Hannah took her pain and her longing directly to God “deeply distressed, she prayed to God, weeping bitterly.”
Primarily Hannah’s story is testament to the power of God, the ability of God to overcome the obstacles of our human world, to hear the cries, pain and longing of faithful women, and to use their perceived weakness, to bring life and transformation to the world.
Hannah’s story enables us to say with confidence that God hears, God knows and understands the pain of those struggling with infertility or loss. God hears and draws close and responds to all those who are in deeply felt need, for whatever reason.
Secondly, Hannah’s story tells us that God is able to work with us in those places of pain and sorrow, loss and grief, longing and despair, God works with us to bring about transformation and new life. This is the heart of our faith, it is the message of the crucifixion and resurrection.
And Hannah’s story shows that this applies to every area of our lives, the most personal and intimate, the most heartbreaking and challenging.
God is with us right there in our brokenness, as on the cross – and there is resurrection hope.
New life can break in to places of hopelessness, a new future can be made.
The significant thing is Hannah’s openness to God.
An openness so great that the priest accuses her of being drunk!
Hannah is real with God. In the gritty reality of her pain, and longing and brokenness, Hannah cries out to God just as she is, wholly woman (Holy woman!).
And God’s response is fulsome and loving and life-giving for Hannah, though not without cost.
Hannah’s faith and example show us:
- firstly that, God Knows, God hears and understands the things that matter most deeply to us in our hearts.
- and secondly, that God is able to work with us in those difficult places to bring about transformation and new life
But for that to be true for us in our lives, we need to have Hannah’s courage to
- be honest and real before God
- and to trust: to trust not only in God, but also to trust in ourselves as Hannah did, so that God’s abundant new life may spring up in us.
At our diocese Disability Forum a few months ago, we did a Bible quiz about disability, using resources from “Through the Roof”, an organisation promoting disability inclusion in churches. We were all surprised when the answer to the question “what was the most feared disability in biblical times?” was “infertility”. (We all thought “leprosy”.) It made us think about our attitudes towards that and other hidden conditions that may make people feel excluded from “normal” society.