Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You squeeze a lemon, what’s going to come out? Lemon juice. When we get squeezed over time, what comes out shows us what’s really inside. Sometimes that’s not a very pretty picture, is it? We start to see, “My heart is ugly.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 10. Imagine telling a friend about a real struggle. Instead of comforting you, she only laughs. Now you feel twice as bad. Today we’ll study one woman who was facing taunts and teasing right in the middle of her pain. Here’s Nancy continuing in a series called Hannah’s Prayer and God’s Power.

Nancy: How many of you have some person in your life who is a constant source of irritation, frustration and somebody who just is really, really hard to be around and you have to be around them a lot? Let me see some hands. Okay, now if it’s your mother-in-law who’s sitting next to you, you might not want to raise your hand. I think all of us have had people in our lives who are just a constant source of difficulty and challenge.

We’ve been looking at the life of Hannah. If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to open to 1 Samuel chapter 1. Again, I just want to say to our listeners, I know that sometimes you’re listening in a place where you can’t be following along in your Bible—if you’re driving or perhaps in the workplace. But if you’re where you can, it’s a good idea to open your Bible and follow along so you can be seeing what we’re seeing in the text as we’re studying this passage.

First Samuel chapter 1. We’ve looked at the first five verses. We’re going to jump into verse 6 today. We’ve seen that Hannah, though she had a husband who loved her, there was this second wife. Her name was Peninnah. She was the rival wife, and we’re going to see today the impact that this second wife in this bigamist marriage had on Hannah.

Now, the situation here, as we’ve seen in the previous paragraph, is that Hannah was barren. She could not have children, which is probably why her husband Elkanah had taken a second wife as was often the custom in those days. God didn’t approve of it. It was not His intent or His way that people should have more than one wife at a time or consecutively, but this is the way that it was.

In this case, because Hannah was barren and her rival wife was extremely fertile . . . The Scripture says she had sons and daughters, so that means Peninnah had at least four children, maybe more. We’re going to see as we pick up in verse 6 that Peninnah used this edge to torment Hannah.

We don’t know why. It may have been because Peninnah felt that Hannah was the favored wife. It may have been that Peninnah was striving to get Elkanah’s affection and devotion. She didn’t want to be just the one who bore his children. She wanted to be accepted and loved as his wife. We don’t know why it was.

But we do know, according to verse 6, "that her rival (that’s Peninnah—she’s called a rival here) used to provoke her grievously, to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her" (verses 6-7).

So to make matters worse, we not only have Hannah being barren, we not only have Peninnah being fertile, but we also have Peninnah being a cruel woman to Hannah. She’s provoking her. The word rival—Peninnah is called a rival here—is a word that means "vexer, one who vexes." In fact, it’s a word that in the Old Testament is usually translated trouble.

Peninnah was a troublemaker. She was a vexer, and she was intentional about it. She set out to provoke Hannah. The word provoke is a feeling that’s aroused by unmerited treatment. It’s a feeling that you have inside of you because someone is treating you unjustly. So Peninnah would try to provoke Hannah to anger. She provoked her grievously to irritate her.

That’s a word that means "to cause her to thunder." I don’t think it was so much that Hannah was thundering outwardly. We don’t really know. But certainly she was thundering inwardly. You just think of the rumble of thunder and how there’s some people and some circumstances in your life that just make you churn and rumble and thunder inside even if it never comes out. It’s a word that means "to stir up inwardly, to put into inward commotion."

As I read this passage and have re-read it over and over again, I can just think back to some of those seasons in my life when there was some circumstance, something going on in my life, some person who was hard to deal with that just made me thunder inside. I can even kind of feel it now as I think about it, and maybe you can as well.

Some person who causes inward commotion in your life. They’re provoking you. They may be trying to provoke. Some people can provoke you without even trying. You have this person in your life. It may be a child. It may be a mate. It may be a parent or a parent-in-law. It may be your boss. It may be a fellow worker—someone who provokes you, stirs you up, causes you to thunder inside.

