Monday, April 9, 2012


1 Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah. A man named Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not have children. Every year Elkanah would go worship and sacrifice to the Lord, and he would offer a double portion on behalf of Hannah:

1 Samuel 1:5-8
5 but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had closed her womb. 6 Her rival [Peninnah], however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

Take a moment to imagine yourself walking in her shoes.

Do you have a "rival" in your life - someone who consistently seems to say careless things that bring unwanted attention and reminders to your struggle with infertility? "It happened year after year." How malicious of a heart must Peninnah have had to provoke Hannah over and over again, knowing how deeply pained she was to have no children.

How do you deal with your rival? In Hannah's case, it seems she didn't have much choice other than to weep bitterly and face the pain of her situation. Perhaps that's your situation too - maybe there's a family member who plays the part of your rival. It's not like you can just disown your family. So how do you deal with a situation like that - where you're stuck, and have to face this person "year after year"?

I have not experienced this type of "I'm stuck" situation yet with someone that I could not escape from. I cannot imagine how painful it must be to face someone time after time who seems to be out to hurt me intentionally. But here is some brief advice if that is your situation:
  • Time Out or Apart - If possible, I strongly recommend taking a serious hiatus from spending any time with the rival person. If the rival just cannot learn to be sensitive to your pain (assuming they have been fully informed of your struggle), then time apart may be the best thing to protect your heart and offer a chance to salvage the relationship in the distant future (hopefully after your struggle has ended).
  • Needle Prick - This could be applied in virtually any situation where someone offends you, full-blown rival or good-intentioned stranger alike. When someone says something hurtful once, maybe it's best to let it go - give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Strike Two? Ok, just a little prick (you prick them, don't call them a prick, lol). Using your proper social upbringing tactics, make it clear that your feelings are hurt and that comment was what did it. The result is usually a change in subject, a sincere apology, or at the very least you have the satisfaction of seeing the open-mouth-insert-foot expression on their face. Examples? A) Respond with silence, no smile; B) "Um, we've actually been trying to have children for quite some time now and it's a very painful struggle."; C) "Thank you for your advice, but we both feel led to continue hoping and waiting on the Lord for children"; D) "I really appreciate you inviting me to your shower (or showing me a new picture of your baby), but I hope you can understand how painful my struggle with infertility is, and that it's just best for me to avoid those types of situations at this time."
  • Bring Out the Big Guns - If time apart is not an option (perhaps a co-worker or other relative you cannot avoid) and the Needle Prick didn't work, then let's get something straight: if the rival person does not have the "respect for person" character quality, then I think it's time for you to shoot right back - at least at first. Hear me out here, I know there are social manners to keep in mind, but sometimes there are people who flagrantly ignore those manners. When you have already attempted common social maneuvers to communicate that your feelings are hurt, and the message might as well have been spoken to a bamboo shoot, then it's time to be a little more blunt - or a lot more blunt, depending on the person. Know your audience. I have not had to use this tactic yet (thankfully), but I've sure thought of several zingers in my head (hey, it can't hurt to be prepared, can it? lol) Examples -- A) "Wow, that was incredibly rude of you to say that."; B) "You really hurt my feelings with what you just said..."; C) [To a chronic-complainer] "I'm certainly not perfect in this area, but I think it's worth pointing out how often I hear you complain about your baby [or pregnancy] -- I'm sure deep down you're grateful for your child, but as an outside listener, all I'm hearing is moaning and groaning, and from someone who is currently struggling with infertility, it's very hard for me listen to your complaints because I find it making me angry a lot of the time. I just think it's important for you to remember how much of a blessing children are, and that there are lots of women, me included, who would give anything to be in your shoes and have a baby."

The above advice is how I feel rivals should be dealt with: kindness and subtlety at first, but more blunt until it's effective. Do what works best for YOU and what you feel is still within your moral conduct. It never hurts to pray about a situation before trying any of the above.

Let's continue the story and see how the story of Hannah ends. One day Hannah went to the temple and poured out her soul before the Lord:

1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20
10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." ... 19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked him of the LORD."

Now, Hannah meant her vow literally - once she had weaned Samuel, she took him to the temple and gave him to the priest.

1 Samuel 1:27-28
27 "For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD."

That is a beautiful picture, is it not? To dedicate her son to the Lord. I'm guessing this is where the tradition of baby dedications comes from.

Lately I've been feeling like Hannah in the first part of the chapter. I don't have a rival that provokes me, per say, but I have been feeling attacked a lot more by the ultimate rival - Satan. I've found myself getting very discouraged easily (Is God ignoring my prayers? Does He even hear them?) and even with prayer and turning to the Word, I've been having a hard time getting back to a heart of joy and hope. I hope this is just a temporary low period, or better yet, I hope the reason I'm experiencing this attack is because the Lord has really been using me more in His kingdom, so I'm more "appealing" to Satan to try to take down and crush. It's a good thing God has my back. And Michael has been quite the encourager too, speaking truth to me when it's hard for me to tell what's truth and what are lies.

If you're in this struggle with me, stay encouraged my friend! Pray that the Lord will give you wisdom to discern which thoughts in your mind are truth and which are lies (I've been praying for this specifically lately). Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you with strength to reject the lies and focus your heart on God. These are certainly my prayer requests now. :)

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