Lifeline: Does God care?

1 Samuel 1:1-20

1 Samuel 1:9-18 – After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Does God care? It is one thing to discuss the existence of God. It is another to ask whether there is a God who cares about the catastrophe reported in the news or the ups and downs of life. It is one thing to discuss the sovereignty of God. It is another to know that God is in control when everything in our life falls apart. It does not matter how long we have been Christians, when nothing works out as we expected, we ask the question, “Does God care?” Our passage today is a story of a woman who radically changes her life through prayer. I am sure she asked the question, “Does God care?” countless times throughout her life. But then she prayed to God and her life is transformed. And the name of the woman is Hannah. But before we go into her story, we must know the context of this story.

This story takes place at the end of the Judges period. If you remember what happened at the end of Judges, it is a time of moral apostasy. The book of Judges ends this way. Judges 21:25 – In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him. This is a very bleak statement. Imagine you were on an airplane. And after being in the air for a few hours, the pilot came over the loudspeaker and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the flight RS 777. We hope that you will have a pleasant flight with us. However, we want you to know that for the last few hours we have not been flying according to radar due to a major malfunction in our plane technology. So, ladies and gentlemen, we are happy that you are on board. But you need to know that we are lost, and we have no idea what our destination will be. But you will be glad to know we are making excellent times.” How would you react? You would not be comforted by that kind of announcement. You would panic. That’s the context of Hannah’s story. It happens during the darkest times in Israel’s history. And the question that the people have is, “Does God care? Does God care about what happens to Israel? What’s going to happen next? Where are we going? We need direction. We need a king.” Why a king? Because a king can give Israel what they need. A king can give them national identity, security, and prosperity.

And aren’t those what we all long for? We long for identity. We look for something that gives us a sense of significance. We want to matter. We also long for security. We want to have this one thing that will guarantee our future. As long as we have this thing, then everything will be all right. And we also long for prosperity or happiness. It is the one thing we must have to have a good life. It could be success at work, comfortable life, the freedom to do whatever we want, the approval of family, and so on. The search for identity, security, and happiness is what we all do. And the answer to our longing is a king. Whatever we desire is found in a king. That’s the background story of 1 Samuel. Israel needs a king. And 1 Samuel begins with what seems to be a random story, the story of Hannah. We might ask, how does Israel’s need for a king related to Hannah’s misery? But they are. Hannah is asking, “Does God care? If he does, why is this happening to me?” What Hannah does not know is that God is doing something far greater than what she can imagine. God is using Hannah’s pain to answer Israel’s need for a king. John Piper gives the best one-sentence summary of my sermon. This is what he writes. “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” So, let’s get into the story.

I have three points for my sermon: The pain; The hope; The answer.

The pain

1 Samuel 1:1-3 – There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.

The book of 1 Samuel begins with the story of Elkanah’s family. Elkanah is a faithful man. He is a devout worshipper of God. But he has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Let me pause here. Some people use the fact that many men in the Old Testament had multiple wives as a reason for them to do the same, or to discredit the Bible. They say, “See, many men in the Old Testament had more than one wife. The Bible said it is okay for me to do so.” Or, “How can you trust the Bible when it is okay for men to have more than one wife?” But who said the Bible is okay with a polygamist marriage? It is true that the Old Testament never explicitly condemns it, but in every single place in the Bible where there is a polygamist marriage, everybody is miserable. There is not a single good story of a polygamist marriage in the Bible. And this story is no exception.

Hannah is very likely Elkanah’s first wife. But Hannah is not able to conceive children. And that’s why Elkanah has another wife, Peninnah. And Peninnah has many children. Ladies, I might not fully understand the pain of infertility. But I’ve talked to some women who do, and I’ve heard enough to know that it is very painful for women to want to have children but cannot. The struggle they are going through is very difficult. But it is even more so in ancient times. In ancient times, barrenness was the ultimate tragedy for a married woman. And a woman who had many children was considered a cultural hero. Why? For a few reasons. First, the more children you had the better things were economically. Their society was agrarian, which meant the more children you had, the more workers you had to work the land. And so, the more income you generated for your family. More children equalled more money. It’s the opposite of today. Today, more children equal more Indomie. Second, future security. There was no superannuation in those days. Your retirement plan was your children. The more children you had, the more likely you were to live to old age with some comfort and security. It was also important for national security. If you had many children, especially sons, you would have a bigger army to protect you from foreign nations. And third, for Israelites, they needed sons to keep the land that God had portioned to them. If you didn’t have a son, it was like your family was being cut off from that inheritance. That’s why any woman who was having a lot of children was considered a hero. They contributed a lot economically, politically, and militarily. But if you can’t have children, you were considered worthless. In other words, women were essentially forced into an idolatry of family and children in those cultures. Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar, says it like this. “Barrenness in any ancient text is the effective metaphor of hopelessness, for without children, there was no foreseeable future for yourself, for your family, or for your people.” So, can you see how painful it is for Hannah to not be able to have children? She is not only not able to conceive, but she is also not living up to the cultural ideal. She is not only worthless in her own eyes, but she is also worthless in everybody else’s eyes.

