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1 Samuel 1:12, 67, 1013, 1518, 20, 272:2 comment (0)

May 11, 2006

By Ron Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:12, 67, 1013, 1518, 20, 272:2

Family Bible Study
University Relations, Samford University; Southwestern Seminary graduate

Hannah: Determined Devotion
1 Samuel 1:1–2, 6–7, 10–13, 15–18, 20, 27–2:2

“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

The Serenity Prayer is a classic in its simplicity, yet profundity. In economy of words, it touches on various human encounters with life’s harsher realities. The prayer acknowledges that some of life’s realities are immovable, while others afford many openings for human initiative. The challenge for humans is to know what type situation in life one is engaging at any given time. Wisdom, courage and serenity provide helpful assistance when these harsher life realities come upon us.

In the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah, the co-wife of Elkanah, finds herself facing one of life’s harsher realities. The text tells us that “the Lord had closed her womb” and that each year when her family would go to Shiloh to worship, Hannah was bitterly provoked by Peninnah, the co-wife and mother of numerous sons and daughters, because of her barrenness. Hannah was called upon to deal with a situation she could not change, and it caused her to be deeply sorrowful, regardless of the added affection her husband afforded her.

Hannah held no power to alter her childless situation. She felt the weight of its burden upon her life, and she did the only thing she knew to do or could do — she brought her painful experience to God in prayer. In time, God used Hannah’s barrenness to bring a son into her life and into Israel’s life who would bring much blessing and would meet many needs in God’s future plans for His people and work in the world.

Some situations in life are beyond our power to change, while others call upon us to exercise wisdom and courage to effect whatever change we can: a child makes friends with peers who pursue destructive aims, an impasse in one’s marriage, the loss of a job or the chronic illness of a spouse. We are called upon to respond whether the life situation is beyond our control or altogether within the range of options available to us. In either of these categories, Hannah’s determined devotion provides us with instruction in ways to respond to these harsher realities of life.

Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we have few, if any, constructive options to respond, we can do what Hannah did. We can take the burdens of our hearts to God in prayer. The temptation always confronts us to do something, regardless of its effectiveness, when life throws harsh realities our way. When all of our efforts come to their end, we resign ourselves to prayer. “When all else fails, we can pray,” is our motto. Look at Hannah’s response to her barrenness. Out of her honest pain and sorrow, she took her situation to the Lord in prayer. Prayer can give us time to think and meditate on the situation. New perspective can dawn in our understanding of what we are facing. God is given the opportunity to act in our situation. Pray first when you face one of life’s harsh realities.

Hannah teaches us to embrace life’s harsh realities as best we can. When we can accept our situations in life, we can begin to find creative ways to deal with the more painful elements presented to us. Both Paul and Peter in their writings (Rom. 5:1–5; 2 Pet. 1:5–9) tell us that as we respond positively and creatively to life’s harsh challenges, we will find that Christian character begins to grow in our lives. There is a close connection between these difficult life situations and how we grow in response to them.

Finally Hannah teaches us to develop what can be called a “never-the-less” attitude. A “never-the-less” attitude looks every harsh reality in the face and draws upon God’s strength to move forward for God “never-the-less.” Hannah had her prayers answered exactly as she had hoped they would be answered. Would that all situations where life’s harsh realities strike our lives worked out like Hannah’s. They do not. But if we can learn from Hannah’s way of dealing with these situations, we can be sure to know God’s pleasure and goodness in our situations regardless of what they may be. 

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