Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From Despair to Rejoicing

This semester of Bible studies are coming to a close. It is always a sad time for me. Leading women’s Bible study brings such joy, reflection, and discipline to my life.

My Tuesday night group completed “Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion” by Debbie Williams. It is a guide to show how praising God from A to Z will transform your life…my life.

It’s the second time I’ve led this study. It was much more meaningful this time around. Why? I’m not certain, but I do know that I picked up on a few ideas that I seemed to miss last time through.

One example is in the chapter on “eXalted God.” Debbie shared about Hannah from 1 Samuel chapter 1. In a state of despair, Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord. She was accused of being drunk. But she assured Eli that she was not. She was a woman who was in deep “anguish and grief.”

If you don’t recall Hannah’s story, she was married to Elkanah, who “loved her.” He gave her special attention. I would say he adored her. But for some reason, she was unable to conceive a child.

Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had children and she would taunt Hannah. Year after year. Hannah would become so distraught that she would weep and wouldn’t eat. Elkanah tried so hard to bring his beloved happiness. He wanted to be all she needed. But it was never enough for Hannah. She desired a child. A son.

I’m sure Elkanah and Hannah prayed each year for this child, but year after year, Hannah would not bear that child. And Hannah would continue to live with the harshness of Peninnah. Her stinging words. Her mean actions. Her constant hurt toward Hannah.

Hannah in her deep despair poured out her soul before the Lord and when Eli understood her situation, he sent her on her way with peace and with the hope that God would answer her prayer.

Hannah “went on her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Samuel 1:18)

Now here’s the part that I missed in the Bible study. Debbie says, “She left her prayer time a changed woman, although not one circumstance in her life was changed. She was not pregnant. She still had to face the other contentious wife. Yet she was transformed by pouring out her soul to the Lord whom she exalted in worship.”[i]

How I’ve missed that in my life. Simply finding peace through God even though nothing changes that I wish would change. Finding that through it all, God is all that I need. Regardless of my circumstance.

God did provide a son to Hannah and Elkanah. Hannah dedicated Samuel to God’s purpose and Samuel became a great instrument in God’s plan. When she presented Samuel to Eli, she said, “…I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:28)

After this presentation of Samuel, Hannah continued with her prayer to God. “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high…There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:1-2)

From deep despair to rejoicing…that is what God did for Hannah. And that is exactly what God can do for you and me. Pray. Allow God’s peace to infiltrate your life. Allow God’s Spirit to change your heart, even if your circumstance doesn’t. And wait. The rejoicing will come.

I pray that Hannah