“Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’” –1 Samuel 2:1, emphasis mine
When I read of her misery at not having a desperately longed-for child, compounded by taunts from her husband’s other wife, my heart always breaks for her. When Eli confronts her during a time of intense prayer, accusing her of being drunk, I want to scold him for being so dense: “Hasn’t the poor woman suffered enough?” And then, when she finally bears this child and turns him over to the Lord, I admire her courage at following through on her promise. (If you are unfamiliar with this priceless story, you’ll find it in 1 Samuel 1.)
But today, I’m drawn to something about the story that I usually miss, and I think, perhaps, it may be the whole point. Remember, I just told you, Hannah’s story is found in 1 Samuel 1. The chapter ends with Hannah putting Samuel into Eli’s care for a lifetime of service in the house of the Lord. Chapter 2, however, begins with Hannah’s prayer of joy and praise. Hannah gave up her son, then Hannah praised the Lord.
You would think the prayer of joy and praise would have come when Hannah learned she was expecting Samuel, or maybe a little later, when he was born. Then, you would think putting Samuel into Eli’s care would result in a time of mourning, or maybe another time of petition, asking for more children to replace the one she’s given up. Wouldn’t you think this? I think I would.
But I’m thankful for Hannah’s example here. We often view her as a symbol of hope for childless women—and that she is! She’s also a mentor, though, for all women who’ve ever had the privilege of raising a child or two or more.
You see, we don’t bear children in order to have them—to possess them, to keep them forever in our care. We bear children in order to send them off in faithful service to God through whatever occupation He leads them into! This does not mean we drop them off at our local church for the pastor to raise from the day they’re weaned—like Hannah did. We are blessed to be able to keep our children a little bit longer than that. But, like Hannah, our goal from the day they are born is to raise them to know, love, and serve God as He directs throughout their lives. He gives them to us, so we can give them back to Him.
That’s why the day we successfully launch them is a day to sincerely rejoice! (even if it’s through a few tears.)
And, when this day comes, though we’ll miss our children, we can trust that, just as God blessed Hannah with more children, He will bless us with more children, too—people to love and nurture, projects to complete in His name.
As I ponder all this, I have one more thought to add to this thought. And, as I mentioned earlier, it may be the thought, so I hope you’ll bear with me for just a few paragraphs more.
Hannah’s petition for a child, the way she handled it, can apply to all petitions we may bring before God. When considering what we want or need, rather than considering what these will mean to us personally, like Hannah we can consider what they’ll mean to God’s Kingdom and to our work within it. We pray for things we can develop for the honor and glory of God. We pray for things that will build His Kingdom, drawing more people to Him. Then we care for these things as God provides, releasing them willingly and with praise when it comes time for that. Perhaps this is what it means to give our petitions to God. We ask for what we want or need, releasing the answer to Him even before we receive it, with faithful intentions to use all God provides for His Kingdom’s good.
That is what Hannah did. Let’s learn from her and do the same.
Father, thank You for Hannah’s example. Teach us to consider Your Kingdom and our role in it whenever we present our requests to You. Thank You for the gifts You bring into our lives for a time. Help us to nurture them as You intend, and then release them back to You with joy. Let all we do be for the honor of Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.