Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Woman After God's Own Heart, Day 1

Leslie Basham: Janet Parshall asks, are you really praying for God’s will to be done?

Janet Parshall: Can you accept His will for your life right now, even if it isn’t what you want? “But God, I want to be married.” What if God says, “No”? “God, I want children.” What if God says, “No”? “God, heal my husband.” What if God says, “No”?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Monday, April 25, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What’s the deepest longing of your heart today? Janet Parshall is about to introduce us to a biblical character who had a longing in her heart.  I know you’ll relate to this story, because all of us know what it’s like to have unfulfilled longings. 

Today we’ll hear from my friend Janet Parshall. She’s a wife, she's a mom, she's a radio host and author. 

Leslie: . . . and she’s also a sought-after speaker—including speaking at True Woman '16, hosted by Revive Our Hearts this September in Indianapolis.

Nancy: To give you an idea of what you can expect from Janet, we're going to be listening to a classic message that she gave at the first True Woman gathering. This message will help you get God's perspective on unfulfilled longings and unanswered prayers as we looks at the life of Hannah.

Janet: Well, I am honored and thrilled that Nancy asked me to be a part of this, and then I found out that the topic she wanted me to talk about was motherhood. Oh, easy topic. Hugely important topic, but you know, it’s so funny because when Mary [Kassian] was speaking this morning, I have to tell you, that was really piercing my heart for a lot of reasons. Because as she was ticking off the history of the feminist movement, dear ones, I have to tell you, this was my history.

When I was watching what was going on, I remember turning on the television and hearing Betty Friedan say, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” I heard her say that marriage is an illegitimate profession, and I heard them say:

  • You could only self-actualize outside the home. 
  • I should use a certain hair product because, frankly, I was worth it. 
  • I deserved a break today.

It was, in fact, all about me. Little would I know that as I was listening to that still, small voice that said, “You can listen to their words, or you can listen to Me. I blessed you with Sarah, Rebecca, Samuel, and Joseph. Now you can relegate their care to someone else, or you can stay home and look after My little lambs. What would you do, daughter?”

Despite the world that told me everything I was doing was wrong, I praise His holy name that I stayed home to take care of my children. And little did I know that while I was tending those lambs, God was writing on the tablets of my heart.

I love that quote from John Piper that said that God is doing a thousand things even when we can only see one thing. He was writing on the tablets of my heart what it meant to learn how to look well to the ways of my household.

Little did I know that some day I’d end up having in the marketplace of ideas to debate family values. What would have that meant if I hadn’t been home learning what family values were all about by teaching my children the values found in this Word? Would I know at that point in time that God some day that God would have me someday sit on the stage with those exact same feminists and have to debate them on the very issues I was debating in my own heart. So it was amazing.

I’ll never forget one time in New York, it was me against five feminists. It’s always balanced in the media, you knew that, right? But what hit me in the midst of this debate, and we went back and forth as we debated our different world view—and it could not have been more different, I have to tell you.

God pierced my heart, because I looked over, and I realized, there was Patricia Ireland, who at that time was the current president of the National Organization of “some” Women. What I realized was that she was a woman who had a lesbian partner and a husband and had had two abortions. How do you spell brokenness?

I looked at Gloria Steinem who had, not one, but two serpent rings. One wrapped around her middle finger, one wrapped around her little finger. I thought to myself, How sad. She’s looking for power derived from the culture rather than power that comes through your life through a relationship with Christ Jesus.

On the midst of that stage, what I suddenly realized was this: That when Christ hung on the cross, He didn’t hang longer for them than He did for me. I realized that my heart needed to break for women like that. Yes, their ideas are pernicious. But in the end, those women are not the enemy. They have been captured by the enemy, and they need to be prayed for as well.

So God is a sovereign and amazing God. There I have been, debating all of these feminists with their world view, but thanking God constantly that my classroom was my kitchen. So this whole idea of motherhood is very important to the heart of God. When we talk about mothers, you realize there’s not a person in this room who isn’t affected by this subject, because if you’re breathing, you had a mother. So whether or not you have biological children is immaterial to the lesson we can read in Scripture that I’m about to share with you, because motherhood is universal.

