“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.”
What emotions are evoked from those words?! In reading them, I can feel the depth of her heartache, the desperation of her soul….oh, if only she could change her situation?!
Hannah was a barren woman desperate for a child of her own in 1 Samuel 1:1-10. Year after year, when they would go for the annual sacrifice to worship, it would also remind her, it had been one more year…..and still no child. Each time they went, it drove her grief deeper, her desperation stronger.
Her rival made it even worse. Her husband had another wife that had plenty of children, sons and daughters. And knowing that the husband favored Hannah, she made it her goal to needle and provoke Hannah, inflicting much torment, as only a woman can when feeling the sting of jealousy over a man’s affections.
Hannah would get into such an emotional state that she would be unable to eat at the feast. Her anguish from her barrenness and her rival’s gloating overshadowed all else. It consumed her.
She was broken, helpless to remedy her heart’s desire of her own accord.
Have you been there? Can you relate to her angst as she longs for a particular desire? I know I can. I know that moment with the Lord. I remember.
That grief, that depth of helplessness and frustration, is not anywhere I want to return anytime soon. I had not just one situation driving me to my undoing, but two. And I was equally incapable of changing either circumstance.
I remember crying many tears, and praying much, because what else could I do? What else could Hannah do? When you are helpless ……well, you are helpless. And time is not your friend. Waiting, along with being unable to alter a desperate situation, is excruciating.
Time spent crying before the Lord is not passive though, nor is it wasted. Though painful, it is still productive, even purifying. It can be a time of testimony, as Hannah demonstrated in verses 9-15.
We learn that this time before the Lord is demonstrative of two other spiritual implications. It says in verse 9 that Hannah “stood up” while they were at the feast in Shiloh, giving the impression that everyone else remained seated. It was as if she could not sit for one more minute while others were enjoying the celebration and she was so miserable. She had to flee that physical place by running to her Lord inwardly, to a spiritual place. She stood up and began to weep and pray. Hannah was taking her stand in the only way she could, in hope.
Psalm 130:7 describes what Hannah was doing. ” O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” She knew that with the Lord, there is always hope. Because of His great love for His people, for her, hope remains possible even in an impossible situation. God had the power to match the love. He was the one who could alter her situation, so she steadfastly took her stand in that knowledge. She defied her situation by standing firm in what she knew.
This reminds me of one of the songs that ministered to me the most when I was in my season of crying before the Lord. I would listen and feel more determined than ever, God was not going to fail me. One way or another, this side of heaven or the other, God was going to make all things right. As I cried before the Lord, I was just as much digging my heels in with hope.
Secondly, crying before the Lord also represents our dependence on Him as we wait and hope. He is the only One to sustain us in our desperation. When all we want to do is give up and stay in bed with the covers pulled over our heads, yet life demands our continued commitment and involvement, we turn to Him and find the strength needed to persevere. Hannah did not just cry, she turned to the Lord, in prayer and in faith. Her grief was given to the One who could help bear her burden.
In my most difficult days, I would walk my neighborhood and play this song over and over. I knew I was hanging on by a thread at times and I recognized Who could keep the grip even when I could not. This song represented what I was doing; turning to the Lord, crying out for mercy.
When we are crying before the Lord, it is not a hopeless act void of purpose. Hannah understood the testimony of faith and commitment it represented. She was His child, and He was her God. With the Lord, not one tear goes unnoticed.
When we turn to Him in bitterness of soul, He can take it. There is an intimacy that is forged in those desperate moments that bears fruit for a lifetime afterward. Therefore, with hope and dependence, let us stand firm in what we know, reaping the benefits of His unfailing love, even as we continue to wait.