Bending My Will to His

I’ve always loved the Old Testament account of Hannah and her long-awaited son, Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1–2). Hannah’s courage to give up her child to the service of God seemed a touching reminder of the strength of women. When we were expecting our first child, my husband and I decided long before our baby was born to name him Samuel. But it wasn’t until I almost had to give my son back to God that I realized I had Hannah’s story all wrong.

More than two months before my due date, we were visiting relatives hours away from home, and I began to hemorrhage at a shopping mall. I hadn’t felt Samuel move all day, and I feared the worst. On the way to the emergency room, I burst into tears. Would I be willing to give my son back to God as Hannah had done? Her story had always inspired me, but the lesson became more difficult to accept when it applied to my own life.

Less than two hours later, Samuel was born weighing three pounds and 14 ounces. He couldn’t breathe or eat on his own. Looking at his tiny body that night, I was still afraid he wouldn’t make it. His chest quivered from the ventilator. He couldn’t even cry because tubes blocked his vocal cords.

The next few days and weeks only became more difficult for me to handle. I was recovering from the emergency delivery, and my husband had to return home to finish the semester at the university. One night, during Samuel’s five-week hospital stay, I was overcome with loneliness. I prayed and asked God for blessing after blessing: “Please let my son be OK. Please help my husband with school. Please let us all be together soon.”

After I finished, I waited and wondered why I didn’t feel anything. Then it hit me what I was doing. If I asked to simply be handed everything I wanted, then where was my faith? I stopped focusing on my list of desired blessings, and a comforting feeling of reassurance came over me. I realized that everything I loved—my son, my husband, my home—could be taken away from me, but Heavenly Father would still be there.

I thought about Hannah. She wanted children more than anything, and she probably asked God for them many times. Perhaps she recognized, like me, that simply asking and waiting for blessings doesn’t help us grow. I realized that Hannah’s story wasn’t about giving up her son. She knew Samuel already belonged to God, as did my son and my husband. Hannah gave God the only thing any of us can give—her heart.

That night I vowed to give the Lord anything He asked of me. Instead of telling Him what I needed and waiting for those blessings to be fulfilled, I asked what He wanted me to do. I felt reassurance that I should be patient through my trial and trust in Him, that I should let my loneliness strengthen me.

Fortunately, we were able to keep our son. Samuel gets stronger every day and is a constant reminder of what I learned from his birth. I hope my little family will continue to grow as Hannah’s did and, with my Heavenly Father’s help, I’ll be able to keep them forever.

[illustration] Detail from Hannah Presenting Samuel to Eli, by Clark Kelley Price

[illustration] Illustration by Robert T. Barrett