Responding to Crisis – Hannah and Sarah ~ “Heart-to-Heart: Loving God” Series

I usually like how Dr. Agnes Ip interprets the characters in the Bible. Viewing the characters through a therapist’s perspective, she always inspires us with new insight. Recently in a Mother’s Day sermon, she shared and compared the stories of Hannah and Sarah. The message of the sermon is worth reflecting on.

Here are the two areas that spoke to me:

1. Be mindful of how you respond to crisis

Both Sarah and Hannah loved their families and husbands. They also faced a similar difficulty in their respective family. Though they were good wives, they were barren and were irritated and despised by their rivals. However, they responded to the crisis in a different manner because of the differences in their personalities.

God promised to multiply Abraham’s descendents as the stars of the heaven and as the sand at the seashore. Now Sarah was past childbearing age and had not yet conceived, so she took matters into her own hands by asking Abraham to take her maidservant Hagar to be his concubine. She sacrificed herself by sharing her husband with another woman. Then Hagar became pregnant and began to despise her mistress, causing a lot of tension in the family. When Sarah couldn’t see how God would fulfill His promise, she chose to solve the problem by her own reasoning and tried to bring descendents to Abraham through manipulation. Unfortunately, it was not God’s will for them and Sarah learned her lesson from her failure and suffering.  

Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah. Hannah had no children, so Peninnah always provoked her in order to irritate her, and Hannah was in anguish (1 Samuel 1:7-8 describes Hannah weeping, not eating, and upset). In bitterness of soul, Hannah chose to come to the LORD, wept much and prayed until the LORD took away her burden and grief. Then she went her way and ate, and her face was no longer downcast. Hannah knew her helplessness and persistently prayed to the LORD. Not only was her soul relieved and transformed, she was also given a son which she had prayed for.

2. God’s acceptance and mercy bring life-changing opportunity

Even though Sarah’s rational strategy and well-intended manipulation resulted in conflicts and grief, God did not reprimand her. Instead, she experienced God’s fulfilled promise, enjoyed a life of laughter, and was called a woman of faith.

Though Hannah was meek and anguished, she was completely transformed after laying her burden at the feet of the LORD and her soul was empowered. When God answered her prayers by giving her a son, she was determined to fulfill her vow by giving her son to the LORD for all the days of his life.

I found Sarah’s choice to be a serious reminder to me. We live in a time that emphasizes rationality and being analytical. When things do not make sense to us, we will pull out our backup plan and try to resolve the issues in our own ways. In fact, sometimes we just need to learn how to simply go to the LORD, pour out our soul to Him, and let Him take care of the circumstances. He will fill the void in our anguished hearts.

That said, because of the differences in our personalities, backgrounds, and experiences, it is unavoidable that we will make mistakes at different stages of life. After all, life is not perfect. In response to these two women’s crises, God showed them each His complete acceptance and mercy. He changed their lives and works through their descendents to fulfill His purposes. Indeed, it gives us great comfort knowing that though life is not perfect, there is always hope in any circumstance, even in our mistakes. 

Written by: Lily Ma

Presence Hong Kong Limited is a non-profit organization that has supported Christian and family values since 2012. We aim to raise up a new generation for the cultural mission — equip individuals and families to bridge the cultural and generational gaps and to live a unique life with wisdom. 

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