Sunday, January 29, 2012

The opportunity of provocation

He (Elkanah) had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And her rival (Peninnah) used to provoke her (Hannah) grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat...She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly."
1 Samuel 1

Hannah knew provocation. She lived a life of maternal barrenness next to the woman with whom she shared a husband - Peninnah, who was nothing but fruitful. And Peninnah took full advantage of Hannah's barrenness. She provoked her about it. She sought much to irritate her. Every year, continuously, Hannah heard words that grieved her. So much so to the point that she was deeply distressed and wept bitterly. She was unable to eat. Her broken heart weighed her down. She was worn and anxious from the incitement.

And one day, in her deep distress and ongoing weeping, she prayed to the LORD. She vowed that if the LORD looked on her affliction and gave her a son, that she would give him to the LORD all the days of his life. And in His great purposes, He did just that. The LORD who had closed her womb, opened it. Hannah conceived and bore a son, whom she named Samuel.

Samuel, who is from the LORD, becomes the last of the judges and the prophet who initiates the beginning of the monarchy, anointing the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David. He stressed the importance of following the LORD's commands to both the people and their king in order for it to go well with them. He prayed constantly for them, instructing them in the way that was right, and walked before them all of his days.

Samuel existed because of the LORD, birthed from the context of a broken heart. Samuel came to be out of the prayer from a woman who endured words that said Samuel was not. Samuel's life was one of paramount purpose, bringing restoration to a woman's life that had been mocked to the point of deep distress.

And here in a late season, the reality that God's saving plan is fulfilled in the ongoing day-to-day lives of human beings has hit me afresh. For I've been provoked. It's been continuous, year after year, but the present moment has weighed down my heart . And I've had myself a good cry. And I've wept. The kind, for instance, where you have to leave church before the very end so as to avoid contact with anyone: my mascara was not waterproof and I could not get myself together. I'm worn from the provocation.

And though my form of my barrenness may differ, I too have dropped myself before the LORD and cried out for Him to remember me. And I know that He does, because He is with me at this very moment. And I too have asked Him to look on my affliction, and I know that He does because He is my El Roi. And I have vowed that I would allow Him to use this area of affliction for His glory, entrusting it to Him all the days of my life. For I believe His intent is to bring forth life from the circumstances that have set a tone of provocation. And I believe that He will birth in me something for His kingdom purposes, just as He birthed in Hannah a judge and prophet who marked the history of Israel in profound ways.

You may be far from a "Hannah" season. There may be no person, circumstance or thing inciting such frustration, heaviness and weeping in you that you're presently on the floor before the LORD. But if you are, I pray that He strengthens your inner being with courage to believe that He brings forth life from death. So hold on sister, for blessed are all those who wait for Him. 


Big Jen said...

Such a rich post. Thank you for this "mini sermon" surrounding Samuel.

boomama said...

I did a double-take when I saw the beginning of your post - because I read this very passage early this morning. I'll take that as my cue to pray for you, sweet Shelly. Much love to you and Nate!

Toknowhim said...

Hey Shelly...thanks for stopping by my blog. You are one of the first people that I would regularly visit when I started my own blog. Your posts are always challenging and encouraging. I look forward to hearing what the Lord will do during this season of your life.

Hoping married life is treating you well... I am sure it is :)

Anonymous said...

Shelly...I stumbled into your blog this morning.... but by God's purpose. The only thing I can say is this, "Thank you and to GOD be the glory."

BeckyJo606 said...

I loved this post. It so resonates with me and my season of life--I just could never say it as eloquently as you did. I'll be praying for you--I am so thankful for this post and for the reminder that God is with me, even when I am struggling.