We are in week five, actually our final week, of a message series that we’re calling Have Mercy. Today we’re going to be in the book of First Samuel. Over the last four weeks or so, we’ve been talking about the value of mercy, of giving it, of understanding it, of being able to… See more
We are in week five, actually our final week, of a message series that we’re calling Have Mercy. Today we’re going to be in the book of First Samuel.
Over the last four weeks or so, we’ve been talking about the value of mercy, of giving it, of understanding it, of being able to forgive those who sin against us and also being able to accept the forgiveness that God offers us. We’ve recognized over the course of the last few weeks and honestly, over the course of the entirety of our lives, that the world can be a hurtful place.
That it’s full of pain, that there seems to be difficulty around every single corner. And yet somehow, by the awesome, glorious will of God, God asks us over and over and over again to both offer and accept mercy.
We’ve been talking about this idea of this question, how do we have mercy in a world of hurt? And today, as I said, is our last week really we could spend a lifetime talking about this subject. But today, I’d like to begin with a question.
How many of you would say that you love hearing stories of God moving in great ways?
How many of you would say that that you love listening to people maybe in your community groups or when we were meeting all together here on Sunday mornings that you love to hear people share stories of God doing miracles in their lives? Honestly, I think one of the best parts about being a part of a community group is listening to people share about the way that God has both shown up and shown off.
I just love listening to those stories. When people again get up at church and they say, you know what, I lost my job a month ago, but then I decided to give anyway and keep on tithing. And then, a week later I got a call from a better company and I got a 10% raise and I got benefits now. And everybody who’s listening is cheering and going, wow, it’s amazing. And it’s so great that God would do that.
Or maybe you have a friend and they’ve been praying for healing in their family. They’ve been praying for their loved ones. And within months, their loved ones are just better. I love hearing those stories.
I love hearing the stories of people who say that they gave up a boyfriend or girlfriend, that they decided to take a step of faith. They took a risk because they knew that that boyfriend or girlfriend was not good for them. And they share the story, you know, that they they gave up the boyfriend or girlfriend, but then they share about the fact that within months of being baptized, God brought into their life this amazing, godly, incredible person who looks like a model or whatever and memorizes 2/3 of the New Testament and and three weeks later, they’re engaged and they win a free honeymoon trip. And it’s awesome. You know, I love listening to those stories, but as much as I love hearing those stories, there’s actually a problem.
Because if you’re anything like me, when you listen, at least sometimes to those stories, you can think to yourself, like that’s awesome that God would move in a great way for them. But I did the same thing. By faith, I broke up with my not-so-good boyfriend or girlfriend. And it’s been years and they haven’t gotten any real dates and you hear the stories of people giving financially and giving faithfully and getting a job, and you think to yourself, you know, I’ve been giving faithfully for years. I could barely pay my bills.
Or you hear about people who talk about how God save their loved ones and you think, man, I’ve been praying for my loved ones, I’ve been praying for healing, and that loved one passed away. And if you’re anything like me, you can sit and you can wonder, where’s my story?
Where’s my miracle story?
It’s not that you’re trying to make it about yourself. You’re obviously happy for them. It’s not like you’re all selfish about it, but you just have to wonder, God, where are you in my life? Where is my story?
Sometimes I wonder where is my story. And so because of that, here’s where we’re going today. Today we’re going to try to answer one simple question. It’s one question that may be the crux of your existence and many times in your face, but it’s we’re going to try to answer one simple question. It’s this:
What do you do when you find yourself disappointed in God?
What do you do when it feels like God let you down? What do you do when you feel like God has been absent? I don’t know what it is for you, but maybe it’s a child that you’ve been dreaming of having and the child never came. And you just wonder, where’s my story? It might be an engagement that you thought would come, but that engagement still hasn’t come to this day. And you wonder, where’s my miracle story? It could be something you’re believing for and putting faith in. God still hasn’t done what you know he has the power to do. So what do you do?
What do you do when you don’t even want to say it out loud because you revere God, but you have times of doubting, of wondering, God, where are you? Why aren’t you showing up for me? Why haven’t my kids found faith? Why haven’t I been given financial opportunities? Why haven’t I found real peace? Why am I still entangled in these old sins? God, where’s my story? Where’s the thing I’ve been praying for? What happens when you find yourself wondering?
