(photo cred: patheos.com)
Now I know the title alone got some of you to click to this page…SO since you’re here being nosey, you might as well stay and read! 🙂
Hope. Sovereignty. Sam’s Mama.
I really have been struggling with hope and God’s sovereignty lately. I think that anyone who has conversed with me within the past year or has read my blogs can see evidence of this. I witnessed events this week that had me looking up to heaven with more questions. And it’s really hard to convince others of reasons to hope when you are searching for your own. That’s when God reintroduced me to Sam’s Mama.
Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.
Read it when you have the time. It’s rich for so many reasons, reasons that I cannot sit here and type because I’m delirious and I have a short span of time to have your attention. This is a story of hope that has ministered to me so much in the past two days.
1. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
Hannah was a married woman who was barren (unable to have kids). Now while that may not be a big deal to some, it certainly was a big deal within the cultural context. Women being married and bearing children in that time was a badge of honor; it was what women did. To be barren was to be shamed and fruitful women were often esteemed over barren women. To make it worse, she had to be reminded of her barrenness by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. You know how women can be catty and petty, right? Yeah, Peninnah was all of that.
One of the points that had me thinking was that verse 6 says that she was barren “because the Lord had closed her womb”. This was not a punishment for a sin (as with Michal when she mocked David) nor a payback for a wrong done; she was barren because God’s sovereignty deemed it so. Stop right there. How will you respond when the thing you want most is withheld from you because God’s sovereign Hand deemed things to happen that way? That is such a tough pill to swallow and many of us don’t want to think of God in those terms. But the reality is – sometimes some of our biggest desires are withheld because He chooses for things to go down like that. It isn’t always explained…so…how you gon’ act?!
So the story goes on to talk about how every year Hannah would go to Shiloh for the annual feast and she would not eat and she would weep bitterly before the Lord. This request, this hope, this miracle that she was asking from the Lord was so ingrained in her being and was so important that she would weep (a heavily emotional cry) and she would fast. Not even her husband Elkanah, whom the Bible clearly says loved her, could console her. Hannah had support and she had love and that still could not appease the pain of that which she was lacking. So she did what she knew to do – she brought her petition before the Lord.
In her petition, she makes some pretty strong statements. I think all of us make strong statements when we’re feeling desperate or vulnerable enough. But she was very clear in her prayers to God – she asked her to remember her and then asked Him to do something that only He could do. Hannah could have sat there and went on and on about how God knows what she wants and needs but she was specific in her request of God. She wanted a son and once received, she would dedicate him back to the Lord. If you’re going to go to God, you might as well be specific about what it is that you’re hoping in Him for. I have learned lately that God can handle our specificity and our requests can’t ever fall beyond the realms of His sovereignty.
Hannah was praying so hard that even the preacher (the head priest Eli) thought she was drunk. People will misunderstand the cries of your pain and they will not always understand why you have to reach out to God in your Hannah-like situations. Hannah did not let that stop her; in fact, she told Eli that she was not drunk but that she was oppressed and seeking the Lord about it. Your situation may not be barrenness but whatever the situation that you have found yourself in, you have reason to hope.
Verse 17 says that Eli told her to go on her way and wished that God would grant her the petitions of her heart. Hannah then got up, wiped her face, went to eat, and her countenance was different. When you have reason to hope, your whole demeanor shows it. Hannah had not become pregnant at this point nor was she told that she would become pregnant. There was no evidence that was she prayed for would be granted, as she had been coming year after year to pray for the same thing. However, after she prayed and wept, she got herself up and she walked out in confident expectation that God heard her, would remember her, and would do something for her. She was positioned for that which she hoped.
And guess what? God granted her request. She became a mother to Samuel, who is one of the great prophets and judges of the Old Testament. His name means “to ask of God.” She kept her vow to the Lord and dedicated him to the Lord.
There was nothing more that Hannah knew when she left Shiloh that day than what she knew when she came. There was no visitation from an angel, there was no prophetic word spoken, there was no dramatic “voice of the Lord” that spoke. She brought her hope – an audacious, bitter, tethered, stubborn hope – to the Lord and confidently expected Him to make good on it. She asked not only to be remembered but to be favored. Her circumstances had not changed yet when she left Shiloh that day but her countenance had.
Hope is never for things that we can be 100% certain of; it is synonymous with faith. You may be like me and feel like you have lost some of your reasons to hope but it was through this story that God reminded me of His ability to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Don’t stop hoping – you have plenty of reasons to have confident expectations in God and His Sovereignty. Sam’s Mama shows us so. Keep moving forward.
I dedicate this post to women like my mother, like the “Sam’s Mama” I know in real life, and the other strong, hope-filled women I know who have kept their audacity to hope in God strong.