I believe that God turns His ear to the weary women of the world. As they cry out, He turns His compassion and attention towards them.
I think one of the greatest examples of a weary woman absolutely breaking down in prayer, in that of Hannah told in 1 Samuel 1-2.
Here was a woman who had faced years of continuous struggle. Years of having her rival expose, criticize and condemn her for not having what she so greatly desired.
Hannah reaches a breaking point. It says in 1 Samuel 1:10 NIV, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed.”
As a woman, I often times find that my prayers are saturated with tears. There is something in knowing that I am not alone, in knowing that this woman, wife and mother, who lived so many years ago would be chosen by God to be such a small but intimate portion of the Bible – a story carried forth though so many generations. Hannah’s tear filled prayers are not unlike our own.
In her prayer, Hannah asks God to remember her. Don’t so many of us women long for that? We long to be remembered by God, for this world can be such a lonely place. The ache is so great, especially when we are tired, that we can often look to other places besides God to be comforted. I know I am guilty of this. I often turn to my husband with my emptiness. I long for him to just fill me, to give me that which I am desperately lacking. At these moments, I have taken my eyes off of the Lord, and instead find myself scanning for a quick and convenient fix.
Hannah, in all her wisdom, even in her exhaustion, frustration, anguish, grief and brokenness, turns to the Lord. She is deeply troubled, so much so that she can not even get the words to come forth from her mouth.
What I find most incredible as I reread this story, yet again, in my faith life, is what Hannah did the morning after this all occurred. It says in 1 Samuel 1: 19-20 NIV, “Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then when back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him.'”
Now, I have had nights where I have wept desperately, until my breathe was gone and my eyes were swollen. Yet, I am not sure I can say that I awoke early the next morning to worship God. Talk about Hannah showing amazing perseverance! Look at the strength of this woman.
I have read and reread the words in this passage. It does not say that God immediately answered her prayer, even though we know He is capable of doing it. God could have sent an angel to comfort her in the temple. He could have delivered a message that she should not be afraid and that she will give birth to a child in due time. This is a God who is unchanging, a God who delivered a message to Sarah that she would be with child, and who visited Mary to offer her warning & encouragement.
But, that is not how this situation played out. Hannah’s prayer and times of desperate sobbing were met by Eli reprimanding her for coming to the temple when she appeared drunk. Hannah then has to explain herself and yet when she leaves she simply says, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”
It does say in verse 20 that over the course of time Hannah conceived. It has me wondering, what was life like for Hannah while she waited? There is no indication given here that her circumstances would have changed at all. The only thing I can find is that Hannah walked away from the temple, got a bite to eat and “her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Samuel 1:18 NIV).
If her face was no longer downcast, it is my guess that God did something in her heart – something to give peace, comfort and hope. Something that is hard to document under the constraint of using words. Yet, there is something unspoken to which those of us who have prayed prayers of grief, anguish and brokenness can probably relate to. There is a wisdom beyond all worldly knowledge that reassures us that God turns His ear to all His weary women.
As women, what is it that makes us weary?
Raising children, who are all so very different in personality and temperament – different both from ourselves and from each other. Doing our best to meet their needs, to teach them the things they should know, to train them in the way they should go and to set them off on the best path that we can we pour ourselves out to them. Yet, so often we find it is a growing list of duties that offers no reprieve.
Our efforts are often met, not with an outpouring of gratitude and love, but pure defiant opposition. You know those struggles, a child screaming because they can not wear shorts and flip flops to school in the snow and freezing weather. A child who refuses to sleep and will not even just lay quietly in their bed. Top that off with their words of derision, their looks of hate and the acts of anger that send doors slamming throughout the house.
Being a wife can make us weary. In some small way, don’t we all want to be that trophy wife for our husbands. The one who is attractive and alluring. The woman who is Betty Crocker in the kitchen, creating meals of five star magnitude trying to capitalize on the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But it does not stop there. We want a home that is not just clean and organized, but that we would be proud to display on pintrest; a place of beauty and of rest.
Work can make us weary. We want to to please and to provide both for our families, our bosses and our coworkers. Yet it seems that those relationships are naturally at odds with each other. We work hard to please our employers with the jobs that we do, which leads to us getting promoting with more work, sometimes it comes with increased benefits, but not always. More work can mean less time for our families. Then the guilt and shame sets in that we can not make this work. So we do our best to work “smarter” and not hard, seeking any tips or tricks that might save us a few minutes here so we can reallocate it there.
Many of us sacrifice that personal time, let’s say lunch breaks away from our desks & responsibilities, so that we can continue to work while we eat. We quickly rationalize it that if we sacrifice here we won’t have to stay so late or take so much home with us. Lunch time is not that important, is it?
