Facing waves of life with faith.

Sometimes the storms in our lives appear without warning and it is natural to panic. Sudden and swift, grief is often characterized by its ability to overwhelm the soul. Within its wake, we feel the heaviest of emotions and struggle to find solid footing. 

Whether through loss or prolonged seasons of waiting, we each have experienced grief’s painful waves. It is here we can begin to question God’s goodness and guidance.

Not all of us will have to face physical storms of this kind. But Jesus said that we would all face the storms of life (Matthew 7:25–27). Life is not easy. These storms are many and varied. Abraham, David and Jesus’; women in the bible like Hannah, Naomi and disciples of Jesus all faced storms in their lives.

So, the question becomes: What do we do in the waves? How do we find healing from unresolved pain? And where do we find hope to hold onto when we feel like we are drowning?

As we look to Scripture, we see that the waves of uncertainty and tragedy have been present since the fall of man. One story that continues to provide comfort to my soul is that of Hannah. Faced with the reality of prolonged grief, Hannah’s story provides us with an incredible perspective on navigating pain. 

So, let us lean into the lessons found within Hannah’s story and learn what it means to face the waves with faith. 

This story of spiritual strength is found in 1 Samuel 1. In the opening chapter, we are introduced to a man named Elkanah and his two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Unlike Peninnah, Hannah was unable to conceive (1 Samuel 1:2).  Within the Old Testament culture, barrenness was considered a social embarrassment and greatly looked down upon. To make matters worse, the narrative explains that year after year, Peninnah would taunt Hannah with insults regarding her childlessness. This is where we find Hannah, deeply grieved by her barrenness to the point where she was unable to eat. 

Have you ever experienced this kind of pain? The kind that steals the sweetness from life itself? We all have pain points that prompt our souls to ask – why? Yet, what I find most powerful about Hannah’s story is that she did not stay in her pain, but rather it propelled her to respond in honest prayer and faith-filled praise.

In the following verses of Samuel 1, we are given practical steps through Hannah’s process to navigate the waves of such pain. 

Holding space for our pain - Hannah Held Space for Her Pain.  I don’t think anyone naturally befriends pain. Our brains have been wired to identify such threats and avoid them all costs. Additionally, society has for centuries shamed the expression of sadness, making emotional honesty a taboo topic. In being told not to cry we have consequently been taught to disconnect ourselves from processing emotions that are present for a purpose. In contrast, Hannah expresses the weight of her pain in verses 17-18 by holding space for her emotions to be expressed and seen by others.

“Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’” Hannah did not avoid her pain, negate it, or even hide its weight from those around her but bravely allowed it to be felt. 

The process of finding meaning in painful experiences always starts with stopping to identify what hurts and holding space for it. We need to feel it, not label, dismiss it, or minimize it. Although it's hard to feel what hurts, giving voice to our emotions helps us validate our experiences.

Hannah did this in mourning her barrenness. She wept, expressing the pain that was held up in her heart and acknowledging the emotions that grief brought her. 

Pressing into Prayers- Hannah Presses into Prayer. In addition to acknowledging the presence of a loss, Hannah moves towards pouring out her soul before the Lord in prayer. 

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head’" (1 Samuel 1:10-11).

I love Hannah’s unrestrained vulnerability before the Lord in these verses. She was open with her emotions as she poured out her soul before the Lord. Hannah honestly expressed the depth of her desires by petitioning the Lord to meet her needs. 

When pain is present, do we position ourselves before the Lord in this way? Do we take time to name our raw emotions, unmet expectations, and ask God honest questions?

We see David continually do this throughout the Psalms. In Psalm 13, he writes: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:1-4).

David’s prayer questions God’s timing, His attentiveness, and His silence during suffering. This honesty led David to seek the Lord’s faithfulness and find God’s steadfast love:

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

Hannah came to the same resolve through her honesty and petition before the Lord in verses 15-18. In the messiness of her grief, Hannah was accused of being drunk with wine by Eli the Priest, yet Hannah clarifies her position of prayer saying, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation” (1 Samuel 1:15-18).

Eli responds to Hannah’s rawness before the Lord by praying a blessing over her in verse 17 saying, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 

It is through these prayers of petition that Hannah found peace. We read in verse 18 that these prayers transformed Hannah’s perspective. 

"And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

Hannah’s circumstances had not changed but her perspective had been redirected by seeking God’s power and presence. 

Remaining faithful through praise. Hannah remained Faithful through Praise.  It is with this new perspective that Hannah is empowered to praise God despite her distress. Look at the final verses of this narrative: 

“They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah”... (1 Samuel 1:19).

Hannah, though still waiting for God’s provision, remained faithful. She moved forward in faith, praising God for the peace found in His presence.

I believe our weariness in worship often stems from wanting what God has not yet willed. It can become so easy to approach our worship wanting something from God. We can unconsciously exchange our desire for God’s presence for His provision and His goodness for His gifts. 

Ultimately, the spiritual strength exhibited in Hannah’s story is found in her surrender to God’s sovereignty. This position of praise invites our souls to trust in nothing less than God Himself. For all other rivers of hope flow from His heart. 

Trusting God for Provision; Hannah’s story concludes with the evidence of God’s provision to provide her with a son “in due time” (1 Samuel 1:20).This account of God’s faithfulness does not negate the weight of current losses but encourages our hearts to hold fast to God’s perfect timing.  It could be to find comfort after loss of a loved one, loss of job, loss of peace or joy; just trust God for His provision in due time it shall come to pass.

Comforting words for the month

Just like Hannah, our situations no matter how desperate and broken they seem, aren’t all up to us to solve. Sometimes we mistakenly think they are. Or we feel like we must have done something awful for “God to do this to us.” But that’s not the mindset God wants us to focus on; He just wants our eyes on Him.

Maybe we don’t understand the why’s behind His purposes, just as we can’t always fully see His plans in our troubles. But we can be assured that God definitely has a plan.  In Hannah’s story He did then, and He does now.  God will never allow our pain and brokenness to have the final word. He will always give more and bless abundantly, even in the midst of our most difficult seasons. The blessings may look different than we had first imagined, but be assured, there is great depth of faith, perseverance, and character that comes from those dark seasons. And God will pour out His Spirit of mercy and grace in our times of deepest need.

Though sometimes it’s hard to see and understand what God is doing, He’s simply asking us to trust Him, just as Hannah did. He invites us to come to Him and bring our heart-cries, our pain, our longings, and our brokenness. He will never turn us away or have a deaf ear to our struggle. He is fully trust-worthy, fully loving, and fully kind.

In our ever-changing, hectic world especially with this COVID 19 pandemic with us, it may be difficult to know what, or who, we can really trust anymore. But God is secure; He’s our sure foundation, our solid Rock. We can rely on Him who never changes to hold us steady in every tumultuous time. Our God is forever faithful.

No matter what you’re facing today, hope in Him. He will never fail. And He is with you, always. In the midst of the storms David says, ‘My shield is God Most High’ (Psalm 7:10). This is the best protection you could ever have against the attacks of the enemy.