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Purity Girls
Purity 101

When God Says, "Wait."

1 Samuel 1:10 "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore."
(For the whole story, read 1 Samuel 1.)


     Unhappy Hannah's story is quite famous in Bible history. At the time of her emotional breakdown described in the verse above, she was no longer a young woman. The promise that had budded in the heart of Hannah the hopeful bride had gradually faded year after year as she waited for the next step: to have a son. It was so important back then to bear children and carry on the family name that men had the right to divorce their wives with no other complaint than her failure to conceive.
     So social pressure was huge, but not only did Hannah face the disappointment of her own personal hopes and the pressures of her society, she also had a constant reminder of her failures in the person of Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah. Aren't you thankful that society has finally caught up to God's standards of "one wife per husband"? Just imagine the lifelong stress of competing for your own husband's time, attention and affection! This stress only grew worse for Hannah as again and again Penninah conceived, her belly gradually swelling as a tiny life grew and developed inside her.
     If this were a modern story, Hannah would have heard Elkanah leaving for yet another midnight raid on the grocery store to quell Penninah's food cravings or walked into the living room to see him solicitously tucking soft pillows behind Penninah in response to her complaints of the baby putting pressure on her back. Imagine Hannah standing silent and still in the dark hall, watching Elkanah place his hand on Peninnah's abdomen to feel the baby kick. Can you feel Hannah's bitterness at being so left out, so completely unnecessary to the picture of husband and wife sharing a smile over this special moment?
     Well, Hannah's feelings were renewed and compounded as this cycle of new life kept playing out before her longing eyes time and time again, leaving her feeling as desirable as stale leftovers. Not that Elkanah loved her any less--the Bible says he felt great love and sympathy for Hannah--but I think that Hannah couldn't believe in his love for her because she had gradually ceased to value herself.
     And that's how she came to be crying and praying at the temple that day. It was part of a ritual that repeated itself year after year. For Hannah, it was kind of like New Year's Eve, a high school reunion and Easter Sunday rolled into one. Like New Year's, it was the time for Hannah to look back on the previous year and be reminded of its lack of fruitfulness in her life. Like a high school reunion, she faced the public humiliation of society and the spitefulness of mean people who would rub it in her face that they had achieved more "success" than her. Like Easter, it was a holy day to the Lord--the day everyone who was anyone gathered at the temple.
     Hannah had felt miserable at this time every year for as long as she could remember. She had cried and prayed many years before. But the story doesn't focus on those years. It focuses on this one. Because this was the year Hannah's prayer was finally answered.
     Why did God wait so long to answer Hannah's

 

prayer? Was He waiting for Hannah to promise her future son to the temple for a lifetime of serving God? Was He testing Hannah's faith and love for Him or strengthening her character or perhaps teaching her empathy for others?
     Hannah didn't know what God was doing in her life and why. She just knew that year after year God was saying, "Wait," in her life.
     I think He does that to every purity girl at some time. Maybe you, like Hannah, are growing depressed or bitter over a deferred answer to the desire of your heart. You may be praying for physical healing or friendship or a happy home. Perhaps you wish to look different or to feel accepted and loved. Maybe your problem is bad grades, poverty or being picked on at school. What's your unanswered prayer? God knows about your problem and He cares about it, even when for some reason He says, "Wait."
     "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:13). God didn't answer Hannah's prayer for many years, but He loved her and He admired her and He sympathized with her feelings. He gave her love through her husband who tried to comfort her but couldn't. God was keeping score to right the wrongs of others who were mocking Hannah's grief over the years. (See Hannah's thankful prayer in 1 Samuel 2:5.)
     The Bible says that "hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). When God says, "Wait," it may make you heartsick, but please try not to grow bitter. I wonder how often Hannah felt happy during those years while she was waiting to have a baby. Looking back, she probably wished that she'd have enjoyed that time more...because Hannah was destined to have a happy life and many children. There was good in her future, and her unhappiness, bitterness and longing didn't make her wish come true any faster.
     Hannah's eyes were so fastened on the one wish that she couldn't make come true that she couldn't enjoy her husband, her prosperity or the qualities within herself that attracted her husband to her despite her barrenness and her bitterness about it. Her jealousy of Penninah and her many children had made Hannah blind to the fact that in many ways Penninah was jealous of her.
     I know how Hannah's story applies to my life, but what about yours? What are you waiting for? Have you told God about it? There's no sin in pouring out your complaints to God--even Job did that. But Job also said, "Though God slay me, I'll still trust in Him." How can you keep a Job-like attitude in the midst of your deferred hopes?
     First of all, when you bring your complaints to God, try to leave them there. Agree to accept His answer, even when it isn't the one you want--at least not for now. After that, circumstances may cause your pangs of longing to keep returning, as Hannah's did, but try to find some joy in the journey and live your life to it's fullest, even while you must wait.

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