God provides. However, this must be understood well. On the one hand, the Lord does not give us whatever we ask for. We have to ask in his name for those things that we want. There is an assumption here that our desires and will are aligned with God. Not every infertile mother will receive a son or daughter as Hannah did. The issue is not one of whether I have enough faith. The view of faith in some circles is like it is a means to control God. If I generate enough faith, so the theory goes, God will heal me or give me the desires of my heart.
The Lord does provide, but he provides in accordance with his will. His plan is not always easy to discern. For my wife and myself, going through infertility like Hannah seemed like punishment. I thought maybe my sin was the cause. However, because one path was closed to us God has taken us on a remarkable path that has changed us and been gracious in ways that we did not imagine.
God had a plan for Israel. God chose a remarkable birth to highlight his chosen avenue of deliverence. God used a remarkable woman who was looking to him. The two desires were aligned and so Hannah received her desire.
1 Samuel 1
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 11And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on 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, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b]saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”
21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”[c]
23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his[d]word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 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. 27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
- What is the contrast between Elkanah’s wives?
- How does God work a plan for redemption on two different levels?
- How do you think infertility was viewed in the time of the passage?
- With what kind of attitude or expectancy should we come to God in times of need?
- How is this passage misapplied in a consumerist environment?
My own experience with infertility was an opportunity for personal transformation. There is a dying to self that occurs as we give up our own desires. We then have to make sense of God’s goodness in a world where goodness is not the same as we had pictured. However, when we see the work that God is doing through the pain we are left in awe.
How have you experienced transformation through painful surrender?