I want go focus on mothers in the Bible this week. Today, Hannah comes to mind. She was the mother of Samuel. Her husband had another wife named Peninnah. She had blessed her husband with children, but Hannah had not. She struggled with infertility. I’m sure it bothered her all the time, but each year when they would travel to Shiloh to worship God, it would become a major issue. Her husband would give a portion of the sacrifice to Peninnah and to each of her children. To Hannah, he only gave one portion. Peninnah would taunt her and make fun of her for not having children.
I’m sure that Hannah struggled daily with not being able to have children. The voice in her head constantly tormented her making her feel like she was somehow less of a person because she couldn’t have kids. She must have felt like God was punishing her or that there was something wrong with her. Every time she saw a mother with their children, it was like a knife in a wound reminding her that she was barren. Having the other wife taunt her and make fun of her was just salt in the wound.
Her husband would say things like, “Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?” Men really don’t understand what a woman goes through. We aren’t wired the way a woman is. Instead of doing something consoling, we say something stupid. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband, she wanted fulfillment that only a child could bring. Her husband’ swords weren’t meant to hurt, but spoken out of ignorance, they did more harm than good. She would have preferred he prayed for her there while we sacrificed.
Since he didn’t, she did. She went into the sanctuary to pray. She began to weep as years of pain, suffering and mental anguish released. When she ran out of tears, her body dry heaved as she tried to pray. The words wouldn’t come out. Her mouth was moving, but the prayer was coming from her heart. Eli, the priest, saw her at the alter. He assumed she was drunk by her behavior. He called out to her, “Must you come here drunk?” Sobbing she replied, “I haven’t been drinking. But I am very discouraged and I was pouring my heart out to The Lord.” He said, “In that case, go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
She went away happy and began to eat again. She believed the word from Eli. She conceived and gave birth to a son. When he was old enough to be weaned, she took him back to Eli and gave him to The Lord. She left him there as an offering for God answering her prayer. She gave back the thing she wanted most. When I looked up the name Hannah, it meant “grace”. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace as “an unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration.” God gave Hannah grace just like he gives it to us. When Samuel was born, Hannah became a new person. She was free of the thing that haunted her. God is still in the business of answering our deepest desires and granting us grace when no one else understands.