. The confidence enabled her to wait patiently on His timetable.
Hannah's earnest prayer is a model for our times of impatience and discouragement. At the cross of Christ, we can offer our pain as our authentic worship. Songwriter Matt Redman captures this moment well in his song, "Blessed Be Your Name":
Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name.
Pouring our souls to God, we know that our prayers not only reach His ears but touch His fatherly heart. His strength will help us endure patiently until His blessing comes.