Before we say, “What a shame. Those ancient people. Thank goodness we don’t live in those oppressive cultures anymore,” please realize that every culture tends to pressure individuals to live up to an ideal. In our culture today, it might not be children for women. But it might be appearances. Our culture does not say to women, “You have to have kids.” But our culture tells women every day, “You have to be slim. You have to be hot and attractive. You must look like this to be beautiful. If not, you are nobody.” Our culture tells men every day, “You must work out a lot. It is not enough to just make a lot of money. You need to look good while doing it.” Did you realize that only 10-20 years ago, those who made lots of money tended to have a big belly? That’s not true anymore. Now all the millionaires are in perfect shape. The point is, there is no such thing as a non-oppressive culture. Every culture says, “This is how you ought to live your life.” Every culture has some ideal of what a good society looks like. And the people who do not fit in are marginalized. Hannah does not fit in and that’s why she is in pain. But that’s not her only pain. Let’s continue.

1 Samuel 1:4-7 – On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

Elkanah loves Hannah. And because he loves Hannah, he wants to express his love to her. So, during the time of sacrifice, Elkanah gives portions of meat to every member of the family. He gives Peninnah and her children a portion each. But because he loves Hannah, he gives her double portion. Elkanah is trying to compensate for Hannah’s pain of not having children by giving her a double portion. But that’s not a wise thing to do. Because Peninnah is watching. And when Peninnah sees that her husband loves Hannah more than her, she is not happy. It infuriates her. No wife wants to be her husband’s second choice. So, whenever she has the chance, Peninnah would provoke Hannah and intimidate her at the fact that she can’t bear children. Maybe she is saying, “Hannah, I have a song for you. Can I sing it?” “Sure Peni, you can sing for me.” “I have something you don’t have, children, children. I have something you don’t have, many children.” That’s extremely agitating and annoying. And it happens not just once or twice, but continuously. Think about it. Most of us can make it through 20 seconds of provocations. But that’s it. I don’t think any of us can endure 20 minutes of provocation. But Hannah endures Peninnah’s provocation day after day, month after month, year after year. To the point that Hannah would keep crying and not eat. She experiences emotional depression. But here is what I love about Hannah. She does not take revenge. She could use the fact that she is more loved by Elkanah and rub it in Peninnah’s face if she wants to. She could say, “Peni, how much food did you get? Oh, is that all? Look at my plate. It is so much. I can’t finish all this food on my own. I wonder why my hubby gave me so much meat. Oh, I know. It’s because he loves me more than you. He he he…” Hannah does not do that. She does not try to provoke Peninnah. But she is in emotional distress.

So, Elkanah comes to her and tries to comfort her. Look at what he says. 1 Samuel 1:8 – And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” What a man. I mean, Elkanah does not say to Hannah, “Hannah, don’t be sad. You are worth more than 10 sons to me.” That’s what he should have said. Instead, he says, “Hannah, am I not enough for you? Just being with me is better than 10 sons.” What a confident man. Or maybe the right expression is, what a clueless man. The fact that Hannah doesn’t reply tells us what she thinks about it. But do you know what Elkanah is doing? Elkanah is offering Hannah another way to be happy. If the culture is telling her, “You need to have children to be happy,” Elkanah is saying, “You might not have children, but you have me. You are my true love and that should be enough.” He is offering romance as the solution for her happiness. And this is also the struggle that we face today. Like Hannah, we find ourselves surrounded by Peninnahs who tell us we will never be happy unless we fit into the cultural ideal. We must have a good education, the right appearance, a successful career, a large house, etc. And when we don’t have them, we are offered another way of happiness. They say, “You don’t need those accomplishments and achievements. Do you know what you need? What you need is love.” So now we seek happiness and significance in romance. “If only I am with the right person, if only I have a loving spouse, if only I have good romance, then life will be better to me than 10 sons.” But let me tell you a secret, it doesn’t work.

