“But Hannah answered, ‘…I am a woman troubled in spirit…I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.’” 1 Samuel 1:15
There’s just something about music that conveys the deepest emotion of the soul better than any other venue. At least that’s the case for me. The song above has been my theme song for the past week or so. (Amos Lee is not a believer as far as I can tell, but for someone to call on Jesus with such feeling makes me wonder how close he is to the Kingdom…) I’ve been struggling with loneliness in epic battles of spiritual warfare for the past few weeks but I think the culmination happened one night last week.
I had what I call a “Hannah moment.” I don’t have these “moments” very often but when I do it’s not a pretty sight. In the Scriptures, Hannah was barren and longed for a child. In Israel childbearing was essential for women. If you didn’t bear a child you were nearly worthless. I’m sure that everywhere she looked she saw mothers snuggling their children. 1 Samuel 1:10 says, “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” The simplicity of those words could almost allow you to gloss over them and think that she was just sad. But if you have ever longed for something to the point of physical ache and uncontrollable sobbing, then you know the meaningful depth of those simple words. The priest even thought she was drunk she was such a mess! The Lord heard Hannah’s prayers and answered “in due time” it says. And we were given the great prophet Samuel (of 1 & 2 Samuel), who anointed the first two kings of Israel’s history—one of which was King David—among other great deeds for the Lord.
I’m really grateful that Hannah’s struggle of faith and prayer are recorded in the Scriptures. It reminds me that my turmoil is not overlooked by God. That He sees every tear, hears every cry, and has not forgotten about me (or you) though sometimes it does feel that way…but feelings are unreliable.
So last week, I was in a situation where I was surrounded by families and married couples. This usually delights my heart but I was already emotionally drained and struggling with loneliness. So the contrast of their togetherness to my aloneness was more than I could take at that moment. I don’t remember ever feeling quite that much loneliness. Never had I ever felt so alone. The word “never” kept echoing in my ears. It was terrible and the tears began to flow. As I prayed, asking Jesus to help me and “pouring out my soul before the Lord,” the Spirit brought to mind these words:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)
The “never” ringing in my ears began to take on a new meaning. I will never be truly alone. Jesus has promised that He will never leave me, never forsake me. I confess that I dropped out of Greek because it wasn’t required for my degree and I’m not good with languages…but I do remember something about the Greek in this verse. In Greek grammar, double negatives serve to strengthen the force of a statement. This verse has a double and a triple negative, so the translation could be rendered: “Never, ever will I leave you; no, not ever will I forsake you.” So in essence, He’s saying that it’s just not possible.
I’ve learned over the years that these “Hannah moments” are not endless. The pain lets up. My feelings change. I turn my thoughts to other things and my perspective gets turned back around. And I move on, trusting that the Lord is in control and still loves me. I know He hears my prayers. I know that my anguish of soul moves His heart to compassion. But I also know that His plans are much more complex than my wants and desires. His ways and thoughts are higher and wiser than my ways and thoughts. His timeline is not bound by my time sensitivity. His plans are perfect. His ways are good. I will continue to trust Him.
“Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad…And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:17-18, 20