My friend, Silas Shotwell, puts out a monthly ministry newsletter, “The Safety Net,” and in one particular issue, he talked about “happiness." He says that in a class he took called “Positive Psychology,” Professor Tal Ben-Shahar revealed the secret. He argued that true happiness comes from finding a blend of meaning and pleasure in life; he talked about the “ultimate currency” of life, which is not money or fame, but the things that provide genuine significance – relationships. In a similar way, historian, Will Durant searched for happiness in study and learning, but he, as well, discovered that knowledge alone did not bring happiness. He tried travel, but found only weariness…he tried wealth, but found worry and discord…he immersed himself in writing, but found only fatigue. One day, he noticed a woman sitting in a small car, holding a sleeping child in her arms. He watched while a man got off a train, came over and kissed the woman and the baby gently, so as not to waken him. As he saw the family drive away, Durant suddenly realized that what he had just seen was “happiness.” There is nothing much more innocent, beautiful and happy than a mother’s love for her baby…and baby for mom.
As we typically consider Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth at Christmas time…we also see some amazing births in the Old Testament, among them are Abraham and Sarah with the birth of baby Isaac. In 1 Samuel 1:10-20, we see another amazing birth. We may have heard a number of messages about Samuel, perhaps, but probably not too many about his mother. We understand that Hannah is loved by her husband, Elkanah, but…like Sarai…Hannah is barren. When she comes to realize that this is her situation, she weeps bitterly…she is severely distressed. Elkanah could understand her trouble; it is a big deal to be childless. He tries to make it up to her with his loving attention. Hannah’s experience provides some life lessons for all. First, she turns to God for help when she realizes that matters are beyond her control. We all have a tendency to want to take control of our lives…and like Hannah…we need to learn that we really have little control over anything. This is her response when she faces her struggle – faith, seeking the Lord with all her heart …a good message for all of us. She speaks in her heart…and she prays silently. Yet, her prayer is so intense that even though she is silent, her lips are still moving. Eli, the priest, misunderstands, thinking that she may be a bit inebriated, but she was truly, deeply distressed. As Eli comes to understand the situation, he sees Hannah’s heart and asks that the Lord grant her petition to have a son.
Hannah shows what it is to be a person of integrity by keeping her word to the Lord, as she makes a vow that if He would give her a son, she would dedicate his life in service to the Lord. This would mean that she would bare him, raise him until he was 12 (estimated age) and then give him to the house of God for service. This also means that she would only see him once a year after that when they came to Shiloh for the offerings. Could you do this? It would be very difficult...hard to imagine. The Lord recognizes the vow that Hannah makes, and just as He committed to Abraham that he would have the child of Promise, so He also blesses her with a son. Samuel would indeed become a great prophet and leader of God’s people, Israel. Consequently, like his mother, Samuel is also a person who would make a vow to the Lord. As did, Samson, Samuel would become a Nazirite (Nazir – consecrated) to the Lord…he would not shave his head, neither would he drink any alcohol, and he would have to avoid contact with the dead. Hannah charted the path of faithfulness in the Lord for her son, and this is a valuable lesson for any mother. Hannah learns a wonderful faith lesson, as she comes to realize that children truly are a gift from the Lord. It is reflected in the meaning of his name – “because I have asked him of the Lord.” She also sings a song of thanksgiving to the Lord (2:1-5), which is another example of her faithfulness…out of a pensive heart first came the words of a prayer, and now out of her heart comes a song of praise.
The young mother set her foot on the path of life. “Is the way long?” she asked. The guide said, “Yes, and the way is hard…and you will be old before you reach the end of it. But, the end will be better than the beginning.” The young mother was happy, but she could not believe that anything would be better than these years. So, she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed them in the clear streams; the sun shone on them and life was good. The young mother cried, “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”
Then, the night came…and the storm; the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them all with her blanket., and the children said, “Oh mother, we are not afraid…for you are near and no harm can come,” and the mother said, “This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage.”
And the morning came, and they all went for a walk. There was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary…and the mother was weary…but at all times, she said to the children, “A little patience and we will be there.” So, the children climbed, and when they reached the top, they said, “We could not have done it without you, mother.” And the mother when she lay down that night, looked at the stars and said, “This is a better day than yesterday, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday, they learned courage, today they have learned strength.”
On the next day, there came strange clouds that darkened the earth…clouds of war and hate and evil…and the children groped and stumbled and the mother said, “Look up. Lift up your eyes to the Light.” The children looked and saw above the clouds an everlasting glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. That night, the mother said, “This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God!”
As the days, weeks, months and years passed by, the mother grew old, but her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. When the way was hard, they helped their mother…and when the way was rough, they lifted her and carried her. The mother said, “I have reached the end of my journey, and now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children are able to walk alone, and their children after them.” And even when the mother has gone on, the children say, “We cannot see her, but she is still with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory, she is a living presence.” From Log of the Good Ship Grace by Temple Bailey