What do you do when you find yourself holding a grudge against God? Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the subject of forgiveness, and I want to make a clarification at the very start of this lesson. The reason why I didn’t say what do you do when you find out you need to forgive God is because there’s never been a moment where you needed to forgive God, because God has never done wrong.
God doesn’t sin. And so I’m making a clarification that is super important: he is never at fault because of course, he is God. And so to say that we need to forgive God would be incorrect. But the point of this lesson is not to make that technical point. The point of this lesson is to acknowledge that some of us feel like we have been done wrong by God.
There’s something emotionally inside of all of us, or at least right now, where some of us feel like God is holding out on us, and maybe in those moments you have to figure out how to reconcile to God.
So, again, what do you do when you find yourself disappointed in God? Look with me at 1st Samuel, chapter 1.
We’re going to look at the story of Hannah and her having to reconcile with some disappointments that she had with God. Now, before I tell you about Hannah, let me tell you a little bit about her husband, Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah.
And that’s correct, if you’re listening to me and you’re like, wait, he had two wives, that’s crazy. And some of you brothers are thinking two wives. That would be awesome. And chances are if you’re thinking that, you’re not married, it’s just what I’m saying, because if you were married, you’d recognize that one spouse is probably enough to deal with in your lifetime.
In fact, in most cases, whenever the Bible has more than one wife it just ends in utter disaster. If you add another man or another woman to the mix, you create this kind of bizarre love triangle and things go terribly wrong in the world. Things like The Bachelor seem like they all work out, but in real life, things go horribly, horribly wrong. Anyway, this guy has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, and there’s a horrible rivalry between the two wives.
And the main reason there’s rivalry is because Elkanah married Hannah first, and when he married her, he assumed that they would be given a son, that they would be given a child. But unfortunately, Hannah couldn’t bear children. And that’s why most scholars actually say that, that Elkanah took on another wife. So Hannah can’t have children and Peninnah can. And this made for some really, really brutal treatment between Peninnah and Hannah. Meaning that Peniannah would ridicule Hannah for not being able to have children.
Hannah being in kind of a Near Eastern culture bareness would have been seen as almost a curse. Not being able to have children would have been seen as a failure on her part, and perhaps she would have experienced a tremendous amount of shame. She would have felt useless. It would have been easy for her to feel that God was absent.
Because here’s the fact: if you worship the Author of Life, why won’t the Author of Life let you have a child?
So, here we have Hannah and Elkanah, who as far as we can tell are faithful people. The story actually starts off with them taking a family trip to a place called Shiloh, which is a place of worship, and the Bible says that they went there every single year to take a family trip to offer sacrifices to God. And this is where we find the story of Hannah.
1st Samuel 1:6
“Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”
I like the way the New American Standard Bible says it. It says “her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her.”
Peninnah would constantly annoy her. That’s what the word provoke means. It means to annoy, to irritate, to frustrate. She would continue to poke and prod her, saying, you are unable to have children. You are worthless in the eyes of people and in the eyes of man. You are worthless. The word irritate is the word to tremble.
Have you ever felt that before? So angry. So afraid, so disappointed. So frustrated. So sad that you begin to tremble.
That’s what this woman had done to Hannah, continuously telling her that she was worthless, continuing to lay before her husband and continuing to ridicule her brought her to a rage where she just trembles.
1st Samuel 1:7
“So it happened year after year…”
It’s kind of like the lies that the serpent does to Adam and Eve, right? God’s holding out on you. It’s just evil behavior.
And it happened year after year. For some of you, those words haunt your soul because you know what it feels like to battle something year after year, praying year after year, crying out year after year, longing year after year for your story.
And after all that time, nothing happens.
1st Samuel 1:7
“So it happened, year after, year, each time Hannah went up to the House of the Lord, Peninnah would make her angry. Hannah cried and would not eat.”
Some of you have had a Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a Valentine’s Day like that. When the memory of your loss or whatever has been taken from you, breaks you, bankrupts your will to continue, brings you to a place of mourning, of tears, of sadness. This is what this is. It’s just a breakdown.
