“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1 Samuel 1:10)
Hannah was not unique in Israel in being childless but the depth of her sorrow may well have been unique. How did she come to be in such bitterness of soul and weep in such anguish? There is no way she could have artificially produced this. The factors that would have brought her to this place in her life are varied but are all under the direction of just One.
In her family she was the more loved of two wives (v 5). The other wife had many children (v 4) and taunted Hannah with regard to her childless state (v 6). This was aided by the need for sons to retain the inheritance of land under the Law. Also, she was a married woman who had a desire to be a mother.
In addition to these more personal provocations was the state of her nation. Along with her husband she was faithful in presenting offerings to the Lord in God’s house. However, this was not the case for the majority. We ought not to forget that at that time the Lord still presenced Himself in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.
Year by year as Elkanah and Hannah brought their sacrifice to the Lord they could not help but notice the abuse of position exercised by Eli’s sons who did not know the Lord (2:12ff). Eli was the appointed Levitical priest and his sons served under his authority. Eli was complicit in his sons’ actions (2:29) and this would bring about the eventual end of the Levitical priesthood. The priesthood would, from a future time, be led by a “Faithful Priest,” (2:35) namely, Jesus Christ. The state of Israel added its weight of sorrow to Hannah’s heart.
None of these factors arose artificially in Hannah. Bringing them all together is the providential hand of God. Hannah’s part was to surrender her own body to the Lord for His service. In this she is a kind of fore-runner to Mary who also wholly surrendered her body to the Lord for His service and to bring into the world the Son of God. Hannah was granted her heart’s desire because she was wholly surrendered to the Lord. Lack of surrender is evidence of lack of faith in Jesus Christ – and we know that without faith it is impossible to please the Lord (Hebrews 11:6).
We cannot artificially produce the bitterness of soul and anguish of heart that Hannah experienced. If we surrender our whole being, including our bodies (Romans 12:1), Jesus will allow His desires for other Christians and for a world helplessly lost in sin and under the power of darkness to flow from within our own hearts. It will only be then that we will pray a prayer of the kind that Hannah has done. That we don’t anguish over Christians who fail to follow Jesus Christ to the cross and grieve a lost world so that we pray and labour in ministry is evidence that we are not surrendered to Jesus.
We fail to pray and grieve because we have not wholly surrendered ourselves to the Lord. It means that we are not experiencing the reality of “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for Me” (Galatians 2:20).