3 Lessons Learned Through Suffering
Have you ever felt frustrated with your life? Like nothing is happening the way it should and no matter how hard you try, nothing is changing?
Maybe you feel like that now.
I know these past few days, I’ve felt like that. I’ve felt deeply frustrated, even angry, with the circumstances all around me. So, I think I can at least partially relate with what you’re going through. But there’s also someone else who I think can relate to your situation even more – and her name is Hannah.
If you’re reading this and you have a Bible laying around, I’d like you to do me a favor and pick it up and turn to the book of 1 Samuel. If you don’t have one, you can access an online one here. Before continuing this article, I want you to take a quick minute and read the first chapter (verses 1-28). When you’re done, we’re going to talk a little bit about what we read!
So, to recap, this guy named Elkanah has two different wives, Hannah and Peninnah. It says here that every year, the three of them would take a trip to a place called Shiloh, where they went to worship God. Very early on we see some major issues going on in their family – issues that never would have happened if this guy had obeyed God’s original plan for marriage: one man and one women. Peninnah is being treated more favorably, because she can have children and Hannah cannot. Not only is she treated better by her husband, but it says here that Peninnah verbally abuses Hannah, completely destroying her emotionally.
Their husband’s response to the matter just throws salt in the wound. Rather than make things right and comfort Hannah in her pain, he just looks at Hannah and basically says, “Stop crying honey, I’m all you’ll ever need.” Ouch – talk about insensitive!
Once they make it to Shiloh, Hannah quickly goes off to find a quiet place to pray and pour her heart out to God. The Bible says in verse 10 that she was in “deep anguish, crying bitterly” and that she was so overwhelmed that she couldn’t even speak as she prayed. All she could do was mouth the words as she sobbed and trembled in utter desperation. “God,” she cried, “Please, give me a child, so I don’t have to bear this abuse. Please, everything, even the child you would give me, I surrender to you.”
Apparently unnoticed by Hannah, a priest was watching all this happen. He sat there for a minute and then suddenly got up and accused her of being drunk. But rather than respond with anger at this man’s great insensitivity, Hannah regains her composure and explains her situation to the priest. Probably feeling much shame from his rash actions, the priest sends her off with a blessing, hoping alongside her that God will grant her request. So, Hannah leaves, encouraged and trusting that God is in control.
Soon after, we learn some great news – Hannah is pregnant, and she has a son! Finally, God has answered her prayers. He has delivered her from her painful circumstances.
So… what can we learn from this story? In my mind, three things – three important lessons from Hannah’s story that we can practically apply to our lives.
1. Think before you speak
Here we see two perfect examples of how our words can further devastate others already going through a hard time. I remember when I was going through the worst situation I’ve ever faced. I was overwhelmed with anger, confusion, and sadness. The wound was still fresh, and I needed time to grieve my loss. A well-intentioned friend of mine called me in the midst of this and basically told me to just get over it. It’s hard when you’re going through something difficult, but it’s even harder when you’re vulnerable and someone tells you that you shouldn’t be.
In this story here, both Hannah’s husband and the priest had one thing in common: they were too quick to pass judgement on what was really happening and just said what was on their mind. Many of us have the same problem.
My first challenge for all of us is that, starting today, we all watch our mouths more carefully.
2. It’s okay to ask God to change your circumstances
As I’m writing this article, I’m in a certain situation where I feel stuck and unsure about what to do next. The natural response for me and for other Christians in this kind of situation should be to pray. God wants us to pour out our hearts and our requests to Him. Even Jesus asked God the Father to change his situation in life. But what He said next is also very important for us to see as well. He said, “But, Thy will be done.”
Are we willing to say that after we pray for God to change our situations?
3. God is faithful
In this story, we see the miraculous happen: God delivered Hannah from the storm. Sometimes, God does that, even today. When all hope has faded, sometimes the miraculous happens, and we’re delivered from our pain. This truly is an amazing testament to the faithfulness of God in our lives. But sometimes, God doesn’t do that. What about those times – does that mean God has abandoned us?
No. That just means that God is doing something else in our life. It just means that rather than deliver us from the storm, He’s chosen to deliver us through it. It means that He’s going to give us the strength to walk through those hard times and follow the advice of James to “consider it an opportunity for great joy”. It means He’s going to use it to help grow us in endurance, character, and faith.
So here’s my last challenge for you today: whatever hard situation you’re going through, trust God to help you – and determine beforehand that no matter how He does it, you will look up and say to Him, “Thy will be done.” Will you do that today?