There are many faith-promoting stories in the Old Testament, but one in particular recently captured my attention. Many years before the Savior was born, an Israelite family from Ramah went yearly to Shiloh to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord. Elkanah, the husband, had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. But Hannah had no children. (See 1 Samuel 1:1–3.)
This story is significant for me because like Hannah, my husband, Shawn, and I have not been blessed with children. One night, after years of struggles and sorrows with infertility issues, I decided to seek out stories of women in the scriptures who faced similar challenges. As I read about Hannah and her life, a wonderful peace filled my heart. I realized more fully that I am not the first to suffer such trials and that I am not forgotten by the Lord.
The following are some additional insights I have gained from Hannah’s life and example.
First, 1 Samuel 1:6 states, “her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret” because she was barren. I have often felt the adversary plague my mind and heart with the thought that perhaps I was not worthy of this particular blessing or that I would not make a good mother. In addition, people have occasionally judged my husband and me, wrongly assuming that we were postponing our family. Perhaps Peninnah or others taunted Hannah or shunned her as a result of her ailment. I have drawn comfort from Hannah’s example of perseverance as she waited upon the Lord.
Second, instead of becoming bitter, Hannah chose to go to the temple and share with the Lord the sorrows of her heart. That year when she and her husband went to Shiloh to worship in the temple, her pain was so intense that “she wept, and did not eat” her portion of the sacrifice offered by her loving husband (see 1 Samuel 1:7). She even called herself “a woman of a sorrowful spirit” (1 Samuel 1:15). However, while in the temple, Hannah turned her sorrows over to the Savior. She covenanted with the Lord by promising to give her child to his service in the temple if He would bless her with a “man child” (1 Samuel 1:11). I thought about the things I could give up to the Lord. Perhaps I would not be expected to give up the very blessing I sought as Hannah did, but I can give up my sins.
Most impressive to me about this story is not that Hannah’s desire was granted by the Lord but that she had the faith to follow through with her promise. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to entrust her only child to the priest Eli, knowing she would see him but once in a year. But because she was faithful, this “man child” became a great prophet and judge of Israel (see 1 Samuel 3:19–21; 7:15). He helped Israel return to the Lord and forsake their strange gods. His name was Samuel.
After Hannah “lent him to the Lord,” (1 Samuel 1:28) she sang praises to and rejoiced in the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1–10). She was content in the wonderful blessing He had given her. I doubt she knew at the time that she would later conceive and bear three more sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 2:21).
Although I still long to have children, I have finally made peace with my trial. I have learned that the Lord knows how to succor us and reward us in His own time if we trust in His almighty wisdom. I am thankful for the example set by a simple yet faithful woman named Hannah and for the scriptures, which taught me of her.