I want you to remember that word thunder or irritate, as it’s translated in the translation I’m using, because later on in this series we’re going to come back to that word and see how even this experience that Hannah had was something that God was going to use in her life to give her a deeper understanding of the heart and the ways of God.

Verse 7 tells us this went "on year by year, as often as they went up to the house of the Lord," which we have seen earlier in this passage was every year, at least once a year. They went together on their annual pilgrimage. As often as they did this, Peninnah used to provoke Hannah.

So this is a persistent problem. It’s a prolonged problem. Peninnah is not going away. She just keeps having babies. She’s always there. She’s always provoking, year after year. It’s constant provocation, unrelenting antagonism, for years and years.

As this passage unfolds, we’re going to see that God uses suffering in our lives, but He also uses prolonged suffering. There’s something about time. We don’t like to have to suffer. If we’re going to have to suffer at all, we want it to be short. We want it to be done and over with quickly.

But God sometimes allows us to get into situations or maybe even puts us into situations where the suffering is prolonged. It goes on year after year after year after year, and it doesn’t look like there’s any end in sight.

God uses prolonged suffering to do several things in our lives. I want to state them here and then we’ll see that this is what happens in Hannah’s life as the story goes on. God uses prolonged suffering to expose what’s in our hearts, to show us what we’re really like inside. Anybody can put up with a moment of irritation, but years of irritation begin to expose what we’re really like.

I can be sweet under provocation for five minutes, ten minutes, maybe five hours or five days, but when it goes on and on, what we’re really like inside comes out. We get squeezed. You squeeze a lemon, what’s going to come out? Lemon juice. When we get squeezed over time, what comes out shows us what’s really inside. Sometimes that’s not a very pretty picture, is it? We start to see, “My heart is ugly.”

It may be that third child. I mean the first two were little angels—slept through the night, peaceable, pliable, compliant. Then there’s that third child. No textbook was ever written for this child. You don’t have that child and in three years the problem’s over. I mean some of these children, you may find just day in and day out this child knows how to push your buttons.

God will use that child or whoever your "rival" is, whoever’s setting out to provoke you. It may be a teenager. You can think of the person. God will use that person to expose what’s really in your heart. Our first thought is, "That’s not me. I’m not like that. I’m this sweet, gracious, loving, kind, meek woman. This child, this person, they made me do this."

Then we have to realize, "No, that’s what was really in my heart all along, and it just took this child or this rival to bring it out of me." God’s using this person to provoke me so I can see what’s in my own heart. God knew it all along. Sometimes we don’t know it until we get exposed.

In Hannah’s heart, we’re going to see that what God exposed was self-centeredness. Her whole world at this point revolves around her longing to have a child. Prolonged suffering exposes our motives: why we want what we want. Do we want it for the glory of God or do we want it for our own personal pleasure and convenience?

Prolonged suffering exposes our demandingness; we’re demanding that God satisfy our desires. It exposes if we have narrowness of heart and narrowness of vision. If we’re just looking at our own little world but not seeing God’s bigger and grander purposes. It exposes what’s in our hearts. That happens over time.

God also uses prolonged suffering not just to expose what’s in our hearts, but to purify and cleanse our hearts, to purge us from the things inside that are not pleasing to Him. We’ll see through this story that God was using this prolonged suffering, the years of not only barrenness, but the antagonism from the rival wife. God was using that in Hannah’s life to purify her heart, to bring her to a place of submission to the will and the purposes of God, to bring her to a place of God-centeredness rather than self-centeredness.

You see time is one of the ingredients that God uses to fulfill His purposes in and through our lives. During these years God was changing Hannah. God was purifying her. God was sanctifying her, and God uses suffering as one of His tools to do that in our lives.

Then there’s another thing that God does in prolonged suffering. God uses it to expose our hearts, to purify our hearts, and then He uses it to prepare our hearts for greater fruitfulness and to direct our hearts into how He wants to use us.

You see God had a plan for Hannah that was bigger and grander and greater and more wonderful than anything she could imagine. She just wanted a son, but God wanted more than that for her. God was preparing her heart and directing her heart so that He could use her.

