“Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.’ 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” (1 Samuel 1:17-18).
Hannah was one of many barren women featured in the Bible. She was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah, and though she was the favorite wife, her rival had children. Hannah grieved because she remained childless, and nothing her husband said could comfort her. In her culture, her childlessness was a great shame, and she yearned for it to be lifted. One day when the family was in Shiloh for their yearly sacrifice, she could bear it no longer. She went to the house of God and began to pour out her heart before Him.
Standing nearby was Eli, the high priest. He saw her praying, as she was moving her lips without speaking aloud, and he took her to be drunk. He rebuked her for this, but when she told him the truth—that she was a woman desperate for help who was pouring out her soul to God—he blessed her, instead. He prayed that God would hear her petition. His words must have given Hannah confidence that God had indeed listened and would respond to her prayer. She left Shiloh comforted. And by the next year, Hannah’s first son was born. She named him Samuel, which translated to “heard of God”.
Hannah was a woman who was deeply distressed. All she wanted was a son. This wasn’t for selfish reasons, as is evident in her vow to give her son in service to the LORD if He would provide one. This was simply a deep, earnest desire of her heart. Her lack of a child grieved her; it was a sorrow nothing could alleviate. But she knew where to go for help. Her husband offered her no solace, but she knew God would. She prayed earnestly for a son, and her prayer comforted her. Before she even knew God’s answer, she was glad, because she knew He had heard. When she finally did receive the long-awaited son, her response was joyful worship. She had prayed, and God had answered.
We all have something we long for deeply. Perhaps, like Hannah, it’s a child; perhaps it’s a relationship; perhaps it’s a home. There are any number of things that we could desire. It’s easy to grieve over what we don’t have. But like Hannah, we don’t have to bear this unbearable sorrow on our own. God wants to hear our troubles. And what’s more, He alone can do something about them. When we pour out our heart to Him, He hears us, and He immediately begins to work. When we’re honest with Him about what we want, He acts in His infinite wisdom to give us exactly what we need. He is the God Who hears, and He is the God Who provides. His answers may take a while, but like Hannah, we can be comforted even before we see the answer. We can have confidence in the God Who always responds.