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Insensitivity is a widely discussed topic at this time in the culture of the United States. This is the account of a woman in the Bible who rightly handled insensitivity–on steroids. The woman’s name was Hannah.

Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah. He was also married to a woman named Peninnah (We’ll overlook this polygamous behavior, which seems strange to us, for now.), who gave Hannah grief because she couldn’t get pregnant. Sensitive woman, that Peninnah. However, Elkanah loved his wife, Hannah. He gave her twice the amount of meat from the offering than he gave to anyone else in the family.

But Peninnah wouldn’t stop the badgering. This upset Hannah so badly that when she went to the Lord’s house, she would cry and refuse to eat. Attempting to comfort her, Elkanah said, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8).1 Although it’s true that her husband loved her, this also seems insensitive. Having a loving husband is certainly a good thing—even though he had two wives—but it has little to do with a woman’s desire and need to have a baby, especially in Israel, where every male baby was a candidate for the Prophet to Come. And why didn’t Elkanah defend Hannah against her antagonist?

Insensitive household on steroids.

One day, Hannah was at the Lord’s house, and was praying about her childlessness in this beautiful prayer: “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).

Eli, the priest, saw Hannah mumbling and thought, strangely, that she was drunk. I don’t know why he thought this, but he did. More insensitivity. I think in the U.S. culture, a woman so disrespected would have reached the boiling point here and struck back at all three of these people verbally, perhaps physically.

Thankfully, Hannah was cut from different cloth. Instead of yelling at Eli, frustrated, wounded, and disrespected as she was, she answered honestly and humbly. “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation” (1 Samuel 1:15–16).

Does anyone speak with this kind of humility anymore when shown disrespect?

To his credit, Eli said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him” (1 Samuel 1:17). It should be no surprise that she responded to the man who had added to her suffering in this way: “Let your servant find favor in your eyes” (1 Samuel 1:18a).

You may know how Hannah’s story ends. She gave birth to a son, Samuel, whom she surrendered to the Lord after she weaned him, which means she gave him into the care of Eli the priest. Then she prayed. Here is but a portion of that lovely prayer:

The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low and he exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor (1 Samuel 2:6–8a).

Hannah, the humiliated, disrespected one, on the “ash heap,” is exalted.

There is a running theme in Scripture about how the Lord exalts the lowly. Check out, for example, the similarities of Hannah’s song of praise to Mary’s (Luke 1:46-55). It is also one of the themes of Jesus’ life and death. He, who was executed as a criminal, the lowest of the low, became the most highly exalted. Peter told the high priest and council, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30–31).

Strength is made perfect in weakness. Our strength without God is no strength at all. When insulted or treated with disrespect, let’s trust the Lord and pray like Hannah did. Let us speak kindly. God will exalt us in our weakness.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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