1 Samuel 2:8a (the message)
…He rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope…
This scripture is part of the prayer of praise Hannah lifted up to God as He answered her prayer for a son. Last week, as I sat on my back deck (with the previously mentioned “writing filter” on pause), I sensed Him nudging me to go back to the life of King David. One of my favorite parts of the Bible would be 1st and 2nd Samuel. I haven’t really gotten past the first two chapters! But, as I believe a friend was praying for me, God spoke to my heart sitting in my embarrassingly old and weather-worn rocking chair.
How I would love to delve deeply into the first chapter and share what was laid on my heart. But then this would not be a blog post but a book! In a nutshell, Hannah was one of two wives to Elkanah. Yeah, I know not my flow either! Smile…Anyhow, the other wife had many children. Hannah had none. Back in the day with multiple wives you can imagine the catty-ness of who was giving the man the most sons, etc. Yikes. One part I love, really love, is how The Message paraphrase describes Elkanah giving Hannah extra portions of the sacrificial meal when they went to the temple because “he loved her so much and God had not given her children.” Oh I read that and can imagine the steam coming from Peninnah’s (the other wife) ears! She knew Elkanah loved Hannah and so like women do sometimes…she set out to put down and taunt Hannah about her barren state. My Bible says this went on year after year. “Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.”
So, here I paused. And my heart absorbed a message gently placed on my heart.
Hannah’s enemy saw her value to Elkanah, apart from what she could or could not produce for him, and she set out to diminish her. She taunted Hannah endlessly in hopes of reducing her as a person. And it worked for a while. Hannah was “reduced to tears and lost her appetite” for the sacrificial meal they were offering to God. If you keep reading you will see that after a pep talk from her husband, Hannah “pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary.” It was during this time Hannah poured her broken heart and dashed hopes for a child before God. She offered up her greatest desire to God and promised to give the child back to God if only He would give her a son. And God did. Samuel was her son and became a great man of God. Oh, even now my heart and mind are so full of thoughts about why God allows us to walk through tough times and His great purpose for our character and the plans He has…Do you think if Hannah had not walked through the longing and desperation she would have been willing to give God her dream? Do you think she would have been willing to offer up to God the very child she had longed for had she not experienced this intimate need for His power in her life? But I digress!
The parallel I want to draw today is how the jealous wife’s taunting did indeed reduce Hannah mentally and emotionally and cause her to lose her appetite for a while. Burned her out. For years, actually. And what I see as I read this first chapter is how the enemy (yes, I belive there is a devil…the Bible calls him a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy) sees our value to God, despite our ability to perform or produce, and he wants to reduce us. Diminish us. So he taunts us in so many ways. Mostly with thoughts and words fixed on telling us how unworthy we are…how we cannot change…how our efforts are futile…how God could not possibly love or accept us…how we can never really escape the past…how our future is hopeless…how we just simply will never be content with our lives…and on and on and on. The taunting, in time, reduces and diminishes the person God means for us to be. We become burned out in our circumstances and burned out with our own mental struggle in dealing with this taunting reel of self-doubt and accusation. We lose our appetite for change, for the future, for holding on. Lose our very appetite to know God.
So, like Elkanah, I would like to give you a pep talk if you are feeling burned out, reduced and diminished. And then you must choose to pull yourself together, if only for a few minutes, and slip away to pour out your heart to Creator. Go ahead and “enter the sanctuary” of God’s presence even if you, like Hannah, feel completely hopeless or perhaps feel neglected by God. It’s okay. He can handle it. So, wanna know what Elkanah said?
Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?
When I first read this, I thought maybe God is asking us, Am I not of more worth to you than what you don’t have? But when I look a little deeper what I see is not that Elkanah is frustrated with Hannah because she is not satisfied or because she is discontent. I see that Elkanah loves Hannah so much, with or without sons, that he is longing for her to love him back so fully. And this, for me, seems to be the heart of God toward us. He loves us so completely, just the way we are…discontent, reduced, frustrated…and He longs for us to love Him back. I don’t think God is offended with us. I think He is a love-sick Savior, longing for relationship in the midst of our real-life struggles. In the midst of burn-out He longs to give us fresh hope. Be our fresh hope. Certainly God could have given Hannah a child all those years she was putting up with Peninnah’s taunting and put a stop to it. But God wanted Hannah’s heart…her love…all of her. He wants us to know His love is worth far more than ten sons. Not so we are put into our spiritual place. But so we can be free from the taunting of the enemy. So we know, for sure and for certain, our God does not just love us. He longs for us to love Him back.
Maybe you’ve been taunted for years mentally in some area. Maybe like Hannah, you feel reduced and diminished. Unworthy. Perhaps you even feel neglected by God and burned out with fighting off the mental-fatigue. The hoping. The need. The discontent. I invite you to read the second chapter of 1st Samuel, Hannah’s prayer of praise. Certainly she was overjoyed at His answer to her prayer. But when you read her words they are all about God. Things she now knows to be true of Him. Oh yes, I believe her greatest treasure was not the son she bore but the dizzying love that grew in Hannah’s heart for her Creator.
Near burn-out rekindled with Fresh Hope.