1st Samuel 1:15-16 (the message)
Hannah said, “Oh, no sir–please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”
Yesterday my girls convinced me to go for a walk around our neighborhood. I say convinced because I am currently 9 weeks pregnant and really, really tired! As we walked along, looking for signs of spring, my daughter Rivers began to talk about some of her fellow first-graders. If you have children, you know there are times when they say things that blow you away. And if you know my daughter, you will know I’m not making this up. In the midst of her animated talking, she begins to tell me about a little girl in her class who one day seemed quite upset. Apparently, it had to do with a common first grader past-time: trading. The sad part for this little girl was that once she traded, she couldn’t get her item back. I’m still not sure of all the spicy details of this drama, but I do know Rivers’ friend was so upset that when she tried to talk to her about it the little girl just shouted “go away.” Rivers went on to explain to me that she knew her friend was upset and hurt about something and she wanted to help her, so she went and told her teacher. What Rivers said next blew me away. She said “Mom, you know how you can get a hole in your tooth? Well, I knew that if she left her hurt inside she would get a cavity in her heart so I went and told the teacher because I wanted to help her brush it out.” I just smiled, shook my head and told her that was a great way to look at it.
In the scripture above, we see another woman with a lot of hurt inside. Hannah longed for a child. She had been tormented and scorned by her husband’s other wife (remember this is old testament!) who had many children. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, took his family to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices to God every year. This particular year, Hannah slipped away into the sanctuary. The Bible says “crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried…” (1st Sam ch 1 the message). As she prayed in her heart, with only her lips moving, the priest Eli suspected she was drunk! Her response to him was in verses above.
“The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God.” See, I read this and think of my conversation with Rivers yesterday. Hannah was holding her pain in. Day after day, year after year she was confronted with her barrenness and the pain it was causing her. A desperate longing unfulfilled. It wasn’t until she finally poured out her pain to God, or let Him “brush it out”, that the cavity in her heart could be filled. The Bible goes on to say that after her time in the sanctuary she ate heartily, her face radiant. And within the year Hannah had conceived and birthed a son, Samuel.
What would have happened had Hannah continued to hold onto her pain? Really, we don’t know but I have to wonder would she have ever had Samuel…would she have regained her appetite — her hope — had she not taken the time to pour out her heart to her Creator? Perhaps she would have let the cavity in her heart become filled with the toxin of bitterness. Perhaps the deep roots of jealousy over the many children her rival wife had been given would have turned her sadness into resentment and anger. In time not only would her womb have been barren, but her entire life. See, when we hurt, even the most breathless of hurts, we must in the end choose what to do with it. We must, if even for a moment, see the future implications of how we handle our pain, loss and disappointment.
In the end, Hannah’s crushing pain drove her to her knees before God. If you’ll go read 1st Samuel chapter 1, you will see she asked God for what she wanted and promised to honor God with the very son she was asking for. Hannah poured out her heart before God…her pain, her longing, her accusation of His neglect! She did not hold back! Deep in Hannah’s heart, there was a seed of trust and hope…courage!…to believe that God did love her and He would listen to her. Of course we celebrate that God blessed Hannah with Samuel! But don’t miss this part…in verse 18, after Hannah has emptied her pain before Creator, “Think well of me — and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant. Do you see it? As she poured out her pain to God, was completely real with Him, God filled her with hope! Just prior to entering the sanctuary, Hannah had refused to eat and was forlorn. As she leaves God’s presence she goes to eat! And her face is radiant!
God doesn’t ask us to pour out our hearts just for the sake of doing it. He wants to encourage us…help us…fill us with supernatural hope and strengthen our faith in His goodness. But if we refuse to open the floodgates to Him, if we have already let our pain turn to bitterness, then our lives continue to overflow with doubt and negativity. If your heart is suffering a fresh wound of loss or pain or if your heart is rock-hard from years of keeping the pain inside, you can still choose to slip away into the sanctuary. Enter His presence. It might be in a church service or it might be sitting in your car in a parking lot. It might be on your knees beside your bed. It might be sitting at the kitchen table or on a long walk. It doesn’t matter because when you open your heart, He will come.
The earth is His and everything in it. That includes you…so let your Father fill your heart with fresh hope.