This blog post is featured in a chronological series “The Dog Days of Summer – Biblical Figures Feel the Heat.” Blogs are intended to offer an outlet for reflection beyond Sunday morning.
July 19, 2015
Delivered by Rev. Dr. Camille Cook Murray
Text: 1 Samuel 1:1-28
If you take a bird’s eye view on the life Hannah, it is hard to see how she qualifies to be included in our sermon series of biblical figures ‘feeling the heat’. Hannah seems to have it all. She has her adoring husband. She has six children: four sons and two daughters. Her eldest son, Samuel, was a national figure, a prophet and a judge. Her future was secure, her life was full, and her faith was strong.
Yet it was not always so rosy for her.
To begin, we find Hannah in a polygamous marriage. The other wife had given their husband many children but Hannah was unable to get pregnant. The other wife daily ridiculed Hannah for her infertility. Her husband loved Hannah but did not appreciate her grief. She fell into depression – unable to stop her tears, unable to eat, unable to explain herself. When she turns to the temple for prayer the priest overhearing her laments accuses her of being drunk and tells her to pull herself together.
This is the reason Hannah is in our summer grouping. Hannah’s story may have turned out fine in the end but there was a very long and a very dark chapter she had to get through, and despite her long and difficult trial she did not lose her faith. Midway through the story, “Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord.” Hannah was not pregnant, had not reason to think she would ever get pregnant but Hannah rose. She was bullied and belittled but Hannah rose. Hannah had no future to believe in but Hannah rose. The verb is a powerful one. She did not stand, she did not get up, she did not go out. Hannah rose. She rose and she presented herself to the Lord, crying out in prayer all that her heavy heart was carrying.
Hannah rose. Hannah prayed. Hannah spoke. Hannah found a way to faithfully travel through the season of sadness in her life. She found a way to stay in conversation with God even in the midst of that darkness. She found a way to believe in God’s hope even when life felt hopeless.
The reality is that we all have these seasons, manifesting themselves in a variety of shades of heaviness. When they come we must try to maintain our posture, hold onto our faith, and learn what we can from the experience. Hannah knew from her ancestors that God was able to do the impossible – bring life where there is no life; upend what is settled; make a future with hope out of a desperate situation.
We have inherited faith from men and women who have risen against great odds, persevered in the face of desperation, and displayed remarkable courage and fortitude in all seasons. So let us not sell ourselves short by thinking we do not have the strength or moral reserves or faith to get through anything, which comes our way. Just like Hannah, one-foot forward day after day. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
What are some ways that you have persevered in a dark situation? How has that strengthened your faith?
What do you find troubling in Hannah’s story? What do you find comforting?
20th c. theologian Reinhold Niebuhr penned the “Serenity Prayer”:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.