What can we learn from childless women in the Bible?

[Elkanah] had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Right at the beginning of 1 Samuel we learn that not only does Hannah not have any children, but that God had closed her womb. This doesn’t sound fair, but I will come to that later. We also read that her her husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah. Because of his love for her, and because she was childless, he gives her a double portion of the meat to sacrifice. Apart from his bigamy, Elkanah sounds like a really loving a supportive husband – not only did he give her a double portion, but he reminded her of his love for her.

Key Takeaway #1

Often we can get so caught up in what we long for and don’t have, that we miss the blessings that we have been given. We learned this when looking at Rachel, and it is probably here again in this story as all of us, not just childless women, need to be reminded of this often! I know I do.

Hannah poured out her emotions

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.

We then read that Hannah poured out her heart and her soul to God. In fact, she was praying so fervently in her heart that Eli the priest thought that she was drunk! At this point Hannah shares some of her grief with the priest, explaining that she was praying out of great anguish and grief. He blessed her and told her to go in peace.

Key Takeaway #2

We need to be honest with our emotions, especially to God, but also with trusted friends. God knows our heart anyway, and he doesn’t want us to bottle it all up. So let it out – tell God how you feel, cry those ugly tears, lament and grieve. God gave us all of these emotions for a reason. Great healing and peace can come from this – but only when we dare to express these feelings.

We need to avoid the temptation to lie and say “I’m fine” when people ask how we are, when really we are feeling anything but fine. However, we also need to choose our confidants wisely. There is something so rewarding about sharing the depths of our pain with close friends and trusted advisors, and having them pray for you. I hope you have some of these people around you – I am so grateful for these friends in my own life!

Praying friends

If you don’t, ask God to bring them into your life, or start by sharing small challenges with some friends and see how they respond. If you trust them you can share more!

Like Hannah, and like many other childless women, I haven’t always been able to find the words to express how I am feeling. In these times, my husband and close friends have just prayed for me – and I have experienced an incredible sense of peace.

Hannah made a vow

Hannah also made a vow. She promised that if God granted her a son, she would hand him back to God to serve him forever. After Samuel was born and she had weaned him, not only did she keep this promise by dedicating her only son to the temple, but she also prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and praise! I am not sure I would have been able to do this, as I still hate goodbyes, and can’t begin to imagine Hannah’s pain at saying goodbye to her only son!

Key Takeaway #3

It is easy to make promises about what we will say and do if God answers our prayers – it is much easier to actually carry them out! But Hannah did, and what a legacy she left with Samuel, a true servant leader of God.

God knows the ending

I mentioned at the beginning that it sounded mean that God had closed Hannah’s womb. Whenever I hear stories of childless women, I wonder why God doesn’t open their womb, why hasn’t he opened mine. And yet, as with Hannah, God know the ending and the bigger picture, and one day so will we!

Key Takeaway #4

God had closed Hannah’s womb, but it was all part of a grand plan. When we read more of Samuel’s story we see some of what God was doing. Hannah in her faithfulness was part of this story – and we can be part of God’s story by trusting him too. He is faithful.

Other Childless Women

Hannah is one of six childless women in the Bible. Read more about some of the other accounts in this series – Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Ruth and Rebekah.

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