I See Grace

I've been thinking a lot about Hannah this week.  Perhaps it's because that was the topic of my Sunday School lesson last week.  Or perhaps it's because I've been living highlights of the lesson this week, like worshiping even when things aren't going the way we want them to or praising God before He's even answered our requests.  One of the most interesting things I discovered while preparing for my lesson is that the name Hannah means "grace."  I didn't realize that, but what I found out was that one has to read the entire story to truly see that grace.  Let me explain.

And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.  - I Samuel 1:4-5

Did you catch that?  The Lord shut up her womb.  It wasn't an accident.  God did that to her.  That doesn't sound much like grace, does it?  In a time when a woman was considered an outcast and failure if she couldn't bear children, the Lord shut Hannah's womb.  He would not allow her to bear children.  Forgive me, but that sounds a bit cruel, don't you think?

It would if I didn't know God's Word.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  God doesn't intend evil toward us.  He is never evil or unkind.  He doesn't give us what we deserve.  In fact, He goes a step further and gives us way beyond what we deserve.  But sometimes, like in Hannah's case, He denies us the one thing we desire above all else.  Why?  Why would He deny us those things?  Well, in Hannah's case, it was because He had a much bigger plan.

I'm sure you know the story.  Hannah prayed to God and promised that if God would give her a son, she would give Him back to God to be used for the Lord's service.  Thus, Samuel was born.  If you continue on, you'll discover that Samuel was one of Israel's greatest judges.  He ruled the people well and was faithful to God.  He anointed both Saul and David (whose line led to Christ) to be king.  He was a great and mighty man, and thousands were impacted by His faithful service to the Lord.  In addition, Hannah went on to have more children after keeping her promise to return Samuel to the Lord.  So, as you see, God took care of Hannah and many others in the process.

If Hannah had not been barren to begin with, would she have offered her son to God?  If she had borne her children as other women did, would she have made a bargain with God?  I seriously doubt it.  There would have been no need, no motive.  But Hannah's situation drove her to desperate measures, and God used those desperate measures to bless a nation.  God wasn't being cruel by not giving Hannah children.  He had every intention of giving her children, but He wanted her to give Him something first.  Yes, He drove her to the point of desperation, but look at the results.

Do you know what I see?  I see grace.  Grace that gave Hannah more than she deserved.  Grace that bestowed on Israel more than they deserved.  Grace that allowed Samuel to be taught and trained in the ways of the Lord.  And grace that we could read Hannah's story and be encouraged. 

You may be walking through a valley right now, and no matter how hard you try, you can't spot any evidence of God's grace.  Hannah couldn't either until she decided to lay it all on the altar.  Remember God's promise. He loves you and wants what's best for you, but He may be using your situation to bless more than just you.  He may be working on a plan that involves so many others, and while you'll benefit from His grace, you won't be alone.  Will you be selfish and withhold that blessing from others by demanding that God meet your need now, or will you allow Him to work, even if it means driving you to the point of desperation?  Basically, it boils down to grace or greed.

I see grace.  What do you see?