Turmoil is no fun. When I am in a state of turmoil, I can’t think straight; I can’t enjoy anything. I may not even be able to eat or sleep. My turmoil may at times be self-inflicted, but at other times the source is something over which I have no control. Hannah was in just such a state in the first chapter of the first book of Samuel.
There was nothing in Hannah’s life that she wanted more than to have a child, but it wasn’t happening. Her husband, Elkanah, was a great guy. It’s clear that he loved her dearly and was very sad to see the way she was suffering, “‘Why are you crying, Hannah?’ Elkanah would ask. ‘Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?’” (1:8) Clearly, Elkanah did not suffer from poor self-esteem!
But nothing he said or did could take away the turmoil in Hannah’s soul. It didn’t help that Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, would ruthlessly taunt Hannah about her barren state. There’s nothing like kicking someone when she’s down.
When the time came to offer sacrifices at the Tabernacle, Elkanah packed up the family and headed for Shiloh. No doubt it was difficult for Hannah to travel with the whole clan, especially Peninnah, so once in Shiloh, she decided to go off by herself to pray. Tears flowed from her eyes, and her lips moved as she made her silent supplication. Eli, the high priest, observed her from his seat at the entrance to the Tabernacle and added to her turmoil with a false accusation: “‘Must you come here drunk?’ he demanded. ‘Throw away your wine!’” (1:14)
Deeply distressed that the high priest would think such a thing, Hannah explained the situation, and Eli redeemed himself somewhat with an encouraging word: “In that case,” he said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” (1:17) At that very moment, peace flooded Hannah’s soul. With great excitement, she thanked Eli; she was no longer sad and no longer in turmoil. She believed Yahweh would answer her prayers and honor Eli’s words on her behalf!
In the next chapter, Hannah is again found praying: “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” (2:1-2).
“Rejoice!” “Boast!” “Delight!” Hannah was a new person; delivered from her despair, she was now basking in the peace that comes from knowing there is no one like the LORD – Yahweh Shalom – the LORD is peace!
Like Hannah, who put her trust in Yahweh, I can reach beyond myself and put my trust in the One who said to the sea, “Peace, be still,” Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Mark 4:39).
And His peace covers me like a blanket as I meditate on Psalm 146:5-10.
“But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He made heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever.
He gives justice to the oppressed
and food to the hungry.
The Lord frees the prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.
The Lord loves the godly.
The Lord protects the foreigners among us.
He cares for the orphans and widows,
but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.
The Lord will reign forever.
He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.
Praise the Lord!”