Summary: Part of experiencing the fullness of God’s grace is reaching out to God in belief and prayer.
I have always been a fan of Winnie the Pooh. I remember as a young girl in elementary school, my Mom would dress me in her bedroom each morning before school. As we got ready, I would watch Pooh’s Corner (I believe it was called), on the Disney Channel. Now, this was not the animated Winnie the Pooh with which you are all probably familiar; rather, it was live actors and actresses in costumes who acted out scenarios in the Hundred Acre Woods. Though the stories were new and relevant to the lives of children in the late 1980s, the timeless characters were still the same as they had always been. Including Eeyore. We all know Eeyore pretty well. “Don’t mind me,” he says all the time. Eeyore, whose tail is nearly always lost, is the animal in the Hundred Acre Woods with the proverbial rain cloud over his head. And Eeyore is always this way; he always has been, and he probably always will be.
As we read the opening verses of the first book of Samuel, we see that Hannah is in much the same state. Though happily married, Hannah is barren. Because of the expectations of society at that time, barrenness was horrendous on many levels. Aside from the great personal sadness that comes with our inability to bear children, Hannah would have also had to deal with the stigmas of a society that placed great value on a couple’s ability to produce offspring and continue the family line. Such inflictions were often viewed as the result of sin or disobedience in the eyes of God, and men were shamed if they were not able to produce offspring. That’s probably why Elkanah had two wives, the other one being Peninnah; though he loved Hannah, Elkanah wanted offspring and Hannah was not able to do that for him. So you can imagine the great sadness that Hannah must feel in the face of her barrenness. And then to top it off, it seems that Peninnah provokes and irritates Hannah; that she chides Hannah endlessly because as the Scriptures tell us, “the Lord has closed her womb.” It’s one thing for Peninnah to give Hannah a hard time when they are alone in the household, but Peninnah chides Hannah even when they are in public, even when they are at the Temple of the Lord. “There goes the Barren One. There she is, no fruitfulness there.” We can nearly feel the humiliation Hannah must have been experiencing as this continued year after year.
I imagine that Hannah probably felt much like Eeyore. While the others in Hannah’s circle go happily about their lives, Hannah has no companion but her gloom. Even when her husband brings her a double portion of his sacrifices to feed her, Hannah would only weep and not eat. “Don’t mind me,” we can almost hear Hannah saying, as she tries to avoid the incessant chiding of her rival. “Don’t mind me.”
Then, one year, as the family made their annual pilgrimage to the Temple in Shiloh, Hannah decided that she had had enough. This is where Hannah is different from Eeyore. You see, Eeyore is content to continue in his dejected state for all time, but Hannah is not. So we are told that after eating and drinking in Shiloh, “Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord.” In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful lines in Scripture. Hannah rose. Hannah made a conscious decision before God that she was not going to live her life in misery anymore. “When we are despised, dejected, rejected, misunderstood, marginalized, or ostracized, there’s no need to spend time simply crying about it.” God desires that we would all do as Hannah did and present ourselves in God’s presence. Whether we are dejected or overjoyed, God desires that we would come into his presence with fervent prayer. Hannah’s prayer was so passionate that the priest Eli, looking on, thought she was drunk or crazy. Sometimes living our lives as God would have us to live them makes us seem strange or weird or crazy in the eyes of those around us, but when we are willing to follow God so unabashedly, great things happen, just as they happened for Hannah. Yet, we have to remember that the tide did not turn until “Hannah rose and presented herself before God.”
Sometimes, we have to rise to the occasion and admit that we are no longer satisfied with the status quo and we’d like some things to change. And then we have to take action in that direction. If I may, I’d like to mention Winnie the Pooh again. My most favorite Winnie the Pooh story is the one where Pooh eats too much honey and then he gets stuck in rabbit’s hole. Now, we all know how much Pooh loves honey; he takes every opportunity he can get to eat some honey. But when Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit’s hole, some changes have to be made. As much as Pooh loves honey, he’s not so happy in that hole, nor is Rabbit very happy about having Pooh’s backside displayed on his wall. So, rather than continuing to eat honey, Pooh realizes that some things need to change, and he takes action (with Rabbit’s help), and cuts off the honey until he’s finally small enough again to squeeze out of Rabbit’s hole. Pooh could’ve stayed in that hole, eating honey for the rest of his life, but he quickly realized that he wasn’t very happy or comfortable there, so Pooh took determined action to make things change. And that’s what Hannah did too.