I Samuel chapter 1 tells the story of a woman whose heart ached for a child. She was one of two wives her husband had taken. The whole polygamy thing is a discussion for another time, I suppose, as we know Scripture teaches that marriage is to be monogamous, between one man and one woman, but this was the situation Hannah was in. How and why she was one of two wives would only be speculation, but let me just say that in that patriarchal society, when women weren’t given the same status and opportunities as men, some would have lived as slaves and even sex slaves if there wasn’t a man who was willing to take them in and be a provider and protector. In those cases, I suppose it was better to be an extra wife than to live that kind of oppressed life. In addition, sometimes, even God’s people, got some things wrong and pursued extra relationships the way people who weren’t and aren’t governed by godly principles did and might do.
Hannah’s husband was a godly man. He was faithful to go to the temple to make the required sacrifices to God. Whenever it was time to make that trip, and he would sacrifice an animal, he would give some of the meat to his wife, Peninnah and to her kids and then he would give a double portion to his wife, Hannah, because, verse 5, he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.
It seems Elkanah’s approach was, “We’ll fix it with food.” Food solves everything, right? How many of us have been there, done that and outgrown our T-shirt? J Elkanah tried to express love and compassion for his precious wife, but that didn’t solve her problem. Not only did she have a front row seat to all of the firsts in Peninnah’s kids’ lives, their first solid food, their first words, their first steps, and all of the other milestones that she longed to see from a child her own, but Peninnah liked to rub it in Hannah’s face that she hadn’t been able to conceive. Peninnah saw the way Elkanah doted on Hannah, how he loved her, how he tried to support her in her distress, and it created a jealousy in Peninnah. Isn’t it interesting that even though Hannah wanted what Peninnah had, it was Peninnah who wound up being jealous of Hannah? Because of this jealousy, Peninnah provoked Hannah. She was mean to her. She got under her skin on purpose.
We pick up the story in verse 7:7 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. 8 Her 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. 11 And 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 14 and 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. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18 She 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.
The rest of the story tells us that in time, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel. The name Samuel means, “God has heard,” or “Asked of God.” His name reflected the fact that Hannah knew that her ability to have this precious son was the result of the faith she had exercised in the God who hears His people when they pray.
Hannah is an example of someone whose faith made the difference in her life. It was her faith that led her to pray, and it was her faith that enabled her to give the child to the Lord for His service, as she had vowed. She conceived the child in faith, and she released the child in faith to the LORD for His service at the appropriate time. And Hannah was blessed to go on to have five more children after Samuel.
What can we say about Hannah’s faith?
- Hannah had a praying faith.
Faith is only faith when it is exercised. Faith is only faith when it is placed firmly in the LORD. Prayer is that tool that enables us to not just believe something, but to do something and to receive something supernatural. Prayer gives us the opportunity to lay our hearts before the Lord, our desires before the Lord and helps us connect to God in a way that pleases Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” More than Hannah wanted a child, she wanted to please the Lord. Her faith pleased the Lord.
James 5:16 says that prayers offered in faith will raise sick people up! In Mark 11:22-24 Jesus said, “22 “Have faith in God.” 23 “Truly[f] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Hannah prayed in faith. She knew that God alone had the answer for her situation. She believed He could do for her what she needed to have done. Too many believers are giving up hope that their circumstances can never change, that God cannot do or won’t do for us what we know He has done for other people. Too many people are accepting less than what God says is possible. Too many believers have more faith in the idea that their circumstances are fixed than they do in the power of God to change them.
Listen, there are things God wants for your life that can only be released and experienced by faith. It’s not that we believe in prayer, but we believe in the One who hears our prayers. Our prayers must be connected rightly to the One who has all power and authority. Good vibes and good thoughts won’t do squat because they aren’t connected to anyone with real authority. Prayer, however, has been sanctioned by God, approved by God, established by God, as a mechanism through which His supernatural power is released.