What was happening year after year as Hannah went up with her husband and this rival wife to the temple of the Lord? What was she seeing? She was seeing what was going on in the temple, the tabernacle, as it was called at that point. She was seeing the greed, the immorality, the excesses, the lack of integrity. And what was happening inside of Hannah?

Her burden was changing and her burden was growing. She still wanted a son, but now she was coming to see that there were bigger and more problems in the nation than just her barrenness. She was starting to see God’s heart, God’s grief over what was taking place in the nation. Her vision was becoming enlarged, beyond herself and her little world and her longings.

We continue seeing the grief, the heartache of Hannah because she longed to have a child. She could not and she was constantly faced with this second wife who was so fertile. Verse 7 goes on to tell us, “Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.”

We saw earlier in this passage that when men and their families would go to the tabernacle . . . At this point the tabernacle was in Shiloh, approximately 15 miles from Hannah and Elkanah’s home. They would go at least once a year, maybe three times a year, to offer sacrifices to the Lord. After they offered their sacrifices, they would have a family meal, a feast where they would eat the leftover parts of the sacrifice.

They would sit down. This was to be a time of celebration and feasting and joy, but Hannah couldn’t participate. At least this particular instance, she just really struggled. She was so consumed with longing and grief and with frustration over this rival wife who was constantly in her face, constantly tormenting her.

We said we don’t know why Peninnah did this. It sounded like Peninnah had everything she could want, but maybe she didn’t have the one thing she wanted, which was the affection of Elkanah, who we know loved Hannah. So there was this competition, this jealousy, and it just got to Hannah.

There are classic signs of depression here, really. She’s grieving. She can’t eat. She’s not hungry. She’s weeping. Her husband, verse 8—and isn’t this so typical—says to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why are you crying?” What’s wrong?

I can just imagine Hannah saying, “What’s wrong?! You don’t know what’s wrong?” I don’t know how she reacted, but I’m just using a little sanctified imagination here with the Scripture. Elkanah loves Hannah. He tries to enter into her suffering. He cares. He’s interested, but he can’t really understand fully what she’s going through. He’s not in her shoes.

He says 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?” (verse 8). Am I not enough for you? Now, it’s a good reminder for Hannah or for any wife or woman who is struggling with unfulfilled longings to focus on what she does have.

We so lose sight of what we do have as we’re moaning and groaning for what we don’t have. So Elkanah’s words are actually pretty wise. “Am I not worth more to you than ten sons?” He loves her. He’s saying focus on what you have. Have a grateful spirit.

She at this point is not quite ready to receive this message. Her initial response is one of just being consumed with this longing. She can’t hide her pain. You see words all through this passage that talk about the extent of her grief and her pain.

Look at verse 10. It says, “She was deeply distressed . . . she wept bitterly.” In verse 15 she says to the priest, “I am a woman troubled in spirit.” Some of your translations say, “I am a woman with a sorrowful spirit.” In verse 16 she talks about “my great anxiety and vexation.”

These are strong words. This is a woman who is really deeply troubled. She’s very sorrowful. She’s grieving. Her husband loves her. He’s trying to console her, but this is one of those times when he really can’t fully understand. He can’t enter into her pain. Don’t you have times like that? When no one can really enter into what you’re experiencing.

So Hannah did what ultimately all of us have to do in our sorrowing and in our grieving. After years of being provoked and years of the torment from this rival wife, verse 9 tells us, “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. She was deeply distressed.”

That word distressed is the word mara. Do you remember that word in the Old Testament? Remember Naomi said, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara” (Ruth 1:20), which means bitter. It’s the same word. She’s in bitterness of soul. This is an excruciating pain she’s experiencing. What did she do? She prayed to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord.

I assume she had prayed before. I assume she had prayed many times before though the text doesn’t tell us. Probably for years, longing for this child. Month after month after month wanting to conceive, but the Lord had closed her womb. There’s a sense in which Hannah prays here that is more in earnest, more fervent perhaps than she had ever prayed before.

Ultimately Hannah’s affliction and her distress, her barrenness, the cruelty of this rival wife, her distress caused Hannah to turn to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord. I’m sure she had discussed this with Elkanah, her husband, many times. There came a point when Elkanah could not do anything. There was no friend; there was no counselor; there was no therapist; there was no mate; there as no one who could meet her at her deepest point of need, so she prayed to the Lord.

