Hannah’s Heart

Welcome to The Heart of Hannah! But really, that’s what you’ll be getting if you continue to read my blog. Me—right to the heart of me. What I hope you’ll find there is a desire and effort to rid myself of as much of that “me” word as possible. My heart, as well as most peoples’, I guess, contains a lot of selfishness that could be filled with something much better.

Actually though, my blog name is one with a double-meaning. While I chose it because you’ll definitely be getting a glimpse into my heart, I also chose it because of my deep respect for the heart of the woman after whom I was named; Hannah of I Samuel. What an awesome person she was. Hannah, in the very depths of emotions like grief, despair, aloneness, bitterness and desperation cried out to God like He was an old friend. Her grief was so great that I Samuel I mentions her emotional state 13 times. Those 13 times include words like “provoked,” “weeping,” “affliction,” “sorrowful,” and “great anxiety and vexation.”

We’ve all suffered grief in one way or another. We grieve over little things sometimes. I grieved a little when I burned the cornbread right before Dr. Lipe, one of my former college professors, came to eat lunch at our house. I grieved when my dad gave my cat away when I wasn’t home one summer when I was 6 or 7 years old. I grieved when, at 11 years old, my piano teacher told me I would never be as good as Caleb (my brother). But how many times in a person’s life is she so completely overcome with sorrow that she falls down before God and begs for mercy, regardless of what’s going on around her? Have you been there before? Well, that’s where we find Hannah. Hannah is so desperate to pour out her heart before God that she can’t wait until she gets home. She simply leaves the table of feasting and merriment and steps outside to talk to her Father. The Bible says she “wept bitterly” as she spoke to God (vs.10). I’ve always pictured her collapsing to the ground in exhaustion from her grief and anxiety as she begins her prayer.

I’ve tried to imagine what it must have felt like to put up with the constant bullying Hannah endured from Peninnah year after year after year. In that society, it must have been rather embarrassing, maybe even shameful, for a woman to be unable to have children, and Peninnah, who harbored a whole different set of emotions, took full advantage of Hannah’s dilemma. In Elkanah’s  eyes, Peninnah was always in Hannah’s shadow, as Elkanah loved Hannah most (vs. 5).  Peninnah’s envy and jealousy caused her to do to Hannah what so many of us women, especially young women are tempted to do today. Peninnah chose the one thing about Hannah that appeared inferior, and she fed on it perpetually. It was her one hope of ever looking better than Hannah.  How often are we tempted to gossip about or entertain thoughts of others’ flaws simply because we’re jealous? For some reason we think it’s empowering to put others down or even to constantly remind ourselves of the imperfections of others, just so we can feel better about ourselves. That’s what Peninnah was doing, simply because she could do something Hannah couldn’t.

I know the focus of Hannah’s distress is the fact that she was barren, but before I can dwell on that, I always get caught up in the fact that Hannah and Peninnah shared a husband. Can you imagine? I can’t fathom having to constantly compete with another woman for my husband’s time and affection. The thought is unbearable and repulsive to me. No wonder Peninnah had self-esteem issues and Hannah was nearly driven out of her mind in desperation. Aren’t you thankful God didn’t design polygamy as an acceptable option? And for the record, it wasn’t exactly an acceptable option back then, either. The problem was due to the total anarchy of Israel at that time. Everyone simply did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), and apparently this included Elkanah. Regardless, Hannah must have been lovely in every way to be the recipient of Elkanah’s devotion despite her, as it were, disability.

But it wasn’t enough for Hannah. She, like so many women today, had an innate maternal longing inside her that I think had little to do with the harassment she underwent because of her barrenness. She wanted a child, simple as that. She wanted a child more than anything else in the whole world. She wanted to hold a baby in her arms that was her very own. Now, that’s something I can understand completely {but don’t get your hopes up, folks… no baby in the Giselbach house for a long, long time 🙂 }.

We all know the rest of her fascinating story. God did give Hannah a child and, as she promised, she took him to live in the temple as soon as he was weaned, left him there, and visited him year after year. Whether or not I think she did the right thing in making that vow is for another day. For now, I want to focus on one remarkable aspect of Hannah’s character. In her time of trial, Hannah never stopped worshipping God, and she never stopped praying to God. If you study the first chapter of I Samuel, you’ll notice that there are 14 references made to Hannah communicating directly with God, and one in I Samuel 2. My favorite mention of her prayer is when Hannah described it to Eli, who had just falsely accused her of talking gibberish in a state of intoxication. She argued, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (I Samuel 1:15 emp. added).  Not,  “I just said a prayer,” not “I was just saying my bedtime prayers,” but “I poured out my soul before the Lord.”

This tells me a lot about Hannah. She wasn’t just a good, God-fearing lady. Hannah had a relationship with God that was so intimate that it was only natural for her to pour out her soul to him no matter where she was or what was going on around her, and He was listening intently because He loved the heart of Hannah.

That’s what I want for this Hannah. I want to have that kind of relationship with my Father. I don’t believe it comes naturally for people. I don’t believe that intimacy with God is achieved through some emotional experience (and if so, I don’t think it’s long-lasting). I believe that kind of effortless relationship comes with a lot of hard-core discipline. My goal for 2012 is to daily bury myself deeper in God’s word and just talk to Him more often. Not just before I eat or as I’m drifting in and out of consciousness as I’m falling asleep at night. I want to have the kind of camaraderie with my Father that evokes a 24-hour communication line with Him. I know He wants that and I know He’s told me to do that (Matthew 7:7, Philippians 4:6-7, I Thessalonians 5:17, etc).  I just have to do it. Like the Hannah of I Samuel 1, I want to be so lost in God’s love that I can’t help but talk to Him, and I know that will come with time.

For starters, my husband and I, as well as our church family, are reading through the Bible chronologically in one year. We’re not just reading though—every Sunday, as a spiritual family, we’re discussing what we’ve read and how it applies to our daily lives. To see our schedule for this endeavor, check out www.riverbendfamily.com/resources.  I’m sure I’ll be spilling over with the new things I’ve learned throughout this year, maybe even after tomorrow’s study. In the meantime, this laundry isn’t going to wash itself. More soon. 🙂



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