We have had great miracles take place in the life of our church because of the power of prayer. Debby Tyler shared this: “I was anointed this past Sunday because two CT scans had shown signs of fibrosis. I have a miracle to declare! God has answered prayers! Hallelujah, Praise His Name. I passed all breathing tests with flying colors and when the pulmonologist looked at the second CT Scan there was no signs of fibrosis and the scar tissue actually was gone. He looked at the same scan that the radiologist had reported the fibrosis and inflammation of the lungs. God is so good! I wanted to thank you for your heartfelt prayer. When the prayer was over, I felt at peace.”
Another church member, Earl Hacker, who has been battling cancer since December, posted this update this week: “This morning I am thinking of how awesome God is, how He for certain provided me a great miracle, bringing me back from near death into the sunshine of life again. Thank you, Lord. I have waited to write this note of gratitude to all of you until I had more info on my four brain tumors. Well, I have the info I expected. The tumors are gone, PTL. So many have rallied around me, lifting me up to the Lord in prayer. I hope each of you remember just how powerful prayers really are when you put your unshakeable faith behind them. If we ask in faith believing God will hear and answer our petitions. I realize I still have a ways to go in my recovery, but there is no doubt in my heart that God brought me through a very dark place out into the light, and I have forever been changed by His grace and compassion.”
Did you catch what he said? He said, “I have the information I expected!” Faith is great expectation in a great and mighty God, friends. Prayer, offered in faith of the One who hears and answers, is what makes the difference. Hannah had a praying faith.
- Hannah had a persistent faith. Listen to verses 6 and 7 again. 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. Year after year. Whenever she went up to the house of the Lord, Peninnah always got in her face. Here Hannah was, trying to get to church, trying to commune with God, trying to get relief and help, and there was always an attack, an obstacle to overcome. Anybody else have to deal with challenges on their way to the church house?
But Hannah didn’t let the oppression from Peninnah keep her from her worship, from getting to the place of sacrifice. She could have made excuses about why she couldn’t get to worship. After a while she could have said it wasn’t worth it. This was an ongoing situation. This was a year after year, time after time, situation. Not only did her barrenness persist, but so did the attacks from Peninnah. The Scripture calls Peninnah Hannah’s rival. There was no rivalry on Hannah’s part. She wasn’t in a battle or competition with Peninnah. She just wanted a child of her own. Peninnah was the one who made it into something it wasn’t.
So many people get discouraged and check out of their faith walk because of something someone says or the way someone acts. Sometimes it is even because of the way they are treated by another believer. I know we are human. I know we have feelings. I know we can get hurt. Trust me, I have my share of disappointments and hurts from humans that I have to press past, but I am determined that I won’t allow anyone or anything to get in the way of my pursuit of the LORD and what He has for me. Hannah had the same kind of persistence. Her persistence made the difference. What if she had given up and quit making that pilgrimage to seek God?
- Hannah had a passionate faith.
Hers was not a little, “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. No, she was pouring out her heart to God. Her anguish was seen. Her heartache was visible. She was passionate not just about getting an answer, but she was passionate about honoring God when the answer came. The child she prayed for would be dedicated back to God’s service.
She was so passionate, so animated, so visibly moved in her prayer time that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. The text said that when Eli saw her, her lips were moving, but she was just praying in her heart. I don’t know why that would make him think she was drunk. Drunk people are usually a bit more animated than that. I assume she was staggering and swaying and punching the air at the same time. I won’t interpret the text for you that way, but in my mind’s eye, that’s what I see. However she was praying, she didn’t care what other people thought. She was desperate for God to move. She said in verse 15 that she was pouring out her soul to the LORD.
I preached on the making of a miracle once before, and I talked about how desperation is often the breeding group for a miracle. Desperation is a component of faith. It isn’t a last resort, last ditch effort to get help. It is part of the process. Desperation proves we are moving beyond ourselves. It proves we are admitting our weakness and limitation and are reaching for God. God moves to bless people who are desperate for a touch from Him and more than that, He moves to bless those who are desperate for Him and His will and His glory to be seen in their lives. Hannah wanted a baby, yes, but she wanted to honor and glorify God above her desire for a child. She wanted God more than she wanted her miracle.
