A woman stands praying and weeping in the presence of God.
Her name is Hannah. She has a husband, but no children. Her husband’s other wife has children and mocks Hannah for her childlessness, for her barrenness. And Hannah, overwhelmed by longing for her own child and grief over her empty womb, seeks the presence of God.
She bargains and begs for her own child:
“O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life …” (1 Samuel 1:11 NASB)
And God says, “Yes.”
I’m amazed and awed by God’s generosity to Hannah.
God gave Hannah her own child. His name was Samuel. Hannah, as she had promised, gave him to God. And then God gave her another three boys and two girls. Hannah asked for one baby. God could have answered her prayer and given her what she asked for: one baby (like Sarah and Elisabeth).
God gave Hannah six babies.
And I’m reminded, whenever I read this story of her prayer and His generosity, that her God is my God. He’s Mary’s God. And Paul’s God. And it was Paul who wrote,
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21 NASB)
I learn two things from these verses:
1. My God is able. He is able to give a biological child to a barren woman like Hannah. He is able to part the Red Sea, to make a shepherd boy a king, to raise His own Son to life. He is able to give me the desires of my heart.
2. What my God does is not all about me and the desires of my heart. Paul wants the glory to go to God. Not just the glory in his generation or my generation or even the generation of my hopefully–someday–grandchildren, but all generations.
The story of Hannah reminds me (again and again) that I can seek the presence of God with the desires of my heart and every fear and pain of my current singleness and subsequent childlessness.
I can pray.
God will answer. (He promises.)
And I (really, really, really) want to say that He’ll give me what I ask for and more. That, however, isn’t the truth. The truth is that He might not give me what I ask for — He might not give me the desires of my heart.
And so I don’t hope in what I ask Him for and I don’t hope in my prayers.
I hope in God.
And I read Lamentations 3:21-24 (NASB):
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
His love, His compassion, His faithfulness are enduring and eternal and therefore I have hope.
I don’t know what you’re praying for, or if God will give you what you’re asking for — if He’ll give you the desires of your heart. I do know that He wants you to seek the presence of God when you’re overwhelmed by longing and grief.
I know that He wants you to hope in Him.
And I know that, somehow, He will answer.
Because that’s Who He is and what He does. He does far more far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.