In Barren Times
James Dalton | May 10, 2019
Eli answered [Hannah], “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. — 1 Samuel 1:17
Every Friday at the Sabbath meal, it is the Jewish tradition for the husband to sing the words from Proverbs 31:10–31 to his wife, praising her as an eishet chayil, a “woman of valor.” It is the highest compliment one can bestow upon a mother, a wife, a daughter. But what constitutes a woman of valor? During this month as we celebrate the women in our lives, enjoy these devotions from the teachings of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on what it means to be an eishet chayil.
For anyone who has faced the heartbreak of repeated disappointment — whether it’s an inability to have children, to find employment, or to foster a lasting relationship — the story of Hannah provides a much-needed balm.
Hannah, as you may remember, was barren, unable to conceive — a condition that was considered a curse in ancient Israel. Added to her shame was the fact that her husband took another wife, as was the custom, who made life miserable for Hannah by taunting and insulting her. Even when Hannah, in absolute desperation, prayed fervently to God for a son, the priest, Eli, mistakenly thought she was drunk!
Hannah had more than enough reasons to be discouraged and to give up. But that’s not what Hannah did. Instead, she brought her problem honestly before God and prayed that He would “look on your servant’s misery and remember me and not forget your servant but give her a son” (v. 11). In return for His favor, Hannah vowed to dedicate her son in lifelong service to God.
After pouring out her heart to God and receiving encouragement from Eli that God would grant her request, Hannah was able to leave in peace, entrusting her problem with God and having faith that He would answer her prayer in His timing and according to His plan.
To Hannah’s credit, when she at last gave birth to a son, she remembered her vow to God, and at the proper time, brought her beloved son, Samuel, to serve with Eli as a priest. She did so, as the Bible tells us, joyfully because Hannah knew that this gift of a son was given to her from God and she was returning him to God for His purposes.
During those barren times in our lives, when nothing positive seems to be happening in our work, our relationships, or our service, we can feel that our prayers are unanswered and our faith ineffectual. But, as Hannah discovered, continued prayer opened the door for God to work.
And as Hannah waited in faith and trusted God, she was rewarded. Hannah had supreme confidence in God’s sovereignty and thankfulness for everything he had done. Indeed, her beautiful response is recorded for us in 1 Samuel 2: 1–10.
Let Hannah’s story encourage you in facing the disappointments and the trials of this life. Rejoice in what God has done for you already, be thankful for all He has given you, and have confidence that our sovereign God is in control.