She had had enough. She runs away. She’s falling apart. She can’t even eat because she she’s completely moved in sadness. Can you just for a second try to get into her skin, try to feel her story for a second, can you feel the tension? Can you feel the sadness? Can you feel the frustration?
Here you have this godly woman, Hannah. This awesome, wonderful godly woman, as far as we can tell and God doesn’t give her the only thing that she wants. And year after year after year, it’s thrown in her face that she is a failure.
And then you have this woman Peninnah, who’s mean, who’s vicious, and it’s crazy because she gets the family.
Hannah, the Godly one doesn’t get it, but Peninnah gets the family. She gets to have children. She gets what she wants.
Why would God bless them but forget me?
Why would God give it to them, but not give it to me? God could have given me a child. God could have done it for me, I’ve been faithful, I saved myself for marriage. I read my Bible. I serve the church. I’m generous. I’m a good disciple. I love God. I don’t do the rest of the things the world does. I don’t post immodest pictures on Instagram. I’m not chasing the world.
Why, God? Why would you give it to them but not give it to me? God blesses them but forgets me year after heart-wrenching year.
She prays, she believes, she waits. She wonders, where is my story?
If you’re honest with yourself, there might be someone here who can relate to this. You’ve been praying, you’ve been believing maybe for salvation for someone you love. But year after heart-wrenching year goes by and nothing seems to change. You’ve longed for a job, but a job has been out of reach or seems out of reach. You’ve prayed for healing. You believed he would and then he didn’t.
And you wonder why he does it for others, but he doesn’t do it for me. Maybe you’ve asked God, please, Lord, would you take my depression away? You begged him and you knew he could and you fasted and you confessed and you asked others for help, and still year after year you’re still trying to fight to get through the day. I.
Don’t know what it would be for you, it could be a trial that never seems to go away. It could be a temptation that never seems to get better. It could be a marriage that’s still on the rocks. It could be financial hardship. You’re always praying for something that God never seems to do for you. And you wonder, just like Hannah, God, where are you?
Where are you?
If you’ve ever felt this, you’re in good biblical company. Because Hannah feels this, but not only Hannah, David, Moses, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, even Jesus himself. So the story continues.
Hannah is disturbed. She’s overwhelmed. She’s mourning. She’s so sad. She’s having one of those terrible holidays in a closet all by herself, just crying and crying and crying.
And then her husband, Elkanah, comes in to try to help.
Now, before I read what I’m about to read, I just want to talk to the brothers for a second. So if you’re a sister, you can disregard this, you can look away or whatever.
This is just for the brothers.
Elkanah comes in with great intentions. He’s about to ask, though, a very, very silly question. I was going to use the word stupid when I just used it. Well, whatever, he asked a question he shouldn’t have asked.
I don’t know why, but these types of questions seem to be kind of in the core of of man’s being. I don’t get it. So, brothers, it’s just me and you here. And so I feel like I need to protect you because there are some impending dangers laying before you in your marriage. There are some landmines in your marriage. There are certain questions that you are forbidden to ask.
When your wife is sad, they seem natural, maybe even to you they seem like they’re right, but they’re terrible questions when your wife is crying.
I’ll give you an example. When your wife is crying after a haircut appointment, she just got her hair done, she’s coming home and she’s just emotional about it. You never go up to her and say, did you mean to do that with your hair? You never ask that.
It may seem like you’re trying to gather information, but it’s a bad question. So I got your back. Look, we’re trying to make some common ground here, gentlemen. If your wife comes in just emotional and just sad and just broken, you never ask the question, are you going through that time of the month?
Here’s the thing, that’s a terrible question. Did you feel the atmosphere in your room shift just now? That’s because that’s a bad question. You don’t ask questions. I’m even saying that I’m on incredibly thin ice right now. I’m risking a lot, but I’m in your corner, brothers.
Justin said, here’s what I want you to do if your wife comes in what you should do is you should put your hand on her back and you should say nothing.
Or better yet, you can say, I’m so sorry, because you might be the reason she’s cryinh. Say nothing or better yet, say I love you so much. Again, those are the only options you got.
