What does it mean to be a person who “stands strong?” These type of people have many admirable traits and qualities, yet above all they have unwavering faith. They have determined in their hearts that no matter what the storms of life may bring their way, they will still choose to believe for a brighter tomorrow. Hannah is one of those incredible, inspirational individuals who despite great hardship chose to stand strong in the face of great adversity. By doing so, her dream of becoming a mother came true and she has provided a stellar example for many to follow. Unable to conceive a child, she was heartbroken, and desperate. Her empty arms ached to cradle and nurture a child of her own. For years Hannah struggled with infertility and the cry of her heart was for the Lord to bless her with a child.
In the Bible times, having many children was considered a sign of God’s abundant favor and special blessing upon a family. For this reason barrenness brought great shame and heartache especially on a woman. To make Hannah’s situation even more painful and humiliating, her husband Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah had many children and took great pleasure in flaunting this to Hannah on a regular basis. Hannah was discouraged, but not hopeless. She was anxious but not lost with no direction. Hannah knew that her hope was in God and she refused to allow doubt and fear to extinguish this hope she held so close to her heart.
One day she journeyed to the tabernacle in Shiloh to pray and earnestly seek God’s blessing for a son. Not only did she pray for a son, but she promised God that one day if He granted her a baby boy that when the time was right she would give him back to God in faithful service. The priest Eli overheard her praying with such intensity that at first he was confused and thought she was intoxicated. As Hannah explained her situation, Eli was touched by her story and immediately blessed her and prayed fervently that God would grant her request. It is understood that this encounter was a true turning point for Hannah as she left with a renewed assurance that the dream of having a son was very soon to become a joyous reality. If her faith had ever wavered during weak moments, it was now steadfast.
God looked with compassion on Hannah’s situation and blessed her with a son whom she named Samuel which means “I have asked for him from the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:20) Samuel brought Hannah great joy and personal fulfillment as a mother, yet she did not forget her promise to God. When Samuel was weaned which was described as being typically between the ages of two and five at that time, she took him to the temple to be raised by Eli the priest. I cannot imagine that journey and how her heart must have been breaking to know that this was her last moments together as mother and son. When she arrived at the temple the Bible states that she shared “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him, so therefore I have lent him to the Lord. For as long as he lives he is lent to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:28) The Bible speaks of Hannah returning each year to visit Samuel at the tabernacle to present him with a special cloak that represented priestly status. Hannah stood strong in her belief that she served a God who answered prayer. She stood strong that he would bless her with a son. She stood strong that when the time was right God would provide her with the strength to fulfill her promise to God and give Samuel back to God. Just imagine how hard that would be to finally have a child and to know that you must eventually give him up. What a bittersweet time for Hannah, yet God honoured her for her faithfulness. Hannah stood strong in the knowledge that the God who loved her enough to answer her prayer would be with her in her heartbreak when she had to give Samuel up. The Bible speaks of God’s blessing and compassion for Hannah’s selfless sacrifice as the once barren woman went on to have five more children after Samuel.
Of all the women in the Bible, the story of Hannah has always struck a strong chord with me. Infertility is a very common problem in today’s society and Hannah is to be admired for many reasons. She like many women had a strong desire to have a child, yet rather than suffer in silence she took her heavy heart to God. She refused to focus on negative influences but envisioned a different reality for herself. Like Hannah, I had always dreamed of being a mother and spent much of my childhood playing with dolls and imagining the big family I would once have. In my mind it was an expectation and assumption. It had never even entered my mind that having children could be a challenge for me one day. My husband Phil and I had been married for two years and decided to start trying to have a baby. We were filled with excitement and great anticipation of all the joy this little person would bring to us. Excited chatter filled our home about the precious gift from God who was soon to occupy not only our nursery but also our hearts! Never would I have imagined that not once but three times, we would conceive a child and it would tragically end in miscarriage. I like Hannah would cry out to God at the altar at church and petition him for a child. Our nursery remained empty and although I believed in God’s faithfulness, I remember one very discouraging day sitting in the lonely nursery and crying. My husband found me there and I voiced my greatest concern that a baby would never occupy that room. We cried and prayed agreeing together that a baby would come into our lives and that fear and doubt would be forever gone. A turning point occurred for us that night, and just like Hannah’s encounter with Eli, we felt encouraged and hopeful.
Several months later we found out that I was pregnant again. Excited yet nervous we received special care due to my history and to our relief my pregnancy progressed without incident. On January 10th, 1996 my dream came true! I became a mom to a baby boy just like Hannah and we named him Tyler Matthew. Two years later we had a daughter named Shannon Nicole. God is so faithful!
I remember at Tyler’s dedication service I read the scripture that Hannah had shared of how she had prayed for this child and how like her we were now giving him back to God. I also sang to Tyler and it was a very emotional and powerful moment for me. My heart was so full of thanksgiving for the precious son that God had given me. I really connected with Hannah.
We never imagined that our lives would be forever changed by pregnancy loss. Sadly we are not alone as miscarriage and pregnancy loss is widespread. Fortunately however, there is good news too as we also live in an era of incredible medical technology. Many couples who previously would have had no hope of conceiving a child, have now been able to realize their deepest desire of becoming parents and that is so incredible. God brought Hannah through this trial and she stood strong. God brought my husband and I through infertility and miscarriage and we stood strong. This trial has allowed us to minister to others in ways that we would never have thought possible. I even wrote and published a book on grief and loss that others have shared has been very instrumental in their healing process. It is true as it says in God’s word in Psalms 126:5 that “He turns our tears to joy.”
Be encouraged. Maybe your struggle is not with infertility but something very different. Be assured we serve a God that knows our needs and desires and He wants to answer them. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8 that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” That means what He did for Hannah, He can do for you for whatever you are facing. Stand strong like Hannah. Don’t let others get you down. Refuse to give up and keep on praying until something happens. We serve an awesome God and He is able to meet your needs today. Rest in that assurance and anticipate the wonderful plan that God has for you. Just like Hannah God is birthing something in you and your story has only just begun.