So, is it wrong to desire children? Of course not. Is it wrong to desire romance? Of course not. Those desires are given to you by God. It is good for you to desire romance and children. But never think for one second that they can solve your deepest longing. It is not wrong to desire those things, but it is wrong to idolize them. How do you know if you idolize something? You know you idolize something when you can’t live without it. You think that you cannot be happy unless you have it. And this will, in turn, destroy what you have. If you idolize romance or children, you are going to crush your spouse and children. No person is enough to meet all your expectations. You cannot stand imperfection in them because you are looking to them for what only God can give you. They have to be good, and they have to do according to what you want, or you feel like you don’t have a life. You cannot handle mediocrity in the relationship and that is idolatry. You have this picture of romance or family that will fix every broken thing in your life, and you will be disappointed. Because they can’t fix you. Romance and children are great, but they cannot fulfil your deepest longing. Listen. Most of our disappointments come from seeking a king that cannot satisfy us.

But here is where I want to draw your attention. Why can’t Hanna have children? There might be many untold external reasons. But the text is very clear. The reason behind all reasons why Hanna cannot conceive is because God closed her womb. And in case we miss it, the text repeats it twice. The one responsible for Hannah’s closed womb is none other than the Lord. So, here is a hard truth that we must chew on. Everything that comes our way, everything that happens in the world, whether good or bad, is God’s doing. There is no such thing as accidents for God. God is in control of everything that happens in our lives. It does not mean we should passively accept everything, but it does mean humble recognition of God’s hand behind all things. We may never know how God uses our pains, but we do know that God has good purposes. And I think that’s part of Hannah’s pain. Hannah knows that the God of Israel is a sovereign God. She knows that God is in control of her life circumstances. She knows that God has good purposes. But this is her dilemma. She has a good theology, and she knows who God is. But at the same time, she is having real difficulty reconciling what is an apparent contradiction. “If God is sovereign and good, why did he close my womb? Why did he allow other women to have children but not me? Why do I have to be the one who misses out? Why me? Does God care about me?” This is Hannah’s pain. But look at what she does next.

The hope

1 Samuel 1:9 – After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.

I love this. The text said that Hannah rose. For us, it seems insignificant. But Robert Atler, a Hebrew scholar, says that the word rose in Hebrew narrative doesn’t just simply mean she got up; it means she took action. To arise means I am going to do something. To arise means I am going to stop being passive. And this is the turning point in Hannah’s life. She is saying to herself, “I’m not just going to let life happen to me. I’m not just going to let those voices intimidate me constantly. I’m not just going to weep all the time. I’m going to take charge. I’m going to take decisive action. I’m going to do something radical.” And her action that appears insignificant to us will turn out to change not only her life but the life of the nation of Israel and the history of the world. Do you know what is the radical thing she does? She goes to the temple and prays. That’s it. She prays. Do you know why this is radical? Because Hannah knows it is the sovereign Lord who closed her womb. So, she comes to the only one who can open her womb, the sovereign Lord himself.

This is amazing. Think about it. There are three possible responses if we are in Hannah’s situation. The first one is fatalism. We say, “Well, God is sovereign. He can do whatever he wants. All I can do is simply accept my lot. There is nothing I can do about it. Que sera, sera.” The second one is resentment. We say, “God is sovereign, and he allows me to experience this pain. If God has done this to me, then I want nothing to do with him. Astalavista.” But Hannah does neither. Instead, Hannah responds in a third way, the way of faith. “I know God is sovereign and God is good. I don’t understand why he allows me to experience this pain, but I am going to come to him and ask him to change my circumstance. Because he is the only one who can.” This is the logic of faith. Faith in God leads us to pray our troubles to God who is sovereign over all things. And look at what she prays.


1 Samuel 1:10-11 – 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

This is a remarkable prayer. At first, it looks like she is bargaining with God. It sounds like she is saying, “God, if you do this for me, then I will do this for you. If you give me a son, then I will give him to you.” But is that what’s happening? Is Hannah making a transaction with God? I don’t think so. Look at what she says. First, she calls God, “Lord of hosts.” Hannah reminds herself who God is. God is the God who created everything. He is the God of the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-controlling. She remembers the greatness of God. Then she says, “Look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant.” Hannah is not only remembering who God is, but she is also remembering God’s attributes. God is a great God, but he is also a God who cares. God is not too big to not care about her broken heart. And then she brings up her request. “But will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” In other words, she says, “God, if you give me a son, I’ll give him to full-time ministry.”