One writer said that her affliction became a school of prayer for her. It drove her to prayer, taught her what prayer really is and taught her how to pray. Isn’t it true that God uses affliction to drive us to prayer, to become a school of prayer for us? You mothers know when you have that child who is just creating constant heartache for you and your family. Doesn’t it ultimately push you to the Lord? That’s why I come back over and over again and say to women anything that makes us need God is a blessing. Ultimately if it pushes us to God, it’s a blessing.

I think of other places in the Scripture where we hear about affliction driving us to prayer. Psalm 130, verse 1, the Psalmist says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!” When you don’t have anywhere else to go, when the depths are so deep that you know you can’t get yourself out, what are you going to do? Cry out to the Lord. Cry out to Him.

James chapter 5, verse 13, “Is anyone among you suffering?” Or as some translations say it, “Is anyone among you afflicted?” What should he do? “Let him pray.” Later it goes on to say call for the elders; have them pray over you. But first you pray. Are you afflicted? Are you suffering? Pray. Talk to the Lord about it.

Had anyone else been able to console her at that point, she might never have come to the point of crying out to the Lord. That’s why we need times in our lives when there’s no one and nothing who can help us except the Lord.

Had she had her longings or her desires fulfilled any earlier, had she had a son when she wanted a son, had she been able to conceive earlier, she might never have come to this point of total, utter helpless desperation and dependence upon the Lord.

The Lord knows that we need to come to the place in our lives where we are cast utterly upon Him, where no one and nothing can help us and God knows that to get us to that point, often He has to delay the answer and put us in a place where no one can console us, no one can help us except the Lord.

Elisha Hoffman was a pastor around the turn of the last century, but he was also a songwriter. He wrote over 2,000 gospel songs, including ones that will be familiar to you, like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” He tells the story about “a woman to whom God had permitted many visitations of sorrow and affliction.”

He says,

Coming to her home one day [he was visiting her as a pastor], I found her much discouraged. She unburdened her heart, concluding with the question, "Brother Hoffman, what shall I do?” [Wringing her hands, she’s in despair.] I quoted from the Word, then added, "You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”

For a moment, she seemed lost in meditation. Then her eyes lighted as she exclaimed, "Yes, I must tell Jesus." As I left her home, I had a vision of that joy-illuminated face . . . and I heard all along my pathway the echo, "I must tell Jesus. I must tell Jesus.”

After Elisha Hoffman got back to his home, he wrote these words, and some of you will recognize this old gospel song. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve sung it many times over the years.

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me.
He ever loves and cares for His own.1

Leslie: Maybe you can relate to that hymn. There’s some prolonged issue in your life and no earthly help is in sight. I hope today’s teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss has encouraged you. She’ll be right back to wrap things up.

Maybe you know some people who need to hear today’s message. You can share it with them on DVD. Maybe you have a small group or a class of moms at your church. This teaching from Nancy would make a great study. You can find out more by going to ReviveOurHearts.com or calling 1-800-569-5959.

If you relate to today’s topic, if you’ve been praying about some issues for a long time, would you let us pray with you? You can send your request to us through our website.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the power of a praying mom. Now to wrap things up, here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the quietness of this moment, why don’t you just tell Jesus. Tell Him what’s on your heart. What’s the situation, the burden, the person, the relationship, the trial? Just in a few words from your heart to His, say “Lord, I want to tell You about this. I need You. I can’t bear this burden alone.” Tell Him about it.

Then would you just envision yourself transferring that burden from your own shoulders, from your own hands and giving it over to the Lord, "casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that Your shoulders are big enough to carry every burden and so we do cast our cares upon You this day, thanking You for how You use affliction to become a school of prayer for us. Help us, Lord, in our distress to tell You, to turn to You and to find in You that friend, that confidante, that counselor, that burden-bearer that no one else can be but You. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1"I Must Tell Jesus." Regeneration, Hymns in Velvet.

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