At this point in my chronological Bible reading, heroes abound: Samson, the muscle man who famously took down the Philistine temple with his bare hands. Gideon, the army commander who led a band of ragtag soldiers to defeat a daunting enemy. Ehud, the leftie who plunged his dagger into the gut of the opposing king.
But it wasn’t until I hit 1 Samuel that I discovered someone truly heroic: an unassuming woman named Hannah. She had no battle victories under her belt, no enemy kills, no feats of physical strength. Her claim to fame: she was a good waiter.
Hannah longed desperately for a baby, but month after month, year after year, nothing changed. She was raw with the waiting, aching over the silence that met her request each time. She didn’t try to hide the hurt of her unanswered prayers. When she went to the Tabernacle to cry out to God, Scripture says she “was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:10).
Yet even in the face of her anguish, she didn’t give up hope. In my book, that takes more courage than any battlefield heroics.
My friend Heather has been aching for a baby for six long years. After several miscarriages and unsuccessful medical interventions, she and her husband have ventured onto the roller coaster of domestic adoption. I’ve watched their hopes soar and plummet with each new possibility, each phone call.
After carefully filling out form after form in what Heather refers to as a “paper pregnancy,” going through a battery of interviews and tests, and writing an extensive profile complete with photos and essays, Heather and Rick figured the only thing left to do was wait.
They just never imagined they’d be waiting this long.
One birth mother agreed to have them adopt her little girl, but near the end of her pregnancy she decided she wanted siblings for the baby and went with another family instead. A teenage girl they’d connected with miscarried late term. Another woman changed her mind and decided to raise her child on her own.
Right now Heather and Rick find themselves in the position of waiting yet again. They were scheduled to meet with another birth mother last week, but she canceled at the last minute, saying she needed more time to think.
Like Hannah, there are days when Heather grieves and cries out in anguish to her God. Yet she keeps hoping, even when it means putting her heart out there to get hurt again. She keeps praying, even when it feels like her prayers are met with haunting silence. And through it all, she keeps holding on to the very God who heard Hannah’s cries.
The part of Hannah’s story that I find most inspiring is the timing of her heart change. I guess I’d always assumed her grieving stopped after her miracle baby was born. But as I look more closely at the story, I realize that’s not quite the chronology:
“In that case,” Eli [the priest] said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.
—1 Samuel 1:17-18
The joy came first, then the answer.
Hannah’s joy didn’t depend on having the miracle in hand. It was enough that God heard her plea.
Someday, by God’s grace, I hope I’ll be able to wait with that kind of joy. Like my heroes, Hannah and Heather.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.