THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL—Week 1
Crisis 1: Unfulfilled Dreams (1 Sam. 1)
Have you ever had a dream that went unfulfilled or was crushed by someone else? By the time most of us reach middle age, we can usually answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” Sometimes our dreams are unfulfilled because they are simply unrealistic. While I am so thankful for a wife who believed in me enough to spend hours on the phone trying to get me a tryout with the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team back when I was in college, the reality was I just didn’t have the talent to make that dream a reality, no matter how much she believed in me. That dream was unrealistic. However, many of the dreams we have are realistic, and so, when they go unfulfilled, the disappointment we feel is much deeper. In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Hannah, a woman who is facing one such disappointment.
There is nothing unusual or unreasonable about Hannah’s desire to be a mother. It is a desire with which many of us can relate. My wife and I experienced the heartache of infertility for many years, and it was a source of many anguished tears. Yet, even if the crisis Hannah is facing in chapter 1 is not the particular struggle you are facing, you most likely can still identify with her anguish. So, what can we learn from the story of Hannah to assist us as we face the crisis of unfulfilled dreams in a Biblical way?
- Don’t be afraid to grieve publicly. As we learned through our study of Lamentations, there’s no honor in Christian stoicism. There are times for private grief, but public grief opens the opportunity for the community to rally around you and help bear your burden (Gal. 6:2).
- Don’t be afraid to be raw and honest before the Lord. We serve a big God, a God who is bigger than your most challenging questions. He loves you more than you could ever comprehend, and it is in these moments when his love is most on display (1 Peter 5:7).
- Don’t forsake going to God’s house, even when it’s hard. As Pastor Sean says so often, come to church so that when you can’t believe, we can believe for you (Heb. 10:24-25).
- Offer your dream to God’s service. Though it’s not always the case, there are times when our dreams are delayed or deferred because they are selfishly motivated. It was when Hannah aligned her dream to God’s plan that her dream was fulfilled (Jas. 5:3).
- After giving your dream to God, move forward in the joy that comes from trusting him completely. Hannah didn’t linger in her sadness. She gave her situation to God and moved forward in trust. Though God had not yet granted her request, still Hannah chose to worship.
What if the crisis isn’t yours? How should we support someone going through such a crisis?
- Guard your words. Peninnah’s words were intentionally hurtful. Elkanah’s words were unintentionally hurtful but likely just as damaging. I’m sure Elkanah was trying to be comforting, but his words showed little compassion for what Hannah was feeling.
- Don’t judge someone’s motives or maturity from afar. It was easy for Eli to judge Hannah wrongly from a distance. However, when he actually took time to engage her, his perspective changed, and he was able to bring sympathy and blessing. Eli would also soon discover that his willingness to minister to Hannah brought blessing to his life as well.
- Support their willingness to offer their dream to God, even if it impacts yours. Hannah’s vow didn’t just impact her dream, it impacted Elkanah’s as well. He had to give up his firstborn son by Hannah. There are times, especially in marriage, when we have to be willing to sacrifice because of our love for someone else, even when it is not the path we would like to take. God honored Hannah’s sacrifice, and God blessed Elkanah’s honoring of Hannah’s sacrifice.
- Have you had a dream that went unfulfilled? Is it something with which you still struggle? If so, how do you struggle? What questions do you have for God?
- How does offering a dream to God’s service change our perspective of that desire?
- After Hannah gave her dream to God, the passage says that she was no longer sad. What do you think caused this change in her mood? What did Hannah do to help her move on after pouring her heart out to God?
- Do you know someone going through the crisis of an unfulfilled dream? What can we learn from this story? What did the people in this story do right? What did they do wrong?