Let me tell you something about a praying mother. Craig and I for years lived in a place called Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is where George Washington lived from the ages of seven to twenty-one. If he threw a silver dollar, it wasn’t across the Potomac, it was across the river in Fredericksburg called the Rappahannock. But what’s significant about that town is there’s a little jetty of a rock, not too far from where his mother is buried.

It was a praying rock. His mother would pray for her son. And story after story after story of George Washington, in the heat of battle, being preserved, can be tied back directly to the powers of the effectual prayers of a mother who was praying without ceasing for her son. It’s amazing, the power of a praying mother.

Also I find it interesting, too, that Abraham Lincoln had much to say about his mother. He said, “I remember my mother’s prayers, and they have always followed me. They have clung with me all my life.” So presidents remembering the power of a praying mother. Can the prayers of a praying mother affect and change the course of a nation?

Turn with me if you would, please, to 1 Samuel. Let me set the backdrop for you. Israel is in a mess. She has a defiled priesthood. There is no leader. This country is in absolute disarray. They’ve had a series of judges that have been corrupt and at the end of the book of Judges we read paradoxically, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did what was right in his own eyes.” He says it once in Judges 17:6 and then again in 21:25. It is the exact same verse. God wanted us to get the point that things were in disarray.

So in the midst of all of this, we read, as we begin this first chapter, a most amazing story about a man and his wives. It starts out this way:

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none (vv. 1–2).

We are only two verses into this chapter, and, “Houston, we have a problem.” First of all, let’s start with the fact that he had two wives. I find this very interesting. Because if you go through the Scriptures, you’ll see that Abraham had two wives—and problems. Jacob had two wives—and problems. David had multiple wives—and problems. Solomon had multiple wives—and problems.

So God allowed for polygamy, but the written guarantee is every time in that allowance there was polygamy, there was trouble in River City. So then the other issue: One has children, and one does not. I love the anthropology of the Scriptures. I love the way we can go back, and we discover how important different things are that we might not subscribe the same amount of meaning to. But we know that there’s tension between these two women.

Many biblical scholars feel that perhaps he married Hannah first and, because she couldn’t produce an heir, he then married Peninnah, who the Scriptures go on to tell us has multiple children. So let’s go on to see what happens.

Year after year [underline that, year after year] this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons [plural] and daughters [plural]. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb (vv. 3–5).

Now, again, we can dig into every one of these passages. First and foremost, it’s very obvious Elkanah loves Hannah. He gives her a double portion. That’s his love letter to her. That’s affirming the value she has in his life, even though she doesn’t have children.

Let me tell you, the customs of the day is he could have gotten rid of Hannah because she wasn’t creating the lineage that was mandatory. Your value, your worth, your place in history was predicated on your progeny—Hannah didn’t produce; Peninnah did. Yet, in the midst of all of that, what do we see? We see that Elkanah loved Hannah. He gave her a double portion.

Now, do you think that made Peninnah feel real good? I don’t think so, and I think Scripture tells us a lot about that. But I want to go back to what we just read before we move on to the next verse. It says, “And the Lord closed her womb.” Uh-oh. We have a sovereignty issue here. Do you mean God could actually make someone infertile? Oh yes. That could be part of His good and perfect plan?

Now this goes to the idea of saying exactly what Nancy told us before—He is God; we are not. What if it is God’s perfect plan that you never have children? Does it make Him a puny God? Does it make Him an insufficient God because you can’t have children? Or is He still the sovereign Lord of all, and part of His plan, where you might not be able to see the purpose or the outcome or the reason, He’s closed your womb?

We see that He closed her womb, but then . . . I love it when Scripture tells us, and then when they tell us the second time, if you didn’t get it, you better be paying attention the second go around. So look what we read: “And the Lord closed her womb. And because the Lord had closed her womb . . .” (v. 6). Comma—before we go on, do you understand what the Scriptures are saying? Don’t miss this. This was God, in His sovereignty, closing her womb.

Oh God, You are God. I am not.