People with passionate, desperate faith don’t care if others misinterpret their actions or label them a fanatic. They will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get ahold of God. Her prayerful, persistent, and passionate faith were public. Everyone knew what Hannah was praying for every year when she got to the temple. Her faith made a difference. Her prayer was answered, and her faith encouraged those who watched her believe God for the miracle she needed. As I thought about these qualities of faith, I thought about another godly woman, one who also longs to conceive a child and how her faith is a testament to God even while she is waiting on her miracle to come. I want you to welcome Kasie Ferrari to the pulpit this morning.
To say that my world was flipped upside down at the beginning of this year would be an understatement, however, I’ve never felt closer to God.
On March 24th, 2021 I had surgery and I was diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis. For those who don’t know what that is, endometriosis is a condition resulting from endometrial tissue that grows outside the uterus and causes pelvic pain. It had grown all throughout my abdomen including my diaphragm, bowels and even my appendix resulting in it having to be removed. My husband Hunter and I went to my follow up appointment two weeks after my surgery to receive very difficult and heartbreaking news. We were told that I would have less than a 10% chance in my lifetime to be able to naturally conceive a child. Talk about feeling like you’ve been slammed into a brick wall.
Since then we’ve been through a whirlwind of trying to decide what our next steps would be. Whether it be treating the endometriosis or looking into how to start our family by fostering, adopting or fertility treatments. We began earnestly seeking God. During that time, we needed to address the severe pain I was experiencing so I am currently in a 6-month treatment to address that. We recently have made the choice to start IVF treatments and our first official appointment is actually tomorrow. So, prayers for that, please!! I was completely against doing IVF all along, but God definitely gave me a change of heart and even put a stamp of approval on it by the love and support shown from so many.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have days where I’m sad or angry at my body not doing what it was created to do. However, I remind myself that just because my body has failed me, my God hasn’t.
Infertility could be ruining me. It could cause me to be depressed, suicidal, or it could even destroy my marriage… but not with God involved.
I’ve decided through this journey to be vulnerable and to allow others to see that my faith is firmly fixed in God. I feel as if I was created to use this heartache for good. To show others who can’t even talk about it, that there is hope and peace found in Christ through it all. I don’t want the attention. I PROMISE you that. I don’t want sympathy. I want to bring others to Christ. If telling my story helps bring one person the know Jesus then I know it’ll all be worth it.
I refuse to be beaten down by infertility. I refuse to let the devil get a hold on me. I have decided to live chosen, even well before pastor Melissa preached that amazing sermon, but that only solidified my choice.
Because of my choice to ask God to use me through my journey, I can feel Him so close to me. I can hear His words now more than ever. I know He is using this in a way that’s so much bigger than just me and Hunter. I am walking solely on faith. And even if God doesn’t have it in His plans for me to be able to conceive a child, if that’s not His will, I’m declaring this now, I will still praise and serve my Heavenly Father because He is and always will be good. He has a plan for us, and I trust that by faith.
By faith, I am sharing my journey with others…
By faith, I will pray with others who are struggling with the same pain…
By faith, I will continue to worship and praise the Lord and serve Him…
By faith, I will lean into the power of prayer…
By faith, I will get up every day, believing that God has a good plan for me…
By faith, I will endure the difficulties and emotional ups and downs of fertility treatment…
By faith, I will continue to testify to the miracle God is making for me, because I know HIS miracle is ahead…
By faith, I will stay bowed down to the will of God…
By faith, I will trust the goodness of God, even when I can’t see Him and don’t understand His plan…
This is only the START of the testimony we will get to share one day because I know God is working on our miracle and He will put us where we need to be. We just have to keep walking by faith in the One who can never fail!
Is God calling you to demonstrate faith so that others can be inspired to connect to Him? Is God urging you to reach for Him in faith so that He can bless you in ways you haven’t yet dreamed were possible? Do you need to repent this morning from trying to walk in your own intellect, on your own merits, through your own efforts? Are you ready to move past depression or feelings of defeat? Are you ready to push past hurts with people in order to get help from God? Let your faith be the difference in how your circumstances will be resolved. Let your faith be the difference in how others encounter Jesus as they observe you in your struggle.