Proverbs 31:25 holds up the excellent wife as one who “smiles at the future”. But what do you do when weeks and months and years of “unanswered” prayers have gone by, and your long trial still remains?
In 1 Samuel 1, we are reminded that Hannah’s prayers went unanswered for a long time. She was barren in a time when bearing children seems to have been of much greater weight than it is now given in our society. A possible reconstruction of her situation is that Elkanah took a second wife, Peninnah, because she was barren. As if infertility were not hard enough on a marriage, let’s add in another woman! A woman sharing the marriage bed, who was able to bear those children that Hannah wanted, producing little ones to run to papa and give him hugs. And Peninnah pours salt into Hannah’s tender wound, making it all the more painful for her. If it was in your hand or my hand to help Hannah, wouldn’t you have wanted to give Hannah a child a long time before this? Why would God delay so, when He loved Hannah more than you or I do?
Hannah’s long awaited child, Samuel, was going to play a key part in Israel’s history, but in preparing him for his part, God moved Hannah to His purposes through her divinely orchestrated, difficult circumstances. He moved Hannah herself to the attitude of heart that gave God complete and free reign with her child. She was going to give him back to the Lord to do whatever He wanted with him. God put her in a place where she would be able to have Samuel, and yet hold him with an open hand.
Stop for a moment and think of the most annoying thing in your life, the thing that you want God to wave a wand over and make it disappear. You may wonder why God allows this trial to carry on so long. You and many others may be appealing to God to take it away.
Remember how much God loves you, and do not imagine He leaves you there because He is cruel. We have to trust His wisdom, the way Paul had to trust in it when his prayers that the “thorn in his flesh be removed” were not answered. Jesus trusted in His wisdom when the cup of crucifixion was not removed from Him.
Do you know what Romans 8:26-28 says? It says: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
We may not understand His purposes in this lifetime, but we can cling to the reality that He is working all things together for good, and indeed, smile at the future.