An Open Handed Sacrifice – Hannah’s Story
By Steph Nickel
Have you experienced heartbreak? Stephanie looks at Hannah’s story, encouraging us to persevere in prayer and offer back the blessings poured out on us.
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A Heartbreaking Story
When considering whose story to share with you today, I read a devotional about Hannah and knew right away her story has much to teach us. Indeed, this woman was just like us in many ways.
To get an overview of Hannah’s story, let’s read excerpts from the first eight verse of 1 Samuel 1.
“There was a certain man … whose name was Elkanah … He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh … On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’” (ESV)
What a heart-breaking story!
Have you ever experienced devastating heartache?
Has that heartache ever been so intense that it drained you completely?
Did you ever have such a huge hole in your heart that even love like Elkanah’s for Hannah was insufficient to fill it?
While our situation may be very different from Hannah’s, I’m certain most of us can relate to her in many ways.
It helps us understand what she was going through when we consider the society she lived in and the importance of giving birth to sons so the family line could continue. Hannah likely felt inadequate and rejected. Even though Elkanah professed—and expressed—deep love and affection for her, she likely felt like he harboured a certain amount of disappointment and resentment. And it certainly didn’t help that his other wife (polygamy wasn’t unusual in those days) tormented and mocked her.
And what may have been the most difficult thing to bear was the fact that it was the Lord who had closed her womb. Although they seemed to be a God-honouring family, for some reason beyond her comprehension, God had not blessed her with the ability to have children.
We have the advantage of hindsight when it comes to Hannah’s story. If you are familiar with this portion of God’s Word, you know that God had incredible plans for Hannah and the son she would eventually give birth to.
Hannah prayed intensely year after year. Perhaps there’s an unanswered prayer that you’re about to give up on. Too often I close myself off emotionally because of certain situations and stop praying about them—at least as I should. I know I have much to learn from Hannah. The ongoing grief motivated her to cry out to the Lord so intensely that the priest at the temple thought she was drunk. Now that’s intense prayer!
But God heard Hannah’s prayer—and He hears ours. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and named him Samuel. What tremendous motivation to persevere in prayer!
When our long-time desires are granted, it is natural to overflow with praise and thanksgiving—and then go on with life. But that wasn’t to be the case with Hannah. She did something I can’t even imagine doing. When her little boy was weaned, she took him to the temple—and she left him there.
She. Left. Him. There.
God closed Hannah’s womb. She suffered mentally, emotionally, socially—likely in every way—because of it. She cried out to God over and over and over again to allow her the joy of giving birth to a child. She finally became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She nurtured and cared for him for a short time. And then she fulfilled her promise to the Lord and left him in Eli the priest’s care so he could learn to serve the Lord.
My sons are 33 and 29 and live far from home. I still miss them even though I can text and Skype pretty much anytime. Plus, as time and finances allow, I can hop on a plane and visit them. Even now, I can’t imagine only being able to connect with them once a year and they’re adults. Hannah’s son was a toddler and she had to say goodbye, knowing she’d only see him every 12 months. Incredible!
How was she just like us and how can we learn from her story?
For a variety of reasons, she desperately wanted something she didn’t have.
This is probably true of all of us. In humility, we must surrender our desires to the Lord. Sometimes, they line up with God’s will for us and sometimes they don’t. But just because we don’t get what we want when we want it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never receive whatever it may be.
She persevered in prayer.
Just like Hannah, we are encouraged to persevere in prayer. God’s timetable is often different than ours. Like Hannah, we may have to bring the same request before the Lord for years.
Just an aside, we must learn from Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He cried out in anguish because of the suffering He knew lay ahead. And yet, He submitted to His Father’s will and declared, “Your will be done.” While it is right to persevere in prayer, we must also be willing to submit to God’s will, whether it is to deliver us from our suffering or to see us through it.
When God granted Hannah’s request, she held the gift with open hands.
Even if the Lord chooses to give us our heart’s desire, we must still hold that answer with open hands. We must never cling tightly to those answers, whether they be things or people. Ultimately, every blessing in our life is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. Hannah understood that. I’m still in the learning process.
Hannah sacrificially gave back to the Lord what He had given her.
God may very well not call us to give back as Hannah did. However, we must always be willing to do so. And the good news is that we can trust Him completely. The more we get to know Him, the more willing we will become to follow this woman’s example.
I encourage you to read and meditate on Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1. You can then go on to read the story of her son.
Just like Hannah, may we persevere in prayer and may we offer back to the Lord every blessing He pours out.
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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