I’m back Chasing History again on this beautiful Monday morning. With Just One Girl and some others with stories to share. I saw something on OneGirl’s site – It Just Takes One. An invitation for a Monday link up – Chasing History – with the idea of studying, writing, and sharing about some of our favorite women in biblical history. I thought of Hannah, because I've had practice waiting, and started my thoughts on her story here. Today, I'll finish it up.
Lessons in the Waiting Times
God is able to answer and meet our needs at any time. That being said, the timing is where we most often have the trouble. There is often a gap between the time we ask God for something and the time that He responds. One of the hardest things for me to discover – and I imagine for Hannah to discover – is that God has lessons in the gap – in the waiting times for us. Patience. Perseverance. Fortitude. These are the obvious ones – the things that grow within us as we wait. Less evident, perhaps, are the things that are stripped away – the things we release as we wait.
Waiting on the Lord focuses you. It hones you. In the desert of the waiting lands, you are stripped down to the essentials. Like a true dessert traveler, you cannot be burdened with an abundance of luggage and luxuries to carry with you on your journey. There is no room for extras. There is just enough for essentials.
In the midst of Hannah’s suffering and grief, she was pared down, but did not let go of her essential belief – that God was still God – and that He still heard her. She was chastised by a rival in her own home, but she continued to ask God for His blessings. She felt anguish deep in her soul, but yet she still clung desperately to the belief that the God of the universe would have time for her prayers. So much so, that she was willing to remain humble and respectful when the priest Eli confronts her praying in the temple and mistakes her for a drunk. If it were me, and someone came upon me praying in the midst of my struggle and grief, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was drunk as a skunk and responded to me in kind, I don’t know that I would be as gracious in my response. But Hannah is – and Eli validates her prayer and adds his blessing to her prayer.
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 1 Samuel 1: 17-18
The Blessing in Waiting: Those Who Come Alongside
When I read those two verses, I see Hannah’s comfort coming not only from her prayers and time before God, but in the comfort that Eli brings through his words and kind actions towards her once he understands.
Nothing is quite the same during the desert of the waiting times as the blessing of those who come alongside. Sometime they are ones who pray with you and stand in the gap when you’re weary and worn. Sometimes they are anonymous donors or generous friend who send you gift cards that carry you through lean times. Sometimes they are the ones who have walked a similar road before you and can really understand the struggles you’re experiencing – so important with difficult circumstances. Sometimes, they’re just the ones that ask how you’re doing, and don’t want the pat answer of, “I’m fine – just fine.” They want to know the whole deal – the real deal. And that means so much to a hurting wanderer in a dry, thirsty land.
When the Waiting is Over – Remembering to Give Thanks
When I was younger and in Sunday School, the story of Samuel seemed to end with his mother bringing him back to the temple to be given to the Lord and to apprentice with the priest, Eli. What I didn’t read until later in life, was Hannah’s prayer. It begins:
My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:1-2
From her opening lines, through the end, this is the prayer of someone who knows God, who is in awe of His majesty, and who reveres God for the mighty works that He can do. She speaks to her own condition and always gives God the glory for what has been accomplished.
How often when God meets us in our need, do we forget to say thank you?
I thought long and hard about writing that question – it seems too harsh, and we don’t? Do we? But when I think about the things that God has done for me and for my family, I know deep in my heart that there are things that I have not said thank you for. Times when I have not directed the glory where it should have gone; times I just let it happen like I thought it was just supposed to. I’m not proud of that. This is one of my lessons from the desert. When you are stripped down to necessity; when you have just what you need; when you are literally relying on God to supply your each and every need – you don’t forget as often to say thank you. Each answer is a blessing, each inhalation is grace, and each moment is cherished. It’s so often when we move away from those trying times – those desert times – that “thank you” becomes harder because somehow, we’re not as reliant as we were when things were just on the other side of desperate.
So how do we stay there? How do we continue in that state of reliance? How do I maintain the communion I came to cherish in the desert when every little thing came from God and every time I breathed it was a prayer of yes or thanks or help or please?
I think Hannah has the answer again.
After Waiting – Giving it Back
Hannah had prayed for years and years for her heart’s desire – a child, a son. So much so that she had promised that child to God should He grant her that prayer.
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”
1 Samuel 1: 24-27
I’m floored by her ability to do that – give her child back to God – literally. To only see him on her annual pilgrimage. That is faith in action. But what can we learn and do in the same way Hannah did. What are we asking God for – what are the desires of our heart – and what will we do with them when He brings them to pass?
No matter who you are or what you do, your abilities matter to God. He has blessed you with those gifts so that you can serve Him and others with them.
Each of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
God entrusts those gift to us – large or small – they are gifts in His eyes and they matter to Him. Not only that, but they are His investment in you!
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:2
For our hearts desires to come to their full fruition – for the waiting to be worth it – or gifts need to be given back to God for His glory. Our blessings and gifts are meant to direct others to Him – we are the signposts along the way. And when we do, as we allow Him access to these things, our prayers, our lives – our waiting – become part of the greater story pointing the way to Christ.