You may be Hannah, but I’m Sarah

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.”

Hannah giving her son to be a priest.
Hannah giving her son to be a priest.

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.

Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac (yup, that's their son, not their grandson).
Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac (yup, that’s their son, not their grandson).

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.

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Our Homegirl Hannah

I enjoyed reading this post about Hannah. It’s from a website called Childless.me (I love the tagline of that site: An open heart is better than an open womb). Rather than write my own, I’m going to share hers with you. I plan to write a post soon about my personal favorite barren woman of the Bible, Sarah. For now, here’s Hannah…

Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? 1 Samuel 1:8; Like with Sarah, any Barren Women of the Bible series would be lacking without Hannah’s infertility story.

Before the gun is jumped on the opening verse; no, a husband cannot fill a baby-shaped hole in a woman’s heart. And God understands, He has noted in Proverbs 30:15-16, “…There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.”

Hannah’s barren years MAY have been all or mostly down to the timing of Samuel’s entrance into the world and her being inspired to embrace God’s plans for her firstborn. People often consider if God is saying “Yes“, “Wait“, or “No / I’ve got other plans for you“. It’s clear Hannah got a “wait” response even though she didn’t hear it until just before Samuel was conceived. I hope in my case there’s a “wait” I am not privy to yet. Although, when I see what is going on these last days my heart goes in the direction of “No.” So, while I float between “Please Lord” and “On second thought..” I wait by default. (See the third paragraph in this article:“The Role of Faith”; it can be hard to determine the answer even if it’s coming to you.)

Those comments in the article I linked to, the ones the author mentions in the first paragraph, Hannah likely heard some versions of. Aren’t we tempted to take what people say to heart, especially when we’re already down and extra sensitive? Then we also hear comments like Elkanah’s opening statement here, well meaning, but missing the magnitude of an empty womb. There are some highly sensitive husbands out there (as there are some highly insensitive), Elkanah is probably pretty average in that regard? Some males handle infertility so strangely in our eyes, they seem indifferent. Finally we have Hannah’s sister wife, Peninnah, who was apparently keen to make jabs over Hannah’s infertility. Just imagining all these voices in her life, *I* feel isolated! And to think, we haveour own voice to contend with also!

In 1 Sa 1:15 the long waiting Hannah states what we know well, “I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit”. I can only speak from my situation, I am not harassed by a sister wife or a sister for that matter. My husband is not as effected, but he understands more than he knows (he lost a wife and four children to a cult). He copes by doing his best to put them out of mind. I’m sure that is a daily practice. As for others, yes I hear some well meaning but hurtful comments occasionally. It’s not common, thankfully. For the most part, hurtful words aren’t an issue in my life. Other peoples having “it all” is only hard to watch on the rare extremely sensitive, hormonal day. (I did go through a bitter phase that was much worse!) Oh dear Hannah, she had to see her sister wife’s children run around all day. Hannah had it worse than me, I am sure of that.

Continue reading “Our Homegirl Hannah”