It really stinks when things in life don’t go the way we expected, especially when we believe God for something in prayer but still come up empty-handed. Add to that the disillusionment that comes when others don’t understand, and our sorrows only increase.
How does God expect us to deal with the disappointments, provocations, and misunderstandings in life?
As a frail human with a sinful nature, I have often reacted to the adversities of life with anger, frustration, blame and cynicism. But God, in His grace, calls us to a higher standard.
Thankfully, we have examples in Scripture of women who have suffered as we do. The Word of God gives us a guide for every situation we find ourselves in if we are willing to study and apply the principles we find.
Hannah’s story is one that gives us great hope.
Disappointed, Provoked, and Misunderstood: How to Deal with Adversity
As we often see in ancient Israel, she was one of two wives. God intended for a man to be with one wife (Genesis 2:24), but the Israelites often followed the customs of the pagan nations around them.
As you can imagine, man is not equipped to deal with more than one wife. 🙂 Peninnah bore Elkanah children, but Hannah was barren, a source of both grief and shame to a woman in her day.
“He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.”1 Samuel 1:2, NIV84
Every Israelite male was required to go before the Lord at the tabernacle in Shiloh three times per year. As the family went up with feasting and celebrating, Hannah only experienced grief.
“Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”1 Samuel 1:7b
Every festival was a reminder of God’s mercy and goodness, but to Hannah the celebration was shadowed by her failure to conceive and the taunts of wife number two.
While everyone else was feasting, Hannah couldn’t eat, even with Elkanah’s encouragement. His love for her was great but could not sustain her in her deep grief.
So she cried out to the Lord.
“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.”1 Samuel 1:10
When faced with disappointment, we can cry out to God.
In the midst of deep disappointment over the direction our life has taken, sometimes even the encouragement of others, while well-meaning, can’t help us. Only God can.
As Hannah cried out to the Lord, she began to grow bold. Rather than listening to the taunts of her rival, she decided to focus on what the Lord could do for her.
Hannah knew that only God could meet her need and help her in this situation, so she made a vow to God that if he would remember her and give her a son, she would give him back to the Lord for His glory.
“‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon 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…'”1 Samuel 1:11
When provoked by others, we can commit our lives to God.
Can you imagine wanting something so badly that you commit to give it away? But think of Hannah’s heart! Her desire to have a son was so she could bring glory to her God.
When Hannah got her mind off herself and focused on the kingdom, she was able to commit her life completely to the Lord.
She began to see that even our children are in God’s hands. Of course, to no longer be barren would remove her shame and sadness, but having a son would no longer be about her. It would be about her service to God.
Hannah vowed to God that if He gave her a son, she would commit him to a life of service to the Lord, not at age 25 which was the custom for Levites, but “all the days of his life.”
Can we commit to God to serve Him all the days of our lives, even when life doesn’t go as we had planned?
As Hannah continued to pray, the priest observed her lips moving and thought she was drunk. He rebuked her based on this observation.
Once again misunderstood and criticized, Hannah could have given up all hope. But rather than getting upset or walking away, Hannah calmly 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.'”1 Samuel 1″15b
Hannah had grown stronger through her time in prayer. Though misunderstood, she continued to believe God to hear and answer her.
When we are misunderstood, we can trust in our God.
There will always be those who don’t understand our hearts or our passion for the Lord, but in those times if we continue to pursue Him, we will have peace.
“Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.'”1 Samuel 1:17
Hannah walked away from that encounter with peace, a new appetite, and a new attitude.
“Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.”1 Samuel 1:18b
God answered Hannah’s prayer and gave her a son; Hannah kept her word and gave him back to God. When he was weaned (usually around the age of three), she took him to the house of the Lord to live and serve there with the priest.
Now, you may be thinking, “How is that a happy ending? Surely she felt as much grief from giving her child away as she did from being barren!”
But what follows in the Word is the prayer Hannah prayed when she left her little boy with the Lord.
“My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”1 Samuel 2:1a-2
Hannah’s joy was complete not in the birth of her son but in the blessing of her God. She had come to realize that in the midst of her disappointment, pain, and brokenness, what her heart really needed was Him.
Hannah needed to know He was with her. She needed to know that when others were against her, God was for her. Hannah needed the confirmation that when others misunderstood her, God knew her.
Beloved, God is with you. He is for you. And He knows you.
Whatever you are struggling with today, cry out to the Lord, commit your life to Him no matter what, and trust that He will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).
Ask Jesus to draw your eyes to Him and not your troubles. Let His love be enough to sustain you. There is no god like our God. He is enough.