Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Hannah Took It to the Lord

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.

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David Asked, “How Long O Lord?”

Months ago I introduced what I planned to make my first blog series. And then I never even wrote the first article in the series. Oops. So for that, “This is my first blog series. We’ll see how it goes” comment in the intro article, we can go ahead and conclude that it didn’t go well. It didn’t go at all. 

But I didn’t forget it. And this time I’m doing it right. I hope.

The crux of that introductory post was that being called to do something doesn’t mean it will be easy. I find this idea comforting as we deal with infertility. When we first received our diagnosis, I questioned my calling. Am I not supposed to be a mother?

Today, I will say I don’t know what I am called to be. But I do know I desire to be a mother. And I do know that simply facing hardship along the way does not indicate that I am not supposed to have children of my own. I know that’s true, because there are plenty of people in the Bible who are clearly called to do specific things but face great difficulty getting to their objectives. For the next several Mondays, I’ll be writing about some of these biblical people and the challenges they faced on the way to becoming who God called them to be.

I’m starting this series with David. I chose to begin with David for a few reasons:

  • His calling is indisputable. As the anointed (read: chosen) king of Israel, there can be no doubt that God fully intended for David to be king.
  • His hardship is indisputable. David spent years of his life hiding from King Saul (who wanted to kill him). He was apart from his family. He had to spend time living among his enemies. And he documented his hardship in the Psalms, so we can be sure that David wasn’t hanging out in those caves thinking, “Yeah—this is the life.
  • It’s difficult to find meaning in his hardship. Sometimes we face difficulties in life that the perspective of time helps us see were for our good. We can look back at what we’ve been through and see that it was good that things didn’t go the way we wanted when we wanted. We can see that we’ve grown from certain hardships. Or we can see that the path we ended up taking because of a challenge was a better path, the path we were supposed to take.
    But sometimes we can’t see why things happened the way they did. We may not know the value or reason for such hardships until we get a chance to ask God himself. When we look at the hardships David endured, it’s not like we can say, “Good thing he spent all those years of his life suffering and on the run from King Saul. Because of that hardship he was a better king.” Maybe he was better for it. The fact is, we don’t know.
    It is nice to have the Psalms, to see how we can cry out to God when we are in agony—so that’s a benefit to us of David’s hardship. But who knows how David saw his hardship or what he learned from it. Did he ever look back and take delight in his most dire circumstances and how they shaped him? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.
  • David is rewarded for his faithfulness. Despite facing such challenging circumstances, David continues to trust God and to serve God throughout his life. He doesn’t turn against God when his circumstances are difficult or unbearable. And he speaks honestly to God about what he is feeling. He sets an example for us. He is a sinner, and he suffers for it. But he also finds forgiveness in God’s mercy. He has a heart after God’s own heart. And it is through David’s line that God chooses to bring the Messiah. Jesus is the ultimate king from the line of David. And David is honored by having a place in Christ’s lineage. 

This is an aside, but I think it applies as we try to discern God’s calling in our lives: When David volunteered to fight Goliath, he was a young boy. King Saul initially tells him he is too young to fight. After Saul finally consents in I Samuel 17:37, “Then Saul gave David his own armor–a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. ‘I can’t go in these,’ he protested to Saul. ‘I’m not used to them.’ So David took them off again.” (I Samuel 17:38-39) You see, we can’t wear someone else’s armor. We can’t try to be like someone else. We are who God created and called us to be. Trying to be someone else will only wear us down or wear us out, as David would have been as a boy in a man’s armor. To triumph in the battles we face, we have to be true to who we are.

I could go into great detail about how—and how long—David suffered, but I don’t think that’s necessary (for more on David’s life, see I and II Samuel and many of the Psalms). But David’s Psalms of suffering serve as examples to us to help us voice our pain and desperation to God when we face hardships of many kinds. I leave you with Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

~~~

For the second episode in this series, on Moses, click here.