Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hannah's Empty Arms

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Empty Arms by Margot Cioccio 
I spent time ministering to a woman this past Sunday, who I have prayed with on numerous occasions for the very same thing. She wants another baby and has had nothing but miscarriages since the birth of her first child a number of years ago. The pain of wanting a child at times becomes unbearable and she sits after the service sobbing because something has pushed that button again. Why won't God give her the desire of her heart? She has prayed, she has had others agree with her in prayer but for the last eight or so years the answer is no? So she wrestles with thoughts that she must not be favored or loved by God. Feelings that she has some how disappointed, feelings of not being good enough, feelings that she wishes she was dead rather than to have to endure this pain any longer.

For years Hannah the wife of the priest Elkanah would journey with her husband to Shiloh. Every year her prayer was the same Lord give me a child. Elkaniah had two wives. Hannah was the favored wife but Peninnah had children. Peninnah was nasty about it and treated Hanna with scorn and contempt. Elkanah would try to comfort Hannah by giving her the best of everything he had to give. This further angered Peninnah who took it out on Hannah a little jibe here and there. What could Hannah do but pray and appeal to God to open her womb. She finds herself at Shiloh once again praying the same prayer. This time she is so distressed that she is crying and shaking and the priest accuses her of drunkenness. 1 Samuel 1 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

After years of anguish, bitter tears and countless prayers Hannah gives birth to the prophet Samuel. She had promised to give him into the service of the Lord once he was weaned. She follows thought taking him to Eli as a very young child. She sees him each year when they go to Shiloh and each year she brings him new clothes. He grows up to be a great prophet and priest before the Lord. Hanna goes on to have other children but only Samuel is named. Her story is a comfort to all who suffer while waiting patiently for God to give them their hearts desire. People who cling to God in spite of seemingly endless " no's or not now as the answer to their prayers.

"Sometimes the miraculous necessitates waiting. Sometimes the miraculous necessitates barrenness." Emily Fine

Many have gotten tired of praying with the woman I spoke of earlier. "Accept that God's answer is no and get on with your life". "Why don't you just adopt some have asked". Yet this hearts desire for a baby from her own womb does not go away. What exactly is the hold up? Why won't God give her what she longs for with tears and great pain.

I think sometimes the things we desperately want either push us towards God our cause us to shake our fist and turn away from him. I think sometimes we need to realize that the deeper thing we desire is really only found in Jesus. We may want to love and be loved by a child but the deeper cry of our hearts is simply to be loved. We feel unloveable and the people in our lives can't do enough to convince us that they love us. We feel taken for granted and sometimes there is such a disconnect that love can be all around us but we can't feel it or even recognize it. I think sometimes God withholds the thing we believe is the answer until we discover that what we really want is Him.

In this story Hannah is a woman of prayer, faith, who trust in the Lord. She does not give up and turn to other gods or distractions but continues to pray and believe that God will give her the desire of her heart.

Suddenly, after years and years of prayers and tears God grants her request. Was God simply waiting for her to get to the point of being able to have a child without the child becoming the and idol or the center of worship in her life. Was God waiting for her to get to the place of being able to bear a child that she would give back to the Lord? Every situation is different. What is important is to know God loves you. Our deepest desires are not always our deepest needs and often there is a great brokenness that must be healed before God can give us the desire of our hearts.

11 “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

Psalm 37: 
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Sometime I think we take this verse to mean that God will give us everything we want,  that it is  an automatic thing. We want instant blessings and our prayers as fast as they have left our mouths. I think this verse speaks more to the kind of heart that is able to receive what their own heart most desires. It is the heart that trusts the Lord even when every circumstance and every doctors report says God has forgotten you. It is the heart that looks for ways to do good for others even while their own needs are yet unmet. It is the soul of those who find ways to delight in the Lord while waiting for God's answer. One who commits to do things God's way when others say "Take it into your own hands". Hannah trusted the Lord, she loved and served her husband, and endured Peninnah's continual unkindness. She does not turn away from following God even when year after year her prayer was not answered. She commits in advance, the child to the Lord and  to his service for all the days of his life. This was not some hail Mary kind of prayer but one of deep commitment to God. She follows through and her faithfulness is not unlike that of Abraham. In the end her righteous reward truly did shine like the sun and her vindication was magnificent. God gave her a very special child who's life and ministry has been too big to even measure. Even today their story lives on to challenge and encourage us to lives of faithfulness, trust and prayer.

Prayer: Lord I lift up those who's arms are empty and who's prayers yet go unanswered. Lord you know each situation and each hearts deepest desire. You know what waiting is working in each life. Help us each to submit to your plan and to rest in your arms of love knowing that even when your answer is no, or not now that you deeply and intimately love each one. 
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Greeting Card, Inside can be customized but says "I'm praying for you."
Empty Arms
Empty Arms by MargotsDesigns
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Gold Square Necklace  
Empty Arms Gold Necklace large
Empty Arms Gold Necklace large by MargotsDesigns
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Round Gold Locket 
24 x 36 Glossy Poster 
24 x 36 Empty Arms Poster
24 x 36 Empty Arms Poster by MargotsDesigns
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16 x 20 Stretched Canvas Print
16x20 Empty Arms Stretched Canvas Print
16x20 Empty Arms Stretched Canvas Print by MargotsDesigns
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  1. I read this today, 'Sometimes unanswered prayers are God's greatest gifts'

    While we do not uunderstand why some women cannot have children I think that we need to trust in God and His timing more.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. You are right sometimes unanswered prayers are God's greatest gifts.

      Blessings, Margot

  2. Hannah's faith increased as a result! I can't help but think of my own mother, who prayed for me. She wanted a child so bad and made promises to God, which she kept to my knowledge--one was my baptism. I know there are other stories like this.


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