Guys–I’m taking a break from my “They Were Called” series. It’s not necessarily finished, but I know if I write a post on it today (and maybe even if I do it next week) it will be forced and not inspired and, well, that would be a waste. I’ve really enjoyed studying some of these men and women who were called to do great things. Some got to do what they wanted, some were called to better, some were called to different. But they were all called by God. And God equipped them to fulfill their callings, even if the equipping sometimes meant allowing trials and difficulties in their lives. Like Hannah, who wouldn’t have been motivated to give Samuel over to God if not for her infertility, I like to think that I am being used by God in some way while I wait. I have more people I want to write about–Abraham (and Sarah), Joseph, Elizabeth–but I can’t do it justice today. So please forgive this “pause” on my series. I have other things to write, other things I want to focus on right now. But I will come back to this, God willing.
If you missed one of the posts in the series, you can access them all here or individually:
Today happens to be the first anniversary of my blog. When I started this blog, I am sure I expected to have a child by now. Instead, we are still waiting for our miracle pregnancy. But while our outward circumstances have not changed, we have grown and matured in our trial. We have felt God’s peace. We have wavered but not fallen. We have waited expectantly and waited reluctantly. And we are learning to trust, to relinquish fear and worry in favor of reliance on God and faith in his goodness.
So it seems fitting that today is the day I said I would write about Hannah’s calling.
One of the things that strikes me about Hannah is that her calling was more than she probably thought or ever realized. God uses her story to give hope to so many others who know the pain of infertility, the pain of longing for an answered prayer. Surely the example she sets is one part of her calling from the Lord. Being a role model, having “fame” in this way, is not something she would have expected or asked for, but her life has been used by God for our good and his glory over and over.
What we see as our calling may be only a small part of what God has truly called us to do.
But I’m jumping ahead.
Hannah’s husband was a man who loved her. Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. Each year, Elkanah would take his family to make sacrifices at the temple. Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of meat because he loved her, but Peninah mocked Hannah because Hannah was barren. [Mocked? And to think I get so upset at “just adopt” and “just relax” from well-meaning, albeit ignorant, fertile folks.]
We never see Hannah retaliate. But she does grieve. She grieves and she refuses to eat. In an effort to comfort her, Elkanah asks, “Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?” Ah, but the pain of infertility is so great. [Thank you, God that DH understands and is struggling with me.] Hannah, though loved, is really alone in her grief.
I wonder what she thinks about. Does she wonder, as I have wondered, why God would give her the desire to be a mother without the children to bear that out? Does she feel a lack of purpose, a lack of meaning without children? Did she dream of motherhood as a girl? Was raising children something she looked forward to?
One year, while they are in Jerusalem to make their sacrifices to the Lord, Hannah goes to the temple and prays. In her prayer, she shows that God is gracious to hear us. He listens to our needs. And we are right and justified to ask him for that which we long for. The Bible says, “And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor shall ever be used on his head.” (I Samuel 1:11)
Eli, the priest, who watches her as she prays, wrongly assumes she is drunk and confronts her. Upon finding that she is praying, he says, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” (1:17)
Hannah does go in peace: “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1:18b)
So, Hannah feels called to be a mother. Year after year goes by and she remains childless. Her husband’s other wife (who Melanie has [sweetly] speculated he may have married only because Hannah was barren–I encourage you to read her post) not only has children but regularly mocks Hannah for her barrenness. Her husband loves her but doesn’t understand her pain and, essentially, urges her to just be happy with what she has. Hannah doesn’t give up. She places her hopes before the Lord, seeking his help because he alone can provide what she longs for. After pouring her heart out to God, she leaves with peace. Even while her circumstances are unchanged, her countenance is different.
Oh how I praise the Lord for providing us with peace–however tenuous it may sometimes seem–in the midst of this heartache. I look back at the past year and see that I am different than I was at the beginning of this journey. I am changed for the better–though my circumstances remain largely unchanged.
This isn’t the end of the story for Hannah. She does bear a son. She calls him Samuel. And she fulfills her vow. After Samuel is weaned, she takes him to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. She leaves him there.
I cannot even imagine! Hannah receives the blessing of a son, but she is with him for only a very short time. She will now see him just once a year when Elkanah brings his family to the temple. Upon leaving Samuel at the temple this first time, Hannah lifts up praises to God for the answered prayer.
