Read: 1 Samuel 1:1-20
One night in late spring, we were struck by an unexpected hailstorm. The hail stones were not very large, but they pelted everything for about an hour. Oh, the hail would cease for a short time, just enough to cause us to think the worst of it was over; however, it would start up again with the same force we had previously experienced. I was certain that not a lily or rose would remain, not to mention the dahlias which had just begun to display their loveliness; therefore, I was pleasantly surprised, when we assessed the damage to the plants, to discover that most of the flowers, though dinged, remained upright. Some of the garden plants had to be replaced, but others survived. As the weeks have passed, we have paid special attention to the plants that were struck, trimming them back and babying them with the hope that they will not only survive but also thrive.
Have you ever thought that it isn't only plants that get wounded by hail but people too? No, I don't mean that we get pelted by chunks of ice that fall from the sky. Life itself comes with wounding circumstances that can cut and leave jagged places. Surely every person living on the earth has felt the pain of living in this broken world. The wounds might be obvious having come from circumstances that are commonly known.
However, sometimes those places of pain, that are a part of our lives, are hidden, having been the result of circumstances not known by anyone else. The wounds that we carry around might be on-going or they might pop to the surface at unexpected times. No matter their causes, when we sit in the sanctuary each Sunday, undoubtedly those who are seated close to us have been struck, at one time or another, by the hail. Let's look briefly at a lady who could tell us firsthand what it was like to live with both wounds caused by her circumstances as well as jagged places caused by the words spoken by those around her.
In 1 Samuel 1:1-20, we are introduced to Hannah and Peninnah, the two wives of Elkanah. One man with two wives. A recipe for problems before we even get past the first few verses of 1Samuel 1. Right away, we see the pain borne by Hannah who though she was loved by her husband, was unable to have children. Can you feel those hailstones landing on her, especially in that culture where the inability to have a child was thought, by some, to be a sign of God's disfavor. If that weren't enough pain to endure, Elkanah's other wife had given her husband children. We are told that she tormented Hannah by reminding her of her barrenness. Wounding words, and worst of all, the wounds were purposely struck to inflict pain.
What about Hannah's husband? We have to give him kudos because he loved his wife and wanted to comfort with his words. He wanted to get her mind off her pain by reminding her of his love. Perhaps, he thought his words might help her "get over it." However, in trying so hard, he at least at this time, showed a lack of understanding concerning how much pain Hannah was carrying around. All this left Hannah unable to eat and very sad. What to do next? Hannah took her broken places to the Lord. Would there be understanding there? Sadly, not at first. As Hannah cried out in her heart to the Lord, she encountered the priest, Eli. He could see her lips moving, but he heard no words because she was praying only to the Lord, rather than speaking aloud. Eli assumed that Hannah was drunk, and he exhorted her to get rid of her wine.
We don't know if Eli's words added further pain to Hannah, but she was quick to let him know that she was praying to the Lord because of her great distress not because of intoxication. She didn't pour out the details of her distress. She simply let the priest know how deep her pain truly was. When the priest believed her, he spoke the blessing of the Lord upon her, asking that He would grant Hannah's request, and Hannah, in spite of her wounds, rested in what Eli told her.
Back to those whom we encounter not only on Sunday but every day. They might be those who are being purposely wounded as Hannah was. They might be folks who aren't listened to when they try to share a bit of their pain. Perhaps, they are like Hannah and don't want to detail their pain but instead desire a bit of encouragement from the scriptures. Not a sermon, but perhaps a very gentle reminder of God's love and that Jesus Himself experienced sorrow when He was on earth, Isaiah 53:3. Sometimes it is hard for us. After all, we too have broken places, and they are not less painful than those experienced by those around us. It is only with the Lord's help that we are able to set aside our hurting, and in His timing, tend to the pain of others.
Lord, as we are comforted by You, help us to extend that comfort to others, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.