There was a man from Ramathaim Zophim, from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; the name of the first was Hannah and the name of the second was Peninnah. Now Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. 3 Year after year this man would go up from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh. It was there that the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, served as the Lord’s priests. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he used to give meat portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But he would give a double portion to Hannah, because he especially loved her. Now the Lord had not enabled her to have children. 6 Her rival wife used to upset her and make her worry, for the Lord had not enabled her to have children. 7 Peninnah would behave this way year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the Lord’s house, Peninnah would upset her so that she would weep and refuse to eat. 8 Finally her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and not eat? Why are you so sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” 9 On one occasion in Shiloh, after they had finished eating and drinking, Hannah got up. (Now at the time Eli the priest was sitting in his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple.) 10 She was very upset as she prayed to the Lord, and she was weeping uncontrollably. 11 She made a vow saying, “O Lord of hosts, if you will look with compassion on the suffering of your female servant, remembering me and not forgetting your servant, and give a male child to your servant, then I will dedicate him to the Lord all the days of his life. His hair will never be cut.” 12 As she continued praying to the Lord, Eli was watching her mouth. 13 Now Hannah was speaking from her heart. Although her lips were moving, her voice was inaudible. Eli therefore thought she was drunk. 14 So he said to her, “How often do you intend to get drunk? Put away your wine!” 15 But Hannah replied, “That’s not the way it is, my lord! I am under a great deal of stress. I have drunk neither wine nor beer. Rather, I have poured out my soul to the Lord. 16 Don’t consider your servant a wicked woman, for until now I have spoken from my deep pain and anguish.” 17 Eli replied, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request that you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May I, your servant, find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and got something to eat. Her face no longer looked sad. The NET Bible 1 Sa 1:1–18.
How easily our miseries can blind our eyes to our blessings.
Do we not hear echos of our Husband here, hurt that we do not find His love sufficient? How we weep and discount His love because of some imagined fulfillment of a right, but now overblown desire, that captivates us and seems to all but extinguish our delight in being God’s preferred. How we cravenly envy the worldly blessings He bestows upon the lost – and virtually tell Him His love is meaningless if we cannot have what others have. Father, forgive me.
And in the natural, how many wives or husbands have destroyed their marriages because they lose sight of the great love at home, while longing for something outside or not provided. This is an emotional minefield.
Like Adam and Eve in Eden, they were free to indulge themselves without restraint except for the one tree. But it was the one tree they could not have that eclipsed all they did have. No wonder the old hymn writer reminded us to “count your blessing, name them one by one.” When we willingly ignore or undervalue the blessings God has given, our hearts will easily grow sick and bitter over what – in His love and wisdom – He has withheld.
Does that mean that if we regulate our hearts and minds properly that suddenly, as in Hannah’s case we’ll finally get what we want? Not necessarily. If, as in Hannah’s case it is what is best both for her and His kingdom, it might indeed work out that way. But much more important is the exercise of taking our desire to Him, and trusting both His love and wisdom regarding when and how He deems it best to answer. Not every good and legitimate desire is necessarily the best.
But note how it was she found her real relief in finally pouring out her heart to the Lord, and leaving it here. (v. 18) And how that appears to have restored a right intimacy with her husband. The child was not a reward for getting it right. Don’t misconstrue the passage. But how good God is that in her finding the better place, He added to it in giving her a son. Some of the older Jewish commentators say the text implies it was about a year later she conceived and delivered.
But even in this case, how many years did her husband suffer (recall vs. 8) because his wife, tho dearly loved and cherished, made less of her blessing than was fit? How his love was devalued in the meantime. What joy she robbed herself and her husband of in the intervening years.
Father, keep me from just such thinking. And teach me to pour my heart out fully, and rise from there, content, in you. And whether it is a year, or not until Christ returns, I know all my satisfaction is fully met in Him.