Can you accept His will for your life right now, even if it isn’t what you want? “But God, I want to be married.” What if God says, “No”? “God, I want children.” What if God says, “No”? “God, heal my husband.” What if God says, “No”?

Can you accept His will for your life right now, even if it isn’t what you want?

Does it start chipping away at His love for you? Do you start saying, “I can’t trust You.” Why? Because He’s not the ATM of our prayer requests? Because He doesn’t give us what we want? Because in our boastful nature we can presume to know what in fact is best for us? If everything is pushed through the grid of His love—and it is—can we trust Him? I think often we say, “Oh God, I love You,” so easily. But how we balk at saying, “But God, I also trust You.”

So we go on to read this interesting soap opera, except it’s no fake story; it’s so real.

The Lord closed her womb, and her rival [who’s the rival? Peninnah] kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on [and underline it again] year after year (vv. 5–6).

Dear ones, Peninnah’s more than a pain in the neck. She’s worthy of being strangled. So you have to just sort of imagine what Peninnah was doing to drive Hannah to the brink. Obviously she had children, but obviously there was a deep animosity there. Year after year, and she has to live in the same household with this woman.

What would your perspective be? If it was God’s good and perfect plan, and there was this absolutely obnoxious, irritating person in your life that, no matter what, the person couldn’t go away, would you just say, “That’s a mistake,” or would you say, “God,” as Nancy just said so beautifully with the lemon, “What’s that going to bring out in us?” Those are lessons I’m not real fond of.

Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her until she wept and could not eat (v. 7). 

Now I don’t think you have to be a clinical psychologist to know that, dear ones, she was depressed. Have you ever been so depressed that you just say, “Yuk, the idea of food is nauseating”? Or just to be weeping so much that you can’t draw your breath? You’ve cried like that; I know you have. But how does Hannah press on? How does Hannah press on?

Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Come on, why don't you eat? Why are you so downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?” (see v. 8). Oh, this is a tricky question. This is a very tricky question, because on the one hand, “Oh, yes, I love you.” Oh, not really, because she’s conflicted on what her desires are. Obviously Hannah’s living in this household where maternity is your security. It is your affirmation, your reason for living in this particular culture, and let me tell you, it was considered a shame.

Hannah thought her childlessness was a punishment from God. Elizabeth knew the reproached looks she got from people all around her, and she thought maybe she’d done something to make God mad. In Luke we read, when John was born, she knew that the Lord had  “taken away my disgrace.” This was more than just an infertility problem. This was a validation issue, and she’s not being validated.

So what happens? Well, he asks her this question, and obviously it isn’t ten sons, counting ten. It’s a wonderful euphemism for meaning a big family. He’s got one with Peninnah. “Don’t I mean more to you than a big family?” Well, you’ll notice what her answer was—oh that’s right, we don’t read it. She doesn’t answer.

“Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up.” I love the Scriptures. It’s just like a 2x4 reading it one day. “Hannah stood up.” Why would the Bible take the time to tell you what her posture was? “Hannah stood up.” Can I tell you what I think? This may be extra-biblical, but I’m just going to, from one sister to another, share it to you.

I think it had everything to do with the idea that when she stood up, somewhere between the spaces of those words, she had said, “This is it. I have got to get to a place in my life where I completely surrender this to God. I’ve got to let go. So I’m going to go up to the temple, and I am going to lay this at His feet.” The standing up in Scripture, my two cents, is an outward quiet affirmation of the, “I’m going to stand on my trust in You.” So the standing up was the position of her heart at that point, and there’s evidence to that as we move on to see exactly what happened. So she stands up.

Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple. In bitterness of the soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord (vv. 9–10). 

Can I just stop right there? Now, there might be a whole lot of us in this room, but there’s an intimacy among us, isn’t there, because women have women talk, and women understand women talk. (Sorry, Craig, you just don’t get this.)

