by Meredith A. Weber
No one has been promised smooth sailing in this world. It’s pretty much a given that at some point we will each go through hard times. Those times can look different to each of us, but the emotions and struggles that go with the situations are the same.
I was recently reading the story of Hannah in I Samuel chapter one. It’s not her whole story, but it gave me a lot of insight on how to handle suffering. In brief, Hannah lived in a time where having a child was a status symbol, a blessing really. Any woman who couldn’t have children was looked down upon and thought to be cursed by God. Hannah was a woman that society loved to hate. She was married and childless. And if societal expectations weren’t enough, she was bullied for years by the “other woman” in her husband’s life, his second wife, Peninnah (whom he probably married because Hannah couldn’t have children). After many years of painful infertility, Hannah was blessed with a child. Her child, named Samuel, later became a judge and prophet who changed the history of his nation for the good.
But first there was suffering.
If we find ourselves as Hannah did, she has given us an excellent example on how to suffer well. What is “suffering well” you ask? Suffering well is when we handle our disappointing circumstances in a way that builds our character, is done with integrity and honors the God who made us all.
What are the ways that Hannah suffered well?
1. Hannah suffered with a personal issue she was unable to change, but she remained faithful. She remained faithful to the husband who loved her. She remained faithful to her God. We read that year after year she offered sacrifices and prayed to God for her situation to change. She didn’t give up. Despite her circumstances, she kept her faith and her attitude was one focused on what could happen and not what was.
2. She was bullied and took the high ground. We all have Peninnahs in our lives. Peninnahs are the people who continue to point out our flaws, who pick at us and push us when we are down. Maybe your Peninnah is a micro-managing boss on a tirade, a spouse who fails to acknowledge the work you are doing and only sees what you’ve missed, or a troll on social media who gets his kicks from hounding your Pinterest post about the cupcakes that looked more like blobs than the minions they should have been. Truth is, as long as there are humans there will be Peninnahs and there will be Hannahs. Hannah was bullied, wept to God and described her condition as one of “great anguish and grief.” She was tired, yet we don’t see her lash out at Peninnah, bad mouth her or treat Peninnah with the same treatment she received.
3. Hannah shared her condition with a close acquaintance who helped carry her burden. As humans we are made for relationship. Hannah shared her deep anguish and pain with her husband and he, in turn, suffered with her. He walked along beside her and comforted her. We’re told he prayed for her and loved on her. When we suffer, we should let those who are close to us comfort us. Circumstances may not change, but we aren’t alone.
Then there was good in her life.
After years of infertility, Hannah was blessed with a son. Her suffering was then part of her story. But the cool thing about Hannah was she saw the bigger picture. The story could have ended there, but it doesn’t.
Hannah gave her son back to God. When he was two or three (after he was weaned), she took him to the temple where she learned she would one day become pregnant and she essentially gave her baby to the priest there and entrusted Samuel’s life to God’s will. As a mom I can’t imagine taking either of my children and giving them to someone I barely know. But Hannah’s faith was huge and through her suffering she learned that life is bigger than one person. Her suffering taught her that. Her God was bigger than her infertility and she knew her God could be trusted with her story.
Samuel later became a prophet and judge who led his people (Israel) out of a dark time in history and into a promising one. Hannah later had three more sons and two daughters, but it wasn’t until after she first re-gifted what she had been given. Her gift back to God blessed a nation. Out of her suffering comes a story of hope and life.
How can we suffer well and let our stories become bigger than just us?
Jubilee News was granted written permission by the Author to post this article in this Publication. Jubilee News invites you to view the article in its entirety: “Suffering Well” – https://merespalette.blogspot.com/2017/08/suffering-well.html