Anyway, I want to show you one of the cringiest questions in all the Bible. Poor Hannah, she wants to have kids. She’s been waiting year after year and has had a woman berating her daily. And there’s so much emotion here and Elkanah comes in like he’s trying to help.
He’s going to help. And this is what he says:.
1st Samuel 1:8
“Then her husband, Elkanah, said to her, ‘Hannah, why are you crying?'”
That’s not a terrible question. It’s an OK question.
“Why are you not eating? Why is your heart so sad?”
The thing is, he knows exactly what’s the matter. So this question, oh, what a cringy question:.
“Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
Now, some of the men listening are thinking not a bad question. Not a bad point. Sisters, you can come back. This actually makes sense to us. I don’t get it. I can’t explain it. But this makes sense to us. It kind of makes sense to me.
I know it’s a bad question, but it makes sense to me. And so we don’t get Hannah’s response. It’s not recorded in scripture, but the Holy Spirit has revealed it to me. I’m just kidding. But I know sort of the flavor here is we’re just kind of adding some levity to this.
But can you just for a second imagine her pain. She’s broken. She’s mourning. And her husband comes in and tries to help. But in many ways just make it worse.
She’s been waiting. God has the power, but God has been withholding it from her. So what does she do? I want to tell you exactly what Hannah does, because I believe it’s what you should be doing whenever you find yourself disappointed with God.
Today, if you feel yourself disappointed with God maybe you should follow the steps that Hannah did.
1st Samuel 1:9
“Then Hannah stood up after they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh. Eli, the religious leader, was sitting on the seat by the door of the House of the Lord. Hannah was very troubled. She prayed to the Lord and cried with sorrow.”
Hannah, in her distress, goes to the House of God and she prays and she cries in sorrow. I like the New American Standard, it says, “she, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.”
This phrase has the connotation of kind of letting go, of releasing. Basically, she gets down on her face and she cries out to God and she releases, she lets it all go.
Instead of just holding it in and trying to be OK with it and saying, no, no, no, I’m not doubting, I’m not afraid, I’m not mad, I’m not angry, she lets it go. She tells God exactly what she’s feeling.
She took all her pain and all her hurt, and all her disappointment, and all her frustration, and all the agony, years of distress, years of pain, years of suffering. And she just pours it out, wailing before God, crying bitterly. She prays to the Lord from the depth of her heart. She lets it go.
Let it go
She prays for a son. We don’t know all the words that she says.
But I’ve prayed like that. I know what that feels like to pray and to cry out God. This doesn’t feel fair. God, why didn’t you? Why aren’t you? You could have. God, I believed in you. I thought you would be faithful. I loved you. I trusted you. Why haven’t you done it for me?
Why haven’t you done it for me?
She pours it all out. She, again, is like some of the great heroes in the Bible, people like David, who cried out, Why aren’t you stopping my enemies? God, why do you let them talk me? Or like Jeremiah, who wrote an entire book on lamenting. An entire book asking God the question why?
I like Habakkuk.
“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”
Or even Jesus, on the cross when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
That wasn’t a tempered cry, that was a cry of anguish. Why in the moment when I needed you most, did you stop paying attention to me? Why did you pull back from me? Why have you done this to me?
And she cries out just like Jesus and just like the patriarch. She cries out.
And if you ever held a grudge against God, if you ever had those moments of doubt and you’ve ever gone, no, no, no, it’s disrespectful to cry. I want to encourage you to let it go, to give it to God, because I believe with all my heart that God is big enough to handle your hurt.
God is big enough to handle your hurt
He knows what you’re going through. So, if you find yourself hurting, if you find yourself disappointed, why not just try letting him know, pour out your heart to him. In fact, I believe with everything in me that God would have would rather have you yell at him in disappointment than walk away in defeat.
Why not to shout it out if you’ve got something that’s really going on?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…”
Notice, Jesus is extending an invitation to those who are in trouble. This isn’t an extension of an invitation to those who feel like life is wonderful, this is an extension of an invitation to those who feel like they are wearied and they are burdened. They are disappointed. They are hurt. They are disillusioned. God says, look, come to me.
