In Barrenness and Bitterness of Soul
I Samuel 1:1-10
In the story of Hannah, we left at the point of discovering her adversary, Pinnenah, and the state in which this adversary had pinned Hannah. As Hannah has reached her desperation point, verse 7 describes Hannah’s condition as being one of trembling and unable to eat. At this point, Elkanah, her husband, enters the picture again. I think verse 8 is where he stops being a type of Christ and starts being a regular human. “Look, woman, I’ve done everything in the world for you. You know I’m madly in love with you. Why are you crying? And what could possibly be so terrible about your life that you are not eating?” I read several commentaries on this verse and there was no opinion from the well-known theologians that matched my own. But in my country-wired mind, you don’t rattle off a list of four questions without having at least a smidgen (is that word?) of attitude. My guess is that this did not help Hannah’s state of mind. The epitome of her condition is described in verse 10. Hannah was in “bitterness of soul.”
I hope that you can catch a glimpse of the passion in that phrase “bitterness of soul.” The Hebrew word “nephesh” for soul means “the seat of your emotions and passions.” In other words, the core of your very being. Think about an airplane if you will. Whoever is in the pilot’s seat is in obvious control or obvious “uncontrol” of the plane. The captain’s chair is controlling that plane and whoever or whatever is in the captain’s chair of our soul is controlling it. Our challenge question upon which to reflect: “Who is in the driver’s seat of our soul?”
Why was Hannah in bitterness of soul?
First, she had a lack of opportunity. She wanted children and couldn’t have them. Simply put. So much of our frustration with God can come from lack of opportunity. Whether it is a job, community position, material gain… the list goes on. Hannah was secondly enduring a strong opposition. Boy can we ever relate to that. So many times we face an enemy or maybe just a circumstance that evolves into a huge obstacle. The constant nagging of the problem has driven us to the state of bitterness in which Hannah finds herself. That person or issue takes our soul to a place of seemingly no return. Thirdly, she endured continual oppression. As if the lack of opportunity and strong opposition weren’t enough, the constant brow-beating took Hannah to an emotional state of torment.
Now we are to the first place in the story that I just love. Ultimately, in her state of desperation, Hannah turns to the Lord in prayer and “wept sore.” I’ve mentioned before that when a word repeats to take note. Interestingly enough, in the Hebrew, “wept sore” means “bakah bakah.” The same word is used for both English words. She wept and then she wept some more. And then she wept some more. And then she wept some more. Hannah had reached her desperation point. The important thing is: she knew where to turn when she got there. So she prays.
Have you reached Desperation Point? And where are you turning? Make Psalm 56 your own.