Hannah’s prayer and the Eli encounter

1 Samuel 1:10, 11 – In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and REMEMBER ME…”

One of the greatest challenges to our Christian maturity is to stand by and wait when we feel blessings are passing us by. Time is passing by. And you feel the bursting point pressure when you have hit and hit against heaven’s wall for an answer and YOU don’t get blessed in that area, but someone else does :O) That’s really stretching our maturity levels and pegging it up, isn’t it? Especially if you feel rejected because of things beyond your control – your gender, age, location, family status or physical ability.

This morning, I read that heartbreaking prayer of Hannah’s in 1 Samuel, “Remember me”. Her cross was not easy. Being childless is sheer misery for a young woman, for her husband, friends and relatives. But in a way, her grief was her own. Her husband Elkinah, though loving, just did not understand. To add insult to injury, Hannah’s counterpart, Elkinah’s other wife Peninnah, had ‘sons and daughters’. Not one, but many! Whenever childless sisters have spoken to me, they have always broken down uncontrollably at some point, moving me to deep sorrow for them. Its not easy to understand why God denies a blessing which seems almost a birthright, why others who seem so undeserving are blessed abundantly, why your wait alone is long and seemingly meaningless. Especially so when you that feel your walk, though wobbly, has been blameless. So why is the blessing denied? And when you feebly voice your doubts, you are slammed by self-righteous Christians for a lack of faith, lack of courage, lack of good judgement and worst, for jealousy. Sometimes well-meaning family and friends may try to understand and offer some balm (Elkinah gave Hannah double portion of the meat sacrifices – but what is meat to a troubled soul? :O)) He probably had no idea of the extent of Peninnah’s taunting of Hannah either (1 Samuel 1:6) Sometimes the ones who care the most chide you the most, shoot their mouths off (you could be the giver here too :O)) in their sheer helplessness, great concern for you. You struggle to explain, you struggle to forgive God and people, you struggle to make sense out of it all, you are mad at yourself for feeling depressed each time a blessing passes you by, you struggle to explain to a loved one that you are not jealous or dumb, just plain sad. And then you beat yourself up for feeling that way.

One thing remarkable about the heroes and sheroes of the Bible is the way they handled their crosses, their chance encounters. You cant control your crosses or what life throws at you or people. You can only control yourself. So your problems are not your problems, your reactions to your problems is your problem. Hannah was crying her guts out, mingling her tears with her silent prayers. Eli was the high priest, and a judge in Israel. An old and righteous man, already worn out by the sins of his sons, Eli is, sadly, very harsh, plain wrong and quick in his censure of her. (A personal warning to us to stop judging someone while we have not walked in their shoes? Censure while the matter is doubtful and unproved?) The lesson to learn from this Godly woman is that – Hannah did not walk off in a huff or chide Eli over the wicked conduct of his own sons. When we are at any time unjustly judged, we have to set a double watch before the door of our lips, that we do not return censure for censure. Hannah thought it enough to clear herself, and so must we – speak up for ourselves. Eli, a just man of God, bless him, was willing to acknowledge his mistake. Eli went a step further – he offered a prayer for her. Hannah went back home with her heart and her countenance brightened. Prayer and fellowship with another Christian should soothe the brows of all of us. We should be welcoming many Christian brothers and sisters to the mercy-seat of a reconciled God in Christ Jesus, not chasing them away with the last shreds of their hope torn. That encounter of Hannah’s and Eli’s turned out to be one of a lifelong friendship, which proved to be the backbone of the strong spirituality of Hannah’s son Samuel.

I do not know what your cross is. For how long you have carried it. But whatever personal struggle you are going through, may you sense His presence in your grief today. May He help you keep the cool, when everything comes crashing. May God send you His angels today and may you have the grace to make your encounters ‘right’. And may HE make your chance encounters with other human beings, a blessing for life. For them first, and for you.