Let me tell you why this is a remarkable prayer. In those days, if you want to go into full-time ministry, you had to be a Levite. But if you were of another tribe and you wanted to go into full-time ministry, you could become a Nazirite. And that’s what Hannah is doing. She is taking a Nazirite vow for her future son. She is offering her unborn son wholly and exclusively to God. This means, even if God answers Hannah’s prayer and gives her a son, she will not experience the benefits of having a son. In her prayer, Hannah is giving up everything a son could have given her. Giving him up for full-time ministry in the temple means this child will not grow up in her house. She will not experience the emotional joy of watching him grow up. She will not get the security of having a son. Her son won’t be able to take care of her in her old age and provide for the family. And she won’t be able to see him. She might be able to see him once a year. That’s it. Remember that back in those days, if you were away, you really were away. There were no cell phones, no email, no WhatsApp, no Facetime. In other words, in asking for this son, Hannah will not experience the joy of motherhood.

So, why bother asking for a son? Here is what’s happening. Hannah is not bargaining with God; she is asking God to give her a son for God. If I can paraphrase Hannah’s prayer, it sounds like this. “God, I’ve always wanted a child. All my life, I wanted a child for me. I wanted a child for my own identity, security, and happiness. But now, it is different. I still want to have a child, but I want to have a child for you. For your name, for your kingdom, and for your will. God, if you had given me a child before this, I would have idolized him, and it would have been a disaster. I would use my child to live up to cultural ideals and prove myself. But now it is different. If you give me a child, that child is not mine. That child is yours. I’ll give him back to you. It’s not for me, it is for you. I want to have a child for you.” Can you see why this is a remarkable prayer? She is asking God for a son not to build her own kingdom but God’s kingdom. Let’s continue.

1 Samuel 1:12-16 – 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

How many of you ever come to your pastor and pour out your struggle and he doesn’t get it? Don’t raise your hand. I don’t want to know. And that’s what happens here. Eli is the high priest of Israel. He is the spiritual leader of Israel. But he can’t tell the difference between a broken-hearted woman and a drunken woman. No wonder Israel is in crisis. Hannah has to explain to him that she is not drunk but she is pouring out her soul to God. And look at what happens next.

1 Samuel 1:17-18 – 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. Can you see the changes in Hannah? If she came into the temple depressed and filled with great anxiety, she leaves the temple no longer sad. She is now able to eat, and she is joyful. Here is my question. Has she received the answer to her prayer? She has not. But her prayer changed her though her circumstance has not changed. How? Because she cast all her anxieties on God, knowing that God cares for her. That’s why we see the unexpected order in the story. Here is the order that we expect: Pray – Answer – Rejoice. Hannah prays, Hannah gets pregnant, and Hannah rejoices. This is what feels natural. Let’s say you apply for a job. You pray, you go to the job interview, you try to convince them why you are the best person for the job, and then you wait for the answer. If that company gets back to you and gives a good answer, you rejoice. But if not, you would not rejoice. Am I right? But that’s not what we see in the story. Here is what we see: Pray – Rejoice – Answer. Why? Because Hannah’s joy is no longer rooted in having a son. Hannah now can rejoice before she receives a son, despite knowing that if she does receive one, she has renounced everything she has previously hoped for in him. Hannah’s joy is no longer dependent on having a son; Hannah’s joy is found in God.

The answer

1 Samuel 1:19-20 – 19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

After Elkanah and Hannah worship God, they go back home, and they do a husband-wife thing. And God remembers Hannah. It does not mean that God forgot about Hannah before. Whenever the Bible says God remembers his people, it means God is about to do something on their behalf. So, God remembers Hannah and he opens her womb. And Hannah conceives and bears a son, and she names him, Samuel, which means, “God hears.” Prayer not only changes us, prayer changes things. But listen carefully. If we hear this story and interpret it to mean that God will give us what we want, as long as we pray and do what is right, we are missing the point. Hannah’s joy is no longer found in having a son. Hannah’s joy is found in God, whether she has a child or not. That’s the point of the story. But at the same time, God is a God who loves to bless his people. And listen. It is often when we let go of our idols, when we release what we love most beside God, that God gives us a better gift that delights our hearts. Hannah receives Samuel because Hannah no longer puts her identity, security, and happiness in having a son. It is now safe for Hannah to have a son because she no longer idolizes him. Hannah’s story encourages us to bring our requests to God in prayer, and our prayers will change our hearts. But in God’s faithful providence, they can also make a vital difference in the world. How do we know? Listen to what Elkanah says.

