One of the stories that has ministered the most to me in this season of being single is the story of Hannah in I Samuel 1.
Hannah couldn’t have any children. Her husband would come to her and say “Hannah why are you weeping? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you then ten sons?”
Though she knew that her husband loved her, she still mourned over what she did not have. She longed for a child.
Hannah’s name means “Beautiful” or “Passionate.” We see that her name was very befitting to her. She went to the temple and she made a vow to the Lord. She said “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery, and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”
In the course of time, God answered Hannah’s prayer. She conceived and bore a son and named him Samuel. Samuel means “God heard me.”
When her son was born, she worshiped God with this beautiful prayer:”My heart rejoices in the Lord… I delight in your deliverance. The Lord is a God who knows….He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”
In the next few years Hannah conceived three sons and two daughters, but she kept her promise to God with her first son. Samuel grew up in the temple. As Ray Hughes says “Samuel had come from a place of worship, and now Hannah wanted him to live in a place of worship. ”
Samuel became the bridge of the old era to a new era, because he was considered the last judge of Israel and the first prophet of Israel. The political atmosphere of Israel completely changed with Samuel. It went from a place where judgement ruled to a place where listening and responding to God ruled. Just as God did not judge Hannah but listened to her, Samuel was able to access a God who did not only judge, but listened.
A nation was changed forever. And it all came from a hurting woman who didn’t hide her disappointment with God, but poured it out to him.
About eight years ago, I bought a dining room table from a thrift store for my birthday. The table was very dusty, but when I rubbed off some of the dust, I saw how beautiful it was. In my mind’s eye, as clear as day, I saw myself sitting with a family around that table. I saw us talking about our day. I saw friends that had come over and were having deep conversations over dinner. I saw children running around, playing hide and go seek, laughing.
I bought that table as a gift of hope to myself. I had great expectations that those those things would happen around that very table.
Recently, I had to sell that table. That was more than a table to me. It was attached to my dreams. Nearly a decade after buying the table, those dreams did not come to pass. They were sold at a garage sale for a couple hundred bucks.
I believe that when that table was sold, God did for me what he did for Hannah. He did not mock my sadness over a piece of furniture. He knew it was not a little thing to me. He knew that I was disappointed, and He let me mourn.
God did not say to Hannah “You are so ungrateful! You have a husband that loves you. Isn’t that enough?” (As her husband points out.) Or “Be still my child. Know that I am God. I and only I am to fill this empty place in you.”
No, God did not answer her in that way. He heard her prayer. He heard the cry of her heart and He knew.
When God talks to me he calls me Katie Girl. Writing that name makes me teary, because it brings to mind an entire lifetime of journeys that I have walked with the Lord. I know my Father’s heart when I hear that name. I remember how much He loves me when I hear that name.
Recently, I was journaling out what I was hearing from God, like a letter from him. It is something I often do when I need to hear his tender voice. I had just experienced a difficult rejection from someone that I care deeply about, and I was weeping much like Hannah wept. I asked Him the question I have asked more than any other in my life. “Lord, why has no one chosen me? Why do my relationships end in a broken heart instead of covenant? Why is that no one has fallen in love with me in such a long time? It aches so much. It doesn’t seem right.”
This is what he said: “Katie girl, you have been faithful to believe in my goodness even after many years of praying for a family. You are so strong and so patient. I am not letting go of you, love. You will not be left unrewarded for your faithfulness to me. I keep all of my promises”
He did not say “Now Kate, you aren’t trusting me in this place.” He did not say “Look at all that you do have, Kate. Be grateful for heaven’s sake.” Yes, I do need to trust. Yes I do need to be thankful. Yes, I do need to let go of that dining room table for a season. But in that moment, God knew that I needed to mourn.
He did not tell me that I was weak. He told me that I was strong. So strong that I refused to let go of him, just like Hannah. That is what I needed to hear in that moment.
As my song “The Only One I Love” says
She is strong even in her weakness
In her weakness she’s lovely
She is strong in her darkest hour
When she runs when she runs to me
I weep when she reaches from me
I weep ’cause she loves me blind
I weep when she remembers
She’s the love, the love of my life
God does not mock my pain. He bends down to hold me when I cry. I would venture to say that he cries with me. Not only because he aches with me, but because he is so proud of the way I have trusted Him through this, the longest, hardest trial of my life. Because, like the song says, I have loved him blind.
He also loves me blind. He loves me even in my weakness. He sees past my questioning and my frustration and he sees me faithful. He is the God that steers his eyes to see the bride beneath the harlot’s skin, the virtue underneath the sin.
Just like Hannah sang when she worshiped Him, He is the God who knows.