“And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb.” 1 Samuel 1:6 NKJV
One of the most difficult things to go through is an affliction. An affliction is anything that causes pain and suffering. Whether it comes in a physical form or an emotional one, it is really hard to endure.
We are told that Hannah’s affliction was from the hand of an adversary, and it specifically says, “her rival”. Scripture tells us that it was intense, it was serious and it was done purposely to make her unhappy, uncomfortable and to make her feel small. What an evil vicious thing to do to another person.
What I like about this account is that it names the one that is causing her distress. Peninnah had at least four children, or more, and Hannah was barren, but loved dearly by the same husband, Elkanah. Every time they went as a family to Shiloh to worship, Peninnah would purposely set out to do her harm. We are not told how long this went on, but we can gather that each time Peninnah got pregnant the taunting increased with intensity.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced being depressed, but depression feels like you’re trapped in a dark place where no one can reach you or lift you out. It affects how you think and feel all day long. It’s a weight that bears down on you emotionally and physically. Some who have battled it will tell you that there were times when they couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes medication has to be prescribed for a person who suffers from depression.
On one particular trip to Shiloh, Hannah was so depressed that she couldn’t eat and Elkanah asked her why she refused to eat. Her husband didn’t understand why she was so upset and he brought himself into the equation. Elkanah was the typical ‘man’ who saw things from a logical perspective. “Am I not better to you than ten sons” (vs.8)? What’s interesting here is that he asked her why she was grieved, yet he gave the reason for her grief mingled with what he thought was a great substitute for it.
Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion meaning that she was given one of the best pieces of meat from the peace offering. It was a good and excellent portion, but she could not partake of it due to her emotional state of mind.
Hannah waited until everyone was finished eating and went into the temple to pray, unleashing her burdened soul to God for she was in severe emotional pain. Hannah wept as she prayed making a promise to God that if He gave her a son, she would give him to the Lord for the rest of his life in consecration to God. What a serious vow that was.
Hannah’s prayer begins with, “O Lord of hosts”. She recognizes the one who is over the Mighty Armies. Hannah was being attacked constantly by her adversary and she is calling upon the Lord of the Mighty Armies to protect her. Who else better to be her protector than God!
While God was being intreated by this humble woman, she is simultaneously being accused of being drunk by Eli, the priest. What insult added to injury. After explaining to him what her situation was, she is told to go in peace with God’s blessing of answered prayer. Hannah rises to her feet differently than when she came into the temple, and ate food with a happy countenance. What tremendous change comes when we find ourselves in the presence of God and walk away with comfort and hope.
We read that Hannah conceives and has a son and his name is Samuel. Samuel not only becomes a judge in Israel, and he becomes a prophet as well. God not only looked upon this woman and her affliction, He took care of her adversary at the same time. Hannah got what she petitioned the Lord God for and God shut the mouth of her rival, Peninnah for good!
When Hannah prayed for a male child, it spoke volumes because this meant that she had a godly and spiritual reason behind her request. Perhaps in earlier years of being taunted, she desires to become pregnant just from a woman’s natural need. After all, God created women with the desire for children. Somewhere along the line, Hannah saw the need for a man to be raised up in Israel to do God’s bidding. She wanted to give her son over to God to fill that position. The desire of her heart pleased God. It brought joy to the Lord God’s heart and He delighted in her. It was a pleasure for God to deliver such a one from her adversary.
In conclusion, this story has precious lessons that we can learn from. How often do we brood or grieve about a problem or an affliction, rolling it over in our mind and heart, but not really carrying it to God in prayer? In the hymn, ‘What A Friend We Have in Jesus’ says, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Prayer is a powerful resource to help us to be relieved of our burdens and cares. We were not built emotionally, mentally, or psychologically to carry burdens. We cannot handle them at all. Thank God He offers to take them off our hands and not only that, He will deliver us from the adversary, the devil who constantly afflicts us using people and situations.
Let’s be encouraged by Hannah’s personal journey and experience knowing that God can do the very same thing for us!
Patricia Stuart is an Author and Visual artist whose ministry work involves conference speaking and ministering to young women. Her books speak to those who have experienced trials and afflictions and female relationship struggles. She also shares the challenges of being a parent. Patricia serves in her local church by way of music and in women’s ministry. Patricia’s books can be found on Amazon and on her website.