Samuel becomes the final judge of Israel. He is a prophet and God speaks to him. He anoints the first two kings of Israel under God’s direction. Hannah’s faithfulness and prayer were key to God’s story for his people Israel.
And God is gracious to Hannah in her faithfulness. She goes on to have three more sons and two daughters (I Samuel 1:21).
Hannah: Called to be a mother. And called to set an example for us in prayer and praise, in being genuine before the Lord. She waited years to be able to fulfill her calling. Without that wait, the pain, and heartache, would Samuel have been dedicated to the Lord? Would we know that we can pour out our hearts in agony and grief to God while asking for specific requests? God had a plan and a purpose in giving Hannah her deep-seated desire to be a mother. And I trust he has a plan and a purpose for each of us in the midst of our difficulties, our trials, our insecurities.
So we keep turning to him.
This is episode 3 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 2, about Moses and the calling he didn’t want, click here. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. Join me next Monday for episode 4.
The time of Moses’ birth was a difficult period for the Jewish people. They were enslaved in Egypt, and Pharaoh, afraid that the Hebrews were becoming too populous, decreed that all male Jewish infants should be killed at birth. The story of how Moses ended up adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter is one we tell the youngest children in Sunday school. It’s a lovely story: The baby that should have been killed is discovered floating in a basket and catches the eye of the Pharaoh’s daughter. He is raised in the palace and his own mother is brought in to be his nurse. He grows up with an understanding of his culture and heritage, but he also grows up in a king’s family.
Moses’ rescue of his people from slavery is another popular Sunday school story. It sounds exciting, even thrilling. Moses is called to save his people and to bring them to the land God had promised hundreds of years earlier to their ancestors.
And so the difficulty starts. First of all, Moses doesn’t want the job. His first response when God speaks to him from a burning bush is to make a series of excuses, ultimately ending in Exodus 4:13 by saying, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
This part really hits home for me as we’re dealing with infertility. I don’t want to be infertile. I want a normal family-building trajectory. I want to have a baby whose first birthday we should have recently celebrated. But, whether I will ultimately be a mother or not, I cannot deny that I have been called to go through infertility at this time.
It also hits me because I’ve been considering what I should do with myself lately. Part of me feels like pursuing anything other than motherhood would indicate that I am giving up on that dream. That wrestling match is a subject for another post. And lately, I have been feeling like I need to look into adoption more seriously. I don’t know that we are called to adopt, but I do know that right now it’s not what Iwantto be called to do. I’ve mentioned some of my reservations about adopting before. And if we end up going that route it will only be because the Lord has done a mighty work to change my heart on the issue. Nonetheless, I have been feeling compelled to look into it.
So I feel like I can really relate to Moses here. He gets a calling he doesn’t want. That is the beginning of his hardship.
From that despised calling, we see Moses suffer even more. He had difficulty with the Israelites from day one. It makes no difference that God shows them again and again that he is faithful. It makes no difference that they walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. It makes no difference that God’s very presence accompanies them day and night. The Israelites like to whine.
Moses is called to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. And because of their—shall we say misbehavior?—their journey is extended by 40 years. He had to be feeling so close! But no, not finished yet.
Moses is called to show the Israelites how to be God’s people. I can’t blame him for not relishing that task!
And ultimately, because of Moses’ own pride or lack of trust, he does not get to join the people in the Promised Land when they finally get there. He dies on a mountain top instead.
At one point, when the Israelites are whining for Moses to give them meat to eat, see Moses’ response to God:
Where am I going to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:13-15).
These are the words of a distressed and desperate man.
His calling wasn’t all bad, of course. Throughout his life, Moses spoke with God. He met with the Lord all. the. time. He delivered the law to the people. He is credited with putting the oral history of the Jewish people into writing. And he was permitted to see God. What glory! What wondrous grace!
And where would we be without Moses? He is remembered as a man of great faith. His mention in Hebrews 11, often referred to as the “Hall of Faith,” encompasses seven full verses, including,
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11: 24-26).
And so I am reminded of a few things:
I don’t know the full story God has planned.
I should trust God with my life, even if he is calling me to something other than motherhood.
I should be looking to the reward.
The road isn’t always easy.
This is episode 2 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. For episode 3, about how Hannah had to wait to fulfill her calling, click here.