The emotions that arise from hurt and pain can be overwhelming. Instead of shutting down, we can be honest with God about our feelings. This post looks at the life of Hannah to learn what to do with our feelings.
If we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us would admit we struggle with emotions. They can be so big and rise so fast. Sometimes we anticipate them while other times they overwhelm us without warning. It’s easy to settle into the extremes of emotions too. It’s often more comfortable to either camp out in believing all emotions are sinful and must be avoided or emotions are all right and must be followed without fail.
For many years, I stayed firmly in the “all emotions are sinful and must not be felt” category. I am really good at numbing feelings or ignoring them. Yet as much as I work to push them aside, they are always there. I succeed in not feeling them for a time, but eventually they cannot be ignored any longer. Plus, as I have studied the Bible more and more, I have seen emotions in the Scriptures in ways that are not sinful. That challenges everything I believe about them and led me to study deeper.
As I dug into God’s word looking for His truth about emotions which He created, God took me deeper into the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. We may not immediately think of her story when thinking about emotions, but Hannah has much to teach us about feelings and the God who hears.
Hurt and Pain…
Hannah’s story is one of heartache and pain. Her husband married two women, Hannah and Peninnah. Even worse, Peninnah had children while Hannah remained barren. Hannah longed for a child, but she could not conceive. The ache was deep. However, Peninnah taunted and provoked her, deepening her pain. Hannah’s barrenness was thrown in her face time and time again as each month passed as the one before. Grief upon grief, sorrow upon sorrow.
In looking closer at her story, the words used to describe her pain stood out to me. Her various places in her story and in various versions, descriptions of her pain include bitterness of soul, anguish, great anxiety. She is described as deeply hurt and deeply distressed. These are strong words for intense pain. Even if you cannot relate to the causes of Hannah’s pain, maybe you can relate to some of these feelings. I know I can.
So what does Hannah do with this deep, aching grief she carries year after year?
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.
1 Samuel 1:10, ESV
Eli, the priest, saw her praying, moving her mouth but praying quietly in her heart. He accused her of drunkenness.
But Hannah answered, “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, ESV
Earlier in the chapter, it says Hannah wept year after year. Days, months, years would come and go, yet her circumstances remained unchanged, her pain persisted, and tears fell hotly down her face. However, she took those tears, that pain, unashamedly to God.
She poured out her soul. She wept bitterly. These were not quiet tears. She did not pray a prayer merely throwing out a request as if she was okay and it wasn’t important to her. This longing for a child, the taunts from words that cut her to her core, it mattered to her, and she let God know that. It was not drunkenness pouring out of her but pain and grief flowing from a deep bucket inside of her. She came to God anxious and vexed, distressed and broken. She laid all her emotions, no matter how hard or painful or ugly, at the feet of her Father.
Yet He listened. He didn’t turn her away and tell her to repent of being grieved and distressed. No, He heard the cries of His daughter. He welcomed her prayers and her feelings, and He listens and comforts her.
Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
1 Samuel 1:18b, ESV
After pouring out her pain and weeping bitterly of anguish and anxiety to her Father, she went on her way, ate, and her face wasn’t sad any longer. Her circumstances were the same. She was childless, and surely Peninnah continued her taunts. Still, God comforted her as she laid her grief before Him in raw honesty.
You probably know God granted her request. She conceived and bore a son, Samuel. Our prayers may not be answered in such fashion, and sometimes the pain just keeps aching, deeper and deeper. Still, we learn from Hannah who prayed such tears not knowing if God would answer the way her heart desired.
Though she knew she may never be given the child she longed for, she still went to God and with unmasked heart, she prayed and wept and found God in her grief. With the load of grief lightened, she walked away with the sadness gone from her face, resting in the promise that her God hears her.
We each have our own pains, our own griefs, our own buckets inside of us with anguish, anxiety, and hurt. We can try to numb them, not feel them, push them aside, or we can let them push us about on their every whim, unanchored and unstable. But there is another option. Following Hannah’s example, we can come to our Father with unmasked heart, pouring all the brokenness wrapped up in our grief at His feet.
We can weep bitterly, pray honestly, and rest in the promise that our Father hears. Every emotion, no matter how ugly or painful or difficult, we can take to our Abba and know He will meet us in our grief and carry our burdens with us. We can then stand up, though circumstances remain, with heart lighter and face brighter, for our God welcomes us into His arms, emotions and tears and all, gives us comfort, and hears our hearts.
For the God who welcomed Hannah’s weeping prayers of emotions all those years ago, is the same God who welcomes our weeping prayers of emotions today.
If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…