Volunteering can make us weary. We want to help and to serve. The messages that we hear about the importance of serving and being involved in the community resonates in our hearts. We love to give. We are so appreciative when someone comes up to us to tell us how good we are at something, it seems to fill our cups at least enough to encourage us to give it a go. So we say yes, and yes, and yes. All too soon we realize that what we thought might fill has now left us emptier than before.
People can make us weary. People that we are trying to please. People whose words run through our minds long after their bodies have departed from our presences. Looks that we misinterpret. Dates and events that are important to others that were not documented appropriately in our calendars. Words that we spoke that were taken the wrong way.
Now combine all of these things together and what do you have. A very weary woman, who needs to pour out all of her brokenness and be filled. A woman who may turn to friends, relationships, food, things, and substances all to remove the weariness and to provide sustenance to continue to go another day.
In the end, we weary women of the world, should follow Hannah’s actions to weep and pray unto the Lord so that we too may get ourselves a bite to eat and have our faces be downcast no more.
Dear and Beloved Lord,
Please, make me like Hannah. Help me to fall at Your feet and just let it weep from me. May I pray to You, even if I have no words to pray. Lord, I know how important prayer is and yet I still find that I turn to other things when the weariness sets in. Help me, help all of us who become weary women, turn to You and fall towards You when we reach our breaking points.
Lord, for our spouses. Please help them to turn to You. May they be filled with Your strength, Your wisdom, Your compassion and Your love. Help us to recognize the fruits of the spirit and the work that You are doing in their lives. Help us to know what we are to look to them for and what we are to come to You for. Lord, it is so easy to expect so much from them. Help us to realize the times that they are as weary as we are, even though their way of communicating it is not the same as ours.
May we have many smiles and words of encouragement to offer up to them. May we not do it with the expectation of equal return, but may we do it because that is one of the things we were designed to do. May we remember to take the time to have fun together, that laughter is healthy and that together we can just play.
Lord, for our children. Please help us to do the best that we can. Please help us to not judge ourselves or our value on their performance. Remind us that You have made each of us a treasure in Your own way. Give us guidance and counsel when we feel at wits end with them. Give us the strength to be consistent in the ways that they need, yet also flexible and adaptable for the unforeseen circumstances.
Help us to have the confidence as mothers that we know our children and their needs better than a chart or a survey or a list of attributes. May we be reminded that they are still children and that all too soon the world will heap responsibilities upon them. May our loving arms be a safe place for them to just be who they are. For those really tough times when You are asking us to open our arms and let them go, may we find then that Your arms are quick to take a hold of us and see us through all that makes us fearful.
Lord, for our work. Help us to do that which You have designed and called us to. Help us to know and recognize the work that we should be doing with our time and when we should be doing it. Help us to endure the suffering that You would like us to walk through. Help us to be able to say the really hard word, NO, when You ask us to, even if it must be said repeatedly. Help us to be present in the work that we do and not overwhelmed in our minds my the voices of past or future.
Help us to bring the best of us, the best of who You made us to be, our light that You have given us and help us to shine wherever You ask of us. Help us to not hide who we are to attempt to mold ourselves into something we are not for temporary betterment. For the wounds we have from trying to do it in the past, please heal them and help us gain wisdom from the experience.
Lord, for our service. Please help us to recognize and see the value in the small things that we do. May we find satisfaction and contentment in our efforts. Help us not to be jealous or envious of those who seem to be so much “better” or “greater” than we are. Help us to find unity among the diversity in our communities. May we not think it is our responsibility to do it all, but to occasionally let some things go undone or done to a lesser level than we were envisioning. You have done such a great work through so many common things Lord. Please help us to trust that You have not changed and will continue to do so.
Lord, for our relationships. Please help us to be kind and loving. May we see the best in people. May we know that they are a treasured masterpiece that was hand crafted by You. May this knowledge be soaked into our minds and hearts. May it change the way that we perceive people, their actions and their words. May it also change our words and actions towards them.
May we allow not only ourselves to change, but may we grace others with the gift of allowing them to change too. May we not hold people to their actions of the past, assuming they will continue in the future. You are bigger God than both past and future. So much so that You have chosen to give us the gift of Your presence, here and now.
Lord, thank You so much for gently placing Your hand under our chins and lifting our heads when we are downcast. Thank You for catching all of the tears that we cry in anguish. Thank You for giving us continued breath when we are weeping. Thank You for listening to the words we can articulate and the words we can not form or speak.
Most of all thank You for loving us so much that You allow us into Your presence. Thank You for being a God of compassion and love, it gives me great hope. I pray that all of those who have journeyed through this message with me will find great hope as well.
In the Holy name of Jesus, amen.