Read 1 Samuel 1
Becoming a mother is an important step in a woman’s life. At one time, it was the measure of one’s womanhood. One of the most difficult experiences women of the Bible faced was the inability to have children. Because of the nature of society, women who did not bear children were often undervalued, even forgotten. A woman who was barren was left to feel cursed by God, and ignored by humanity.
Hannah was such a woman. She longed to have a child for years, but she couldn’t. She prayed for a child, but nothing happened. Elkanah, her husband, went to the temple and gave a double offering, but still Hannah was without a child. Meanwhile, she had to endure the taunts of other women who had no trouble conceiving. In her struggle, she became terrible sad, even found it difficult to eat of sleep.
Hannah prays and cries out to the Lord, “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me with child, then I will set him apart for your service.”
Hannah vows that if she receives a child, she will give the child back to God in service.
The Bible tells us that God hears her prayer and answers it. Hannah conceives and bears a son, Samuel. She remains true to her word. She leaves Samuel with the priests to become a minister.
One thing that amazes me about Hannah is the sacrifice she makes out of love. Her longing is so great for a child and yet, when God blesses her, she doesn’t become possessive or smother the child with affection. Instead, she devotes him to service. She is willing to step aside and let the boy grow before the Lord.
Hannah’s great love is demonstrated both in her strong desire to have a child and in her willingness to give the child to God. Hannah’s love is one that reaches out and lets go.
One writer calls Hannah a “beautiful example of how the most unpleasant circumstances can produce a character blessing the world.” Hannah knows what it is like to do without and not just without material goods, but without the hope and joy a child could bring.
In her sorrow, she turns to God. She doesn’t give up. She cries to the Lord out of her sorrow. When she is blessed with a child. Hannah doesn’t just take the blessing and run. She remains true to her word. Offering the child in the service of God.
One of the most difficult things for a parent to learn is how to let go. This has been particularly difficult for mothers. Mothers are encouraged to bond closely with their children, to know the unspoken needs, desires, hopes and fears even before the child is able to express them. Then, as the child grows, the mother is expected to let go, and yet continue to be available for affection and support. How difficult it is to know the right balance, when to reach and when to let go.
I’m sure it was difficult for Hannah. I’m sure that she wanted desperately to take this child home, surround him with affection, do all the motherly things that she had wanted to do for so long and couldn’t.
But Hannah had made a promise to God, and it is a promise she will keep. Samuel is raised to become a priest while Hannah returns home. Each year, she would make for him a little robe, and bring it to him. She continued to be involved in his life, to be supportive, even though she didn’t take care of his daily needs.
The love of Hannah is an inspiration for mothers who must face each day the challenge of holding on and letting go. We see in Hannah that love is more than just affection and nurture. Love is also being true to your word. Love is believing that God cares even more than we can. Love is trusting that when we do the right thing, no matter how difficult, God will bless our lives.
Hannah learns from her experience of infertility how precious life is. She knows what a wonderful and miraculous thing it is when a child is born. She knows that it is beyond our ability to create or control. A child is a blessing to be celebrated, not something to be taken lightly. Having struggled through this experience, it would have been natural for her to become and overprotective parent. She might have clung to the life of her son, hovering over him, anxious about his care. Instead, she is able to let go, confident that God who makes life possible also care for the life created. She takes part in this care without holding on too tightly. She has the faith that Samuel is in God’s hands.
Love holds on and lets go. It’s a mystery. It’s impossible on our own. But with God, it is not only possible, it happens.