You know the answer to my despair
My anxious longing, my gasp for air
Yet without son, without child
I choose Your way undefiled.
To worship You—the greatest joy—
So to Your service I employ
The gift that I adore—
He, the son I asked You for.
By Timothy Berezhnoy
“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” And [Eli] worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28
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To me, this poems seems unfinished. But despite what I could elaborate on and spend more time developing, there is something which I was able to capture in these lines that I hope resonates with your own soul. I wrote it when I was listening to a sermon on the story of Hannah. I’d like to note a few things that sermon helped me see, and now as I look back, I know I need to be reminded of these truths once again.
First, God humbles us that we may trust in him. God’s closing of Hannah’s womb brought her grief. If that was not bad enough, her husband’s second wife “would provoke her bitterly to irritate her.” I could only attempt to imagine what that must have been like, but, of course, I am not a woman and I do not live in that time. But in a sense I can understand what she felt like. She really wanted a child. Her rival, Peninnah, had children and would rub it in Hannah’s face. Thus her despair was in seeing the success or blessing of another and perceiving her own want and lack of blessing. I can relate to this, and as I listened to this story being retold on that long ago Sunday, I learned of how God can put me in a situation where all seems lost. And not only lost, but I am being provoked to despair either by my own inadequacy and failure or the success and pride of others.
In Hannah’s heart this was a real grief that only grew because of her circumstances. However, what she did when her husband went to the temple is what I need to constantly remind myself. She wept before God and prayed. She entrusted the matter to God, thereby giving him glory and not sinning. Afterward, (after also speaking to Eli the priest who blessed her) she went her way no longer sad, which means she really did give up the mater to God (1 Sam. 1:18). So God can bring us low in order to humble us and allow us to entrust ourselves to him.
The second truth I learned was that after God humbles, he exalts. She was granted her request and what she did with the child was give him to serve in the temple all his life. This child, Samuel, was then chosen by God to be a prophet to the nation of Israel, and not just any ol’ prophet but a great one. I wonder: if Hannah would not have been brought to despair would Samuel be born to her? Would a prophet be raised up for Israel? I know God could have used someone else, but this story shows how he guides through seemingly meaningless pains to bring about his plans. This theme is quite prominent in the Bible. Yet its something that needs to be remembered again and again.
I recently heard someone say “I had all these plans to do things for God, but he humbled me and showed me he wants to do things through me.” Though that statement may be somewhat ambiguous, what they were trying to say is that we often think that we can do so much for God and we have all these plans, yet God has his own plans. In order to accomplish them, I must first be brought to nothing that I might see He is the one that needs to work through me. It’s his power, not the gifts on which I rely. I really have nothing to offer God except a broken and a contrite heart (Ps. 51). But God hears the cry of the brokenhearted, and he will exalt them and fill them with his power to do the works he has planned for them. This is what he did with Hannah. Her trust in God was so great that she gladly dedicated her boy to serving God from a young age. She saw the value in God and not the circumstances. She “chose God’s way undefiled” and severed herself from material possessions in order to find her value in honoring God.