Why do we go through trials? Why does God allow difficulty to get in the way of blessing and promotion? The answer is simple. Trials purify our motives and keep us humble. That humility enables us to handle blessing and promotion without becoming proud. It causes us to use His abundance for the kingdom and not for ourselves.
In 1 Samuel 1, we find several characters, representative of different people. There is a man named Elkanah. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah was blessed with children, while Hannah’s womb remained closed. Hannah was a good wife and Elkanah loved her (v. 5). Peninnah was petty and proud and mocked Hannah for being barren.
Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. (1 Sam. 1:6-7)
In this story, you are Hannah. You love the Lord, but there is a trial in your life. You don’t know why. It confounds you that God would allow this. You long for this trial to be over, but yet it persists.
Elkanah represents the Father and His unconditional love. In the Middle East, at that time (and today in many places), the inability to produce children, particularly a male heir, would be a reason for rejection. Yet, Elkanah expresses his love for Hannah.
Peninnah represents every mocking voice, from the Devil to your neighbor to maybe even your best friend. These are the ones who tell you, “You are barren because of your sin—God must not like you—there is a curse on you.” Sometimes, we find these people even in our own congregation—sometimes they are leaders. They lack empathy and glory in the fact that they are more blessed than you.
Now, stay with me, because your breakthrough is connected to how this story ends. There is a very powerful principle coming.
The family goes to the tabernacle in Shiloh. Since it says that Peninnah had sons and daughters, it is clear that Hannah had endured this ridicule for many years. Finally, we are at the climax. Hannah comes to her Tipping Point.
A tipping point is the point at which an issue, idea, product, etc., crosses a certain threshold and gains significant momentum, triggered by some minor factor or change.
In the life of Hannah, her tipping point was when the pressure and humiliation pushed her too far. At the tabernacle, she cries out to the Lord.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Sam. 1:10-11)
You see, when Hannah finally reached this point of full surrender to God and His will was when the blessing was released. The only thing holding back the blessing, to that point, was not being fully surrendered. I cannot tell you what her motivations were for having children:
- So people would respect her.
- So people wouldn’t gossip about her.
- To please her husband.
- To stop the ridicule.
- To be a mother.
But God was seeking to raise up a prophet. He simply needed Hannah to be willing to give Samuel to Him. And this is what holds back the blessing in our lives many times—that our character is not sufficiently developed to handle blessing or promotion.
I am 53-years-old and I have a television show on GOD TV. Why did God have to wait until I was in my fifties to put me on TV? Very simply, I obviously didn’t have the character to handle it when I was younger. But you go through “stuff” and you realize how weak you are. The trials of life humble you—they break you—like proud Peter who was willing to “die with the Lord,” finds himself denying he even knew Him. He had to go through that humbling situation to be ready to preach to the Jews of Jerusalem on Shavuot (Pentecost).
If the promises of God are not appearing in your life, like you think they should, ask the Lord about your motives for wanting the promise. Can you handle the blessing/promotion? Or would it cause pride?
Hannah came to the place where she was willing to use the blessing for the Kingdom, and not for herself. Shortly thereafter, Elkanah made love to his wife and “the Lord remembered her.” She had a boy and, according to her vow, brought him to the tabernacle to serve the Lord.
Next, she prays a prophetic prayer:
The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. (1 Sam. 2:6-8)
In other words: God is fully in control! There is nothing that has happened in your life that God has not seen or allowed. I am not saying that everything that happens is His will. But He allows trials to come to perfect us, so He can bless us. James urges us to rejoice in trials because:
…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3-4)
Don’t give up my friend. God has not forgotten you. In fact, He has you right where He wants you. He is setting you up for blessing!
And don’t feel bad for Hannah, that she had to give up her one and only son. She saw Samuel every year and
“the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” (`1 Samuel 2:21)