Summary: The Life of Samuel, Part 1 of 5.
PRAYER CHANGES PEOPLE (1 SAM 1:1-22)
Kurt Cobain, the founder and leader of the grunge band Nirvana, was the most acclaimed and creative singer of his generation. His parents divorced when he was eight and two of his father’s uncles committed suicide. Marriage and the birth of a daughter were supposed to bring calm, stability, and perspective to the brooding singer, but three years after the band had achieved fame and at the height of his popularity, Cobain put a shotgun to his own head at the young age of twenty-seven in 1994.
In a suicide note left behind to his family and for his fans, Cobain revealed: "I haven’t felt the excitement for so many years. I feel guilty beyond words about these things...When we are backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins, it doesn’t affect me...The fact is I can’t fool you, any of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or to me...The worst crime I can think of would be to (trick) people by faking it and pretending as if I were having 100% fun. (I don’t have the passion anymore. so remember,) It’s better to burn out than to fade away. (LAT 4/12/94).
One 2003 study suggested that 13 percent of the work force loses productivity from headaches, back pain, arthritis and other common painful conditions, and as many as 50 million or so pain patients in the nation suffers pain (“Making pain control an issue of mind over matter,” The Dallas Morning News, September 19, 2006).
Pain can be physical, emotional, or mental. Chronic emotional and mental suffering is more dangerous than migraine headaches, lower back pain, or rheumatoid arthritis. Times magazine (Fall 1997) describes how pain travels technically in the body: “A pain signal is set off by the stimulation of nerve endings. The signal goes to the spinal cord, where it passes instantaneously to a motor nerve (1) connected to a muscle in the leg. This causes a reflex action that does not include the brain. But the signal also goes up the spinal cord to the thalamus, (2) where pain is received.”
The story of Samuel, the last judge of Israel, begins with the heartbreak suffered by his mother, Hannah. Hannah’s suffering was likened to Job, Hagar, and Israel’s suffering in Egypt. Childlessness reduced her to tears. She felt that she was nothing like others, she had less than others, and despised by others. Years and years (v 7) of the same disparaging remarks, brutal treatment, and mind games from her rival made her tearful, miserable, and despondent.
What can one do in such an uneven fight, with such an obnoxious person, or in such an inescapable situation?
Master the Art of Looking Away
6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?" (1 Sam 1:6-8)
// A Jewish story in A Treasury of Jewish Folklore tells of how tears were given to us, and why they are valuable to us:
“After Adam and Eve had been banished from the Garden of Eden, God saw that they were penitent and took their fall very much to the heart. And as He is a compassionate Father He said to them gently: “I know that you will meet with a lot of tribulation in the world and that it will embitter your lives. For that reason I gave to you of my heavenly treasure this priceless pearl. Look! (They saw a droplet of water). It is a tear! And when grief overtakes you and your heart aches so that you are not able to endure it, and great anguish grips your soul, then there will fall from your eyes this tiny tear. Your burden will grow lighter then.”
Hannah did not master the art of looking away, looking elsewhere or at something else. Looking away is not escaping, avoiding, or fleeing your critics, but shutting down, brushing aside, and taking lightly opinions that are unfair, undeserving, or uninvited. Problems add up, pile on, and get worse when we care too much or give too much weight to what people say, do, or think.
The introduction to 1 Samuel is the most heart-wrenching and tear-jerking passage in the Bible. Nine gut-wrenching Hebrew words were chosen to describe in painstaking detail Hannah’s suffering. The Hebrew word “weep” occur three times (vv 7, 8, 10), the words “provoke” (vv 6, 7) and “grief” (vv 6, 16) twice, and the words “irritate” (v 6), “downhearted” (v 8), “bitterness of soul” (v 10), “misery” (v 11), “deeply troubled” (v 15), and “anguish” (v 16) occur once.