Hannah's Journey: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations

Hannah's pain and heartache seemed unbearable. A childless woman, Hannah lived in an Old Testament culture that considered infertility to be the ultimate failure. To add to her shame, her husband's more fertile second wife "taunted [Hannah] cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children" (1 Samuel 1:6 MESSAGE). Like so many of us, Hannah faced the grueling pressure of her own disappointment and other people's unrealistic expectations.

How did Hannah find freedom? The Word of God reveals several ways. First, she poured out her misery before the Lord in prayer. Misery and depression threatened to consume Hannah and draw her away from the Lord. Instead, she poured out her pain and anguish before Him in one of the most emotionally charged scenes in Scripture: "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD" (1:10 NIV).

Second, Hannah applied God's Word to her painful reality. Although it would have been easy for Hannah to compare herself to others . . . or wallow in her pain . . . or blame God, instead she decided to trust in the Lord through prayer (1:18). Peace and hope come only from believing God's Word and resting in His truth—in spite of circumstances that demand otherwise. The psalmist wrote, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 18:30 NIV). Faithful to His promise given through the priest Eli, God provided a son for Hannah (1 Samuel 1:20).

Finally, she served the Lord with joy. Hannah brought her only son, Samuel, to the tabernacle at Shiloh and dedicated him to the Lord (1:28). She knew that raising Samuel—and, ultimately, giving him back to God—was not about promoting herself or trying to win the approval of others. Hannah's story ends with her giving praise and finding purpose in serving the Lord joyfully (2:1–11). 

When we don't know where to turn, the Bible gives us real answers (see Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter 1:3–4). Sometimes the answers are hard ones, such as when God told Hagar to return to a difficult and unfair situation or when Ruth chose a struggling future with her mother-in-law rather than the comforts of another marriage. But regardless of whether the Lord says yes or no to our prayers, we can discover the sweetness that comes from "being content in any and every situation" (Philippians 4:12 NIV).

If you are a woman struggling with painful life circumstances—whether they are unrealistic expectations, addiction, infertility, an abusive marriage, backbiting friends, or even thoughts of suicide—we are here to help. Insight for Living offers practical encouragement and biblical counseling rooted in God's Word. You can contact our counselors by writing a letter, scheduling a phone appointment, or sending an e-mail through our Web site (see contact information below).  

Though you face pain and heartache during this season, perhaps one day you will be able to sing alongside Hannah, "I'm bursting with God-news! I'm walking on air. I'm laughing at my rivals. I'm dancing my salvation. Nothing and no one is holy like God, no rock mountain like our God" (1 Samuel 2:1–2 MESSAGE). 


Copyright © 2010 by Insight for Living.

About the author


Kimberlee Hertzer

Kimberlee Hertzer received a bachelor’s degree from Pensacola Christian College and a master of arts degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. She served in the Biblical Counseling Department at Insight for Living Ministries, where she responded, through writing and counseling, to women’s needs for spiritual direction. Kimberlee is currently involved with women's and children's ministries. She and her husband, Chris, live in Plano, Texas, with their two children.

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