1 Samuel 1:23 – Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” After she gives birth to Samuel, Hannah wants to wait a few years before she gives Samuel into a full-time ministry. And Elkanah does not say, “May the Lord establish Hannah’s word.” Instead, he says, “May the Lord establish his word.” What a remarkable insight from Elkanah. He might not know exactly what is going to happen, but he does know that God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer is part of God’s greater purpose for Israel. For a long time, the camera is on Hannah and her pain. But the focus of the story is actually on God and the fulfilment of God’s purposes in and through Hannah. It is less about Hannah wanting a child and more about God fulfilling his purposes for Israel by answering Hannah’s prayer for a child. Look at what Hannah says about Samuel.

1 Samuel 1:27-28 – 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” Hannah knows Samuel is not hers. Samuel is a gift of God, and she gratefully gives the gift back to the Giver. Having come to God with nothing a few years before, now she returns to give back that which means everything. Parents, do you remember the first day you put your child in childcare? How did you feel? I heard some of you keep staring from the windows outside the childcare for 30 minutes while crying. It is not easy to be separated from your child. Now imagine giving up your child for the rest of your life. This is what Hannah does. In other words, she is saying, “Samuel, my son, I love you. I prayed for you. You are God’s gift for me. But I love God more. And now I am giving you back to God for his name, his kingdom, and his will.” Can you see what happened? Hannah has no idea that Samuel will turn out to be God’s spokesperson. Samuel will become Israel’s greatest prophet that anoints the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.

This story is so much more than a barren woman asking for a child. Because there are many other barren women in Israel who ask God for a child and remain barren. This story is about God who cares for his people, Israel and Hannah. And when God answers Hannah’s prayer, what God does for Hannah turns out to be for Israel. Remember that Israel needs a king. They desire someone to give them identity, security, and prosperity. They want a king for the same reason Hannah wanted a son. Hannah sought them in a son; Israel seeks them in a king. To Hannah, God says, “A son is not the answer. I am the answer.” To Israel, God says, “A king is not the answer. I am the answer.” To both Hannah and Israel, God says, “I am what you truly need. What you are seeking is only found in me.” God is the answer to all our desires and longings. The point of the story is this: God might not always give us what we ask, but God is the one we need and having him is enough.

So, the question is, how do we know that God cares for us today? How can we be sure of it amid our struggles? This is how. God’s ultimate expression of care for us is found in Jesus Christ. Hannah’s story points us to Jesus. Hannah found her joy in God, and she was able to give up Samuel. And because of her suffering, because of her sacrifice, because she gave Samuel away, the people of Israel were saved. God used the suffering and sacrifice of Hannah to bring salvation. And Hannah’s story resembled another woman’s story. Her name is Mary. Just like Hannah, Mary faced an impossible birth. Mary did not have a husband and she had never slept with a man. And just like Hannah, for Mary to have a son meant the loss of everything she held onto for significance and security. For Mary to have a son out of wedlock meant becoming a social outcast. But like Hannah, Mary found her joy in God alone. Mary was content with God even if it meant the loss of everything else. And if Hannah gave birth to Israel’s greatest prophet, Mary gave birth to the final prophet, the king of kings, Jesus Christ. Our problem is we need a king who can give us identity, security, and happiness. But because of sin, we cannot find that king. Jesus came to tell us that he is the king we need, and he came to find us. And if God answered Hannah’s prayer and delivered her from shame, God did not answer Jesus’ prayer, to deliver us from shame. At the cross, Jesus took the punishment of our sins, and he was forsaken by God. So that when we put our faith in Jesus, we will never be forsaken. So, does God care? He gave us his one and only Son so that we may have the king that our hearts desire. Yes, God cares for us.

So, don’t just read Hannah’s story and make it all about God answering prayer and giving her a son. This story is about God giving us what we really need, something better than a son. God gives us his son, Jesus Christ. And Jesus is what we need above all. It doesn’t mean we have to stop asking God for whatever we are asking for. But do not make our request the foundation of our lives. Jesus alone is the foundation of our lives. He is the greatest gift God can give us. And he alone is enough. So, embrace Jesus as the greatest treasure in life, and ask God to answer our prayers. And like Hannah, if we don’t give up on God but put God in the centre even during our struggles, God will turn it all for our good and the good of others. God is always doing 10,000 things in our lives and we may be aware of three. Let’s pray.

Discussion questions:

  1. What struck you the most from the sermon?
  2. Identify some cultural ideals that are imposed on us. Can you see the temptation to idolize those ideals in you?
  3. Look at the three possible responses to struggles. (Fatalism; Resentment; Faith). Which one is your default mode and why?
  4. Explain the difference between “Pray – Answer – Rejoice” (A) and “Pray – Rejoice – Answer” (B). How do we get from A to B?
  5. How does Hannah’s story point to the gospel and what does it mean for you?
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