‘So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”1 Samuel 1: 20
About Hannah’s story
Hannah’s story is one I have visited time and again over the last few months as we’ve continued to struggle with fertility following miscarriages.
You can read her story in full at the start of the book of 1 Samuel. But for now, here are a few of my own reflections …
Maybe like me, you aren’t very comfortable with huge public demonstrations of emotion in front of strangers, even if you’re feeling pretty cut up inside.
Maybe like me, sometimes rather than being real with God, it just feels easier to give Him your best spiritual performance and tell Him what you think He wants to hear.
And maybe like me, you often find it tempting to hide your more difficult thoughts and feelings away from God.
But not Hannah.
So here’s a few things that I’ve learned from her story:
- It’s okay to be real with God about our pain
In this passage she is found weeping and ‘pouring out her soul to the Lord’ in the temple, so much so, that Eli the priest actually thought she was drunk in the middle of the day…
I love Hannah’s story, because reassures me that it’s actually okay to bring all my uncensored tears, frustrations, anger, sadness, and disappointment right before God, and to be real about how I’m feeling.
He can deal with my raw emotions, and I don’t need to pretend to be more together than I am. After all, he already knows about how we’re feeling anyway…
- It’s good to share our heart-ache with others too
Her story also reminds me that it’s good to share my feelings with others too; maybe not with just anyone who will listen to me any time I want to complain or moan about our situation, but certainly with close trusted friends, family and spiritual mentors who I know will stand alongside us and encourage us welll…
Because just look how Eli blesses and prays over Hannah in this passage, encouraging her not to worry, but rather to look to God for what she needs, and to trust in Him instead, then finally encouraging her to leave in peace, saying ‘May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him’.
His words immediately lend her fresh perspective, helping her to move beyond her emotions about the situation, bringing her comfort, renewed direction, and a lifted spirit.
- Hannah is healed … but maybe not right away
And then we are told that Hannah then goes home to her husband with her spirit lifted, and ‘in the course of time’ she becomes pregnant with a son called Samuel.
It’s an amazing answer to prayer, but also just a small word of caution here too.
Because I think that it’s really easy to read the Bible’s simple narratives and to fill in the gaps ourselves, assuming that the answers always came instantly and miraculously.
But that’s not actually what this passage says. It tells us that her prayer was answered ‘in the course of time’…
This ‘course of time’ could have been a few days or weeks, or it could have been a few months, or even years. We really aren’t told for sure.
But bearing in mind that there were no ovulation sticks, no early pregnancy scans, no digital pregnancy test kits with 99% accuracy up to 5 days early, I think it’s safe to assume that there was a reasonable time lapse between this moment in the temple, and Hannah finally receiving her answer to prayer.
And I also wonder what happened in that waiting time too. Did she trust God fully, and without any waivering? Or did she continue to wobble and to doubt at times, like I so often do?
A few final thoughts
I think that often when I don’t get an instantaneous answer to prayer, it can be easy for us to think of it as somehow less miraculous or less God-given, but again not so with Hannah.
She fully attributes the birth of her son to the Lord working a miracle for her, and dedicates his whole life straight back to God in thankfulness.
And in the end, God didn’t just honour her faithfulness once, but He continued to answer her prayers. In the following chapter, we are told that she goes on to have three more sons and two daughters as well, while Samuel “grew up in the presence of the Lord”.
Infertility in the Bible
Of course, Hannah is not the only woman in the Bible who is mentioned as struggling with fertility. Three other women also endured the despair of not being able to conceive.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, laughed at an angel appearing and promising her that she would conceive a child in old age (Genesis 18: 12), and she later stepped outside of God’s plans by encouraging her husband to sleep with their servant girl Hagar instead, so great was her unbelief.
Rebekah questioned, “If all is well, why am I like this?” as her twins struggled in the womb. (Genesis 25: 22)
And Rachel got became very angry and bitter, and blamed her husband, saying “Give me children or I’ll die’ (Genesis 30: 1).
But not Hannah. Hannah accepted God’s promise and waited faithfully for his blessing.
Oh, that I might also learn to be a bit more like Hannah…