When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 ESV)
When Peninnah takes great delight in reminding Hannah God has forgotten to fill her womb with life, I imagine Hannah praying words like these in our Today’s Treasure:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh (like Peninnah – my words) do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)
This time, though, after the family worship meal, like a desperate child, Hannah runs to her God and begs Him to remember her, to see her, to hear her:
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:12-18 ESV)
Unbeknownst to Hannah there is a witness to her lament, Eli, the priest. Eli concludes Hannah is not praying but instead she is drunk. Perhaps he immediately jumps to this conclusion because of the behavior of his own sons. Hannah respectfully responds, telling Eli she is not drunk, she is pouring out her broken heart to her God. I love how Hannah does not flinch when the priest accuses her of the immoral behavior he often saw in his own priest sons. She asks Eli not to see her as a “worthless” woman, a reference to the same word used to describe Eli’s sons:
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV)
Though startled and possibly embarrassed, Hannah does not apologize for her lament before God. She describes her deep mourning and pouring out her heart to God. Hearing her explanation, he does not condemn her lament, but instead Eli blesses Hannah:
Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him. (1 Samuel 1)
Having experienced my own personal season of lamenting, I recognize the relief and peace that covers Hannah after her emotional outburst:
Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:)
Hannah lived year after year without a child, her worship tainted by the taunts of her sister wife. Yet year after year she worshiped and cried out to God for mercy. Her prayer reveals she could not feel God’s presence and felt abandoned by Him. She pleads with Him to remember her.
Hannah’s lament does not remove her pain. Her lament recognizes God is with her. She does not know if God will grant her the desires of her heart, but her trust in Him is buoyed, not only by her private prayer time, but also by the words of the priest. Eli’s response to her suffering encourages her to trust God for another year. Corporate and personal worship breaks the ache in her chest for a season and her pilgrimage is fueled by hope once more.
What is your response when there is no let up in the agony of your pilgrimage? Do you avoid corporate worship, concluding there is no hope for God to hear your prayers, that He has forgotten you? Is God’s Word like dry toast, torment rather than comfort? Let the hope we see in Hannah strengthen you in your own pilgrimage. Pursue God’s presence through lament.
Oh Father, I know there are people reading this devotional who struggle every single day to walk by faith in a pathway strewn with potholes that create chaos in their lives. Hear their prayers and renew their strength as they run to You for help.