As I approached Hannah, I thought about how hard it was to wait for my first child. While we do not know how many years Hannah longed for a child, I do know that it does not take too long for the wait to be too long. Here was a woman whose patience had been pushed to the limit. How she overcame her despair would be a worth exploring.
She smiled serenely as she shared. “Oh, I was in a bad way, so distraught that I didn’t know what to do with myself. You see, I wanted to have a child so badly. My husband, Elkanah, was a good and a wise man. Patient too, and so loving to me. Which made it even worse in some ways. A good wife must bear sons for her husband, for the future, and I prayed to God every day to give us a son.” She chuckled as she went on. “One time Elkanah actually asked me why I wanted a child when I had him! I know he wished that his love would be enough for me, but he just didn’t understand a women’s desire for a child.”
“In our day it was not unusual for a man to have more than one wife. My husband had children by his other wife, Peninnah. I could have borne with this because I knew Elkanah was partial to me. But she used her children against me and did her best to insult me and torment me. Yes, I know I should have been stronger; I should have ignored her.” Hannah closed her eyes for a moment, remembering. “But month after month, year after year—it became unbearable.”
“Maybe the best way to explain it is that at one point I got so low I could go no lower. You see, every year my husband made a pilgrimage to Shiloh to make an offering to God. It was a time of celebration and rejoicing in the blessings of God. That year I was so dejected I couldn’t eat, much less participate in any celebration.”
“To hide my weeping I left the festivities; I fled to the temple steps. I poured my heart out to God, praying and weeping. I knew the Lord was there. I knew that no matter how distraught I was, the Lord had blessed me, and our people, with so much. I remembered the words of Miriam who went through the sea on dry land, and I decided my sorrows were like enemies that wanted to destroy me. That the Lord washed his enemies away in the sea. So my tears washed my sorrows away, and I told the Lord that if I had His blessing I had enough.”
“The High Priest Eli saw me and heard my mumbled prayers. He thought I was drunk! Oh, I protested so much that I was only lifting up my prayers to God in heaven, and he said the most wonderful thing! He promised that God had heard my prayers and would grant my petition. It was true! God gave me a son. On those steps, I had decided to appreciate what I had instead of mourn for what I did not have. God gave me peace. That was why I did what I did. To show my gratitude, I gave my precious son back to the Lord.”
“Oh, I know you want to know how in the world I was able to do such a thing. But I knew that if my son lived in the presence of the Lord, he would know the joy that I learned on the steps of the temple. Elkanah agreed that I could take him to Eli after he was weaned. Every year I would visit him when we took our offerings. It was a real celebration when we were able to see our boy every year. God honored my heart gift, and he gave me three more sons and two daughters.”
“My son, Samuel, lived a long full life with the Lord—and so did I. The Lord is my delight. There is no rock like the Lord.”