Hannah and Elkanah really loved each other. They were connected on such a level that they could know what the other was thinking with just a look.
The two had great plans to raise a large family because they both loved children. They looked eagerly for the day when they would have their first child and then the next and then the next.
But, as the years passed and no children came they realized something was wrong. Had this happened today, the couple would have gone to the doctor and a series of tests would have been done to figure out where the problem lay.
There would have been fertility treatments and sexual relations scheduled around that time when the womb was be most likely to produce fruit.
There would have been mounting tension between the couple as treatments proved futile. Chances are, there would have been episodes of the blame game as they each accused the other for their childlessness.
But in those days, it was reasonably clear that the barrenness lay with Hannah. Repeatedly in the Bible we see the phrase, "she was barren" or "the Lord had closed up her womb".
So, Elkanah took a second wife - Penninah. Oh, how that must have burned Hannah! The dream of birthing babies and raising a family: crushed.
If it was only the fact that Penninah was pushing out babies like clockwork, I think maybe Hannah could have endured it. But the Bible tells us in I Samuel 1:6-7 that Penninah provoked her to make her miserable.
I know you're wondering, "When are we going to get to today's lesson?" So here it it:
It's difficult for us from a modern-day Western society to fully understand what life would have been like at the time of Elkanah and Hannah.
Having children was considered the primary purpose for a woman. They were valued according to their ability to reproduce.
Israelite men wanted many children to carry on his name within the tribe. Children were his heritage (Psalm 127:3)
Hannah understood this. She lived it. She knew, intellectually, why the love of her life chose to remarry. Yet every new baby that was born in the family would have been a reminder that she had failed. Failed to carry out her main responsibility. Failed, where another woman had succeeded.
Penninah's graceless behavior was like pouring salt into an open wound. But the true moment of pain came when Elkanah asked:
"Why aren't you eating? Why are you sad? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?" I Samuel 1:8.
Oh. My. Word. If I were Hannah I would have said, "Was I better to you than even 1 son?" But sarcasm hadn't been invented yet. And maybe, "the look" was still years in the making.
Could it be that Elkanah was completely oblivious to the tension between the two women? Did he truly not realize how his words would have torn her to pieces on the inside? Still his words strengthened Hannah's resolve.
The Bible tells us in I Samuel 1:9-10, that she got up after they were finished eating and drinking and went to the Lord with "bitterness of soul" and "wept in anguish."
There are times in our relationships that we are so caught up in ourselves that we forget to consider the other person. We forget to put ourselves in their shoes, to try to feel what they're feeling.
This causes the other person to feel unimportant and unloved. This may eventually lead to an emotional separation in the marriage as each spouse tries to protect themselves from the other.
The thing is, marriage is not about protecting yourself from being hurt. It's about laying yourself bare to another person even when they've hurt you. For a marriage to succeed, each partner must lay themselves naked before the other.
Marriage is about putting the other person's feelings above your own.
Lord, there are times when I think only of myself. I forget to put my husband feelings above my own. I ask that You forgive me of my selfishness and that You teach me how to be selfless. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Are you guilty of only thinking of yourself? Make a plan to put your husband's needs above your own.