But women really do have this women talk, and here’s what I know: I bet you, to the person in this room, in the middle of the night, you have tear-stained your pillow, or you’ve said good-bye to somebody and buried your face in your hands and sobbed until you didn’t think you could draw your breath, or when the house was finally empty, you hit the floor of your kitchen, and you poured out your heart to God. So when it talks about bitterness of soul, you know what that means. “Oh God, I can’t . . . I’m letting go. I’m so beside myself. If You are God, reveal Yourself to me.”

And you know what I think? I think our Abba loves those prayers, because we’re at a place where all we can do is say, “Daddy—Daddy, just pick me up in Your everlasting arms of love and wrap them around me. Quiet me with Your singing, like the Scriptures say, hide me under the shadow of Your wing. Let me know You’re there. Let me just crawl up on Your lap and be rocked and cared for.” Yes, He’s a magnificent, awe-inspiring, holy King. But the great dichotomy of our faith is He is still our Father.

So when you see this bitterness of her soul, when she’s crying out, “and she made a vow.” Now let me just stop you right here. This Book says a whole lot about vows, and you do not mess with vows. If you make a vow to the Lord, you better be serious about it. "Let your yea be yea."

When they would make vows in the Old Testament, they’d actually stick it inside the thigh. That’s how they would do it with another man. When they made a vow between two people, it was that sealing act between one person to another person. What I find interesting is she makes this vow—and what a vow it is. Could you have done this?

O Lord Almighty, if You will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant but give her a son . . . 

Dear ones, she could—most of us would—have ended the prayer at that point. “Give me a son.” That’s the self-evident want, is it not? But oh my, she does not end the prayer there. She says,

. . . then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life (v. 11).

Just stop and let that trickle down from your brain into your heart. Wait a minute. The one thing she’s begging God for is a son, more than anything else—bitterness and ridicule from Peninnah, emptiness of her womb, knowing it’s been closed by God, “Oh God, give me a son; give me a son!” Perfectly logical, perfectly reasonable, perfectly understandable, and then—“I’ll give him right back to You.”

Could you have prayed that? Could you have said, “God, if You’ll give me the one thing I want more than anything on the face of this planet, I’ll turn right around, and I’ll give it back to You”? How could she do that? Because she was God-centered.

Nancy: We’ve been listening to Janet Parshall as she’s been giving a stirring challenge for all of us to live lives that are God-centered. Janet delivered that message at True Woman '08. You want to be sure and join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we listen to the conclusion of this powerful message.

A True Woman conference is a great opportunity to seek the Lord in a concentrated way. You’ll get more of this rich feeding from God's Word, and you'll worship and share with other women who are seeking the Lord. 

Leslie: Yes, Nancy. So we are so excited about True Woman '16 coming to Indianapolis September 22–24, 2016. Janet Parshall will be back this year, and if listeners are planning on joining us, they need to act quickly!

Nancy: That’s right Leslie. Early registration ends May 2. So make your plans now to join us for True Woman '16. Seating is more limited than in past years and we're anticipating the conference to sell out early. I hope you’ll put a group together to be part of this event, along with Bob Bakke, Dr. Russell Moore, Mary Kassian, Blair Linne, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and other guests. Get all the details and register by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

The calling to be a mother goes far beyond bearing biological children. You can still pray with a mother’s heart no matter your season of life.

Janet: Whether you have biological children or not, we are all spiritual mamas to somebody. We can be praying—single women, childless women, women with a quiver full of children, women who have never had any children. God has put us in the position of being true woman for children through prayer. I think only when we are finally in glory will we be able to meet the people we have been praying for steadfastly. Hannah's story teaches us exactly what it means to be a true woman of God. Her life was God-centered. She let go of her own plans and said, "God, You are in charge, and I am not." She then trusted God and said, "God, I believe You can answer this prayer. I believe it so much I'm going to go home and eat something. I'm trusting You completely. I can believe in You." Then she said, "Yes, Lord."

This is a very powerful story, but it's a very tough story because it was motherhood as God's refining fire. When we have babies, we think of fuzzy blankets and rattles and toys and Baby Einstein. But the reality is, when you have a baby, sometimes that is God's custom-designed refiner's fire—the surrendering, the letting go, the trusting, the believing that He is God.

Leslie: Janet Parshall will explain tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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