And that’s exactly what Hannah does. She just unloads God. Would you give me a son, please? And this is the part of the prayer that we have in scripture.
1st Samuel 1:11
“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.”
Give me a son, I’ll give him back to you.
We don’t have time to talk about the beauty of this verse. But she just prayed this beautiful prayer.
Look, if you give it to me, he won’t even be mine, I will dedicate every ounce of him completely to you. After she prays, there’s this interesting dialogue between her and the priest, and I won’t go into detail, but at the end of the conversation, the priest basically says, may God grant your request.
And then, the situation ends. She’s prayed bitterly or she’s prayed with all her heart, she’s wept bitterly and then she leaves. And she has nothing to show for it. It’s not like the sky opened up and the ceiling was removed and there dropped a small child.
It wasn’t like she got what she was hoping for in the moment.
The weeping didn’t produce immediate results
There was no immediate change. She walked away from the situation with nothing. She still has to deal with Peninnah. Her husband is still going to ask silly questions. She still doesn’t have a baby. And that’s why I love the next verse, because what she says next is what we should do next.
1st Samuel 1:19
“The entire family got up the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more.”
I love that phrase, Hannah’s family gets up the next morning, Hannah gets up the next morning and still seeing nothing, what does she do? She goes to worship the Lord once more.
Here’s a woman who’s still wondering. Here’s a woman who’s still hoping, here’s a woman who still hasn’t got what she’s asked for. And yet, through all of that, she’s still holding on to faith. She’s still trying to trust. She sees nothing but she understands something: that even though she doesn’t see anything, that doesn’t mean that God is not doing something.
Even though she doesn’t see what’s happening before her, that doesn’t mean that God is not doing something. And so what does she do? She decides to get up the next morning and worship God once more.
This has been the story of so many families in our congregation. I love our church so much because it is filled with people who have gone through tremendous hardship but yet wake up the next morning and the next morning and the next morning and once more go to be with God. We have real people in our church, people with real struggles, brothers and sisters who are heroes to me, because they pray boldly to God.
And then they wake up the next morning and they worship him. They don’t leave him because things are bad. They embrace him because things are bad. They hold on.
There are stories of brothers and sisters with chronic physical ailments, chronic pain, cancer. There are stories of people who have a disability, who are who are desperate because they’re single parents and can’t even figure out their financial situation.
Real people who tell the truth about their situation and yet continue to wake up the next morning and worship once more.
You know, I heard it said that the test of someone’s faith is not their ability to make God do something. But the test of someone’s faith is their ability to trust that God is doing something.
Faithfulness isn’t about bending God to your will; it’s about having confidence in his.
Being faithful doesn’t mean you make God do things. What it means to be faithful is that you let God do whatever he’s doing and you trust that what he’s doing is the best. It’s the belief that year after year things can be bad, and yet I can still embrace and I can still wrestle with God.
Seeing Hannah’s case, God hears the cries of her heart and God gives her exactly what she asked for, but I want to be clear, that may never happen for you.
It may never happen in this lifetime, but no matter what the outcome is, we need to remember that the goodness of God is not based on what we see or don’t see, but the goodness of God is based simply on who he is.
God is good, period.
But in Hannah’s case, she gets what she asked for. The Lord remembered her.
The Lord made it possible for her to have a child, and when the time came, she gave birth to a son, she gave him the name Samuel saying, “I asked the Lord for him.” And she learned very quickly that God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials.
But again, as I mentioned, it may never happen for you.
We don’t teach in this church what they call the prosperity gospel, which means, you know, you give a little bit of money, you say the right things, and all of a sudden God blesses you with money and riches and a girlfriend and whatever. We don’t believe that in this church.
What we believe is that we are given a lot in life. We pray to learn to accept it. Whatever it is that God gives us, we accept it because we trust that he is good.
You can use your pain as a platform. When you’re going through it, don’t get bitter. Learn to grow through it. And I don’t know who needs to hear this in our church, but if you find yourself disappointed with God today, maybe a little mad at him, maybe you feel like he’s abandoned you, he’s disappointed you. Maybe you’re holding the grudge. I would invite you to tell him the depths of your heart, to cry out in anguish, to give it all up and then wake up the next morning and go worship him again.