Powerlessness

HannahHere is the midst of Holy Week, we will watch as Jesus, our Lord and Savior, God of All, experiences weakness and powerlessness, submitting to his arrest, trial, scourging and crucifixion. We have all felt some measure of powerlessness, moments of isolation and hardship. Consider the story of Hannah, mother of Samuel.

1 There was a certain man from Rama-thaim, Elkanah by name, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.2 He had two wives, one named Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.3 This man regularly went on pilgrimage from his city to worship the LORD of hosts and to sacrifice to him at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were ministering as priests of the LORD.4 When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice, he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters,5 but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the LORD had made her barren.6 Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the LORD had left her barren. (1 Samuel 1:1-6)

There is one thing she desires: a child. She is faithful making regular pilgrimages to seek God’s favor

10 In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously,11 and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives; neither wine nor liquor shall he drink, and no razor shall ever touch his head.”12 As she remained long at prayer before the LORD, Eli watched her mouth,13 for Hannah was praying silently; though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli, thinking her drunk,14 said to her, “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine!”15 “It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the LORD.16 Do not think your handmaid a ne‘er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”

Hannah is brought to this moment where she is called to trust God and herself

17 Eli said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”18 She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left. She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast.19 Early the next morning they worshiped before the LORD, and then returned to their home in Ramah. When Elkanah had relations with his wife Hannah, the LORD remembered her.20 She conceived, and at the end of her term bore a son whom she called Samuel, since she had asked the LORD for him.

Consider how Hannah’s prayer demonstrate her trust and understanding

2:1 …and as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory.2 There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God.3 “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds.4 The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength.5 he well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.6 “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts.8 He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them.9 He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness. For not by strength does man prevail;10 the LORD’S foes shall be shattered. The Most High in heaven thunders; The LORD judges the ends of the earth, Now may he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”

If you are wondering if Hannah’s words are similar to Mary’s prayer when visiting her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55), you are correct. It too is a response of trust and understanding.

When you feel powerless and alone in your hardship, remember that you are not alone. You stand alongside amazing people like Hannah, who brought her pain to God even when she couldn’t see how his plan would work out. The biblical story honors the experience that many of us have in times of suffering. God sees and cares for his people. He gives strength to the weak and power to the faint-hearted. All those who wait patiently for God learn that he has a habit of bringing new hope through the greatest of challenges.

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