I think a lot of fertility-challenged women like to relate to Hannah. She suffered with barrenness for years while being tormented by her insensitive husband and his cruel second wife. In the book of 1 Samuel we read how, in her deep desperation, she pled with all her heart to the Lord that He would finally give her a child. She committed to give the child back to the Lord, and she was praying so hard the priest thought she was drunk. God responded to her pleas, and within a year she bore a son, and then followed through with her promise and sent him off to be a priest. She named him Samuel, which means “God heard.” And every barren woman reads this powerful and true story with gasping and weeping. “I’m Hannah,” you think, and leave with new hope and intentions to name your child Samuel and paint his nursery wall with Hannah’s famous verse, “For this child I have prayed, and the Lord granted him to me.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. And at first, looking at all my hours kneeling at my bedside tearfully begging God for a child, I felt I was Hannah, too. But as time has passed, I’ve come to realize that I am actually Sarah, and I like it. I’m really coming to like Sarah.
Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and she was barren for like a million years (ok, more like 90). When God told them that He would give them a son and make Abraham “the father of many nations” with “descendants as many as the stars in the sky and sand on the shore,” do you know what Sarah did? She laughed. Oh, yeah, that’s definitely me. I want to be Hannah, on her knees and praying like a mad woman. But deep down, I’m Sarah — laughing at the thought that this will ever be over. Her son’s name (Isaac) means “he laughs” (because Abraham laughed, too, fyi).
Don’t be too quick to hate on Sarah though. The Bible counts her and Abraham as people of highest faith (Romans 4, Hebrews 11), and tells women that we should all try to be wives like her (1 Peter 3). The laugh isn’t really held against her. I admire Sarah a lot, but I can relate to her a lot, too. Another time in her life, she made Abraham pretend to be her brother because she was afraid evil guys would get him for having such a pretty wife. God wasn’t thrilled about this, but I relate to Sarah’s tendency to give into her fears and try to control the situation. She did it again when, after God promised her a son this first time, she was too impatient and made Abraham conceive a baby with her servant… ok, I wouldn’t go that far, personally, but the heart behind the action is what I’m talking about. That’s definitely me right there.
And I’m not trying to rag on Hannah for being a “goody two-shoes” or something either. I still can relate to her, and I admire her faith in prayer, and I find great hope in her story. But if we’re honest, do you think a lot more of us are Sarahs thinking we are Hannahs? And could this self-deception be hindering our growth? For example, could we be at risk of victimizing ourselves more than examining ourselves?
Anyway — What do you think? Are you a Hannah or a Sarah? (If it helps, the Bible goes on and on about how gorgeous Sarah was, even at grandma age.) Or are you another biblical lady all together these days? Please share in the comments.