“’I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord…’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” 1 Sam 1:15, 18
Most of us are familiar with the story of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah who longed for a child. She was “barren,” unable to get pregnant, and so her soul ached for something that she was afraid she was never going to have. To make matters worse, Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had no problems having children and she “used to provoke Hannah grievously to irritate her…” (v. 6). Despite his best efforts, Hannah’s husband could not satisfy her longing for motherhood. She was sad. She was disappointed. She was, I’m sure at times, even angry. Every time Peninnah delivered a child, Hannah’s heart undoubtedly sank a little further. What’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong? Why can’t I have that blessing?
As the story unfolds, one day she comes to the tabernacle at Shiloh and pours her soul out before the Lord. This was not a trite, repetitious prayer- This was a flood of emotion that had been dammed up for years. This was an offering to God of a broken heart. This was the sorrow of a hundred sleepless nights bursting from the deepest, darkest recess of her soul. This was her brokenness, anger, frustration, and grief seeping out of her every pore. There is prayer, then there is PRAYER. This was the latter.
You know the story. Hannah conceived, bore a son, named him Samuel, and dedicated him to the Lord’s service. But, there is a detail that I don’t want you to miss. After receiving a blessing from Eli, she went away from this prayer and “her face was no longer sad.” This was before she conceived Samuel. This was before she held her child in her arms. This was before she felt the waxy vernix of her baby laid against her chest. In other words, Hannah found peace before she received the blessing, not after. Despite not having the thing she wanted the most, she walked away ‘no longer sad.’
Beloved, this is the joy of an unburdened soul. This is the peace that comes from laying it all before a caring and gracious God. Maybe you have a longing for something? A specific answer to a specific prayer? Maybe this prayer has become perennial, year after year (v. 7)? While I will join with you and pray for this thing, whatever it may be, I also encourage you to realize that the thing you need the most is the Lord himself. He is our portion! He is our lot! (Ps 15:5-6). Unburden the weight you’ve been carrying and cast it before the Lord, because he cares for you! (1 Pet 5:7). Come boldly before the throne, and ugly cry. Whether or not the Lord will answer a specific prayer in a specific way, I cannot say. But, what I do know is what Jesus says so plainly: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Charles Spurgeon once said “Pray until you can pray.” What he meant is simple- don’t overthink this- Pray until the torrents of your heartache burst from your spirit, and then perhaps your “face will no longer be sad.” Jesus cares for you, friend. You can have peace, even now while you wait, and that is a gift in and of itself.