From Provocation To Praise

Are there any places in scripture that you have a hard time reading? The story from First Samuel about Hannah and her barrenness used to be one I liked to skim or skip for years. I would read the first chapter and get to the part where Elkanah would give his wife Peninnah and her flock of children portions of food from the offering he made to the Lord, then verse 5, “But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb.” Ouch. Like a needle’s sharp prick in my soul those words sounded. The Lord brought upon her the most difficult affliction a woman could bear in those days. Not to mention the normal desire most women have to bear little ones for the sheer joy of motherhood.

Then verses 6 and 7 just seemed to be salt in her soul’s open wound. Read slowly and imagine what this must have been like for Hannah. “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” No doubt that this other wife of Elkanah’s would do whatever she could throughout the year to discourage Hannah. I can only imagine some days that she could not escape the infectious giggles, overhear tiny lisped conversations, and be jolted by the cries from skinned knees that would yank from her soul that desire to comfort and kiss away the pain. I remember times in the past when baby showers seemed like torture chambers with cake and ice cream.
But notice the timing when the most intense attack comes from Hannah’s rival in verse 7. “When she went up to the house of the Lord.” It was when Hannah was going to that place of prayer, praise, worship, and sacrifice. The place that was to lift her broken heart and limited vision off the temporal and on to the eternal. This place where the irresistible aroma of worship and joyful thanksgiving would fill her senses and draw her in to remember Who she belonged to and the faithfulness of His care. This place that God desired for Hannah to find grace, help, comfort, and truth…and this is when she would be most attacked in her soul by her adversary.
Our adversary is not kinder than Penninah. He will try and provoke you to anger, bitterness, and misery:
  • By keeping your focus on what you do not have.
  • Intensifying the pain of an unmet desire in your heart that God COULD fill if He chose to.
  • By twisting and attacking the character of God in the areas of His goodness, gentleness, love and intimate care.
  • His timing will intensify when you have opportunity to go to church, a home group, a prayer meeting, or when you sit down in the corner chair of your living room with a Bible.
And when she was in bitterness of soul (verse 10),” she did not let it develop
into bitterness that poisons the heart (Hebrews 12:15). That bitterness that is like a
blinding fog that covers over all the blessings He has filled our life with.
The best thing we can do when we are broken is believe God’s promise to us from Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Since your God scoots close to the shards of your heart and is busy catching the tears that pour down your cheeks (Psalm 56:8), it would be good for us to respond to our adversary the way Hannah did. She “prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” then asked Him to (look at verse 11):
  1. Remember me and look on this affliction You have brought into my life. The Hebrew word for affliction pertains to suffering, trouble, hardship and misery. God has big enough shoulders and great enough love for you to bring your disappointment to Him. It is good when we tell Him that this trial is too much for us to bear and we seek Him to bear it for us.
  2. I am Your maidservant. Her perspective of herself was not arrogant or one of entitlement. But in contrast to God, she was His slave to serve Him and His purposes. She felt she had no rights but a humble request.
  3. Give me. She asks the Lord for a “gift” from Him. She cannot fulfill her own heart’s desire nor change the circumstances in her life. She cannot seal the mouth of her adversary, escape the years of taunting and provocations, dull the pain in her heart, nor heal the grief that finds no contentment in anyone or anything else.
  4. I will give…to the Lord. This was her commitment. Any gift given to her would be held with open hands and returned to the Lord for His purposes. She purposed that God’s gift would not fatally embraced for selfish reasons, but released and enjoyed in the measure she was called to fulfill.

The Lord does not always give us exactly what we crave, but He always gives us that which is best. There are times when His answer will be like Hannah’s and we receive exactly what we prayed for. There are other times where God’s wisdom knows that what we ask for is not the best for us or for others or will not bring Him the greatest glory. And in these times, His grace is sufficient for us. And then there are times where His answer is His promise from Isaiah 30:18 “And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.” Isn’t that wonderful of God?

Don’t listen to the lies that attack God’s goodness. Don’t turn your face to gaze at the cherub your heart desires and wonder if God sees, remembers, or cares at all about your affliction. But run past that provoker and let nothing stop you from gaining entrance to the Presence of the Lord at the throne of grace. Then pour out your heart as an offering to the Lord and trust the matter into His nail scarred hands.
Shannon Gallatin

Though merely a trophy of God's infinite grace, I am blessed to be the wife of my favorite pastor. I'm also the mother of a miracle with at least 6 treasures in heaven being raised by my heavenly Father. The Lord has used my past jobs of working with families affected by addictions, abuse, and other life tragedies, to help oversee the women's ministry at Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes. I couldn't be more thankful for His entrustment to wear multiple hats of various sizes, though they might fit a bit awkward on my noggin'. Praying that each of these things are being used to make me more like my Jesus and bring Him great glory.

Though I love all of the Word of God, Philippians 3:10 has become my life verse and Acts 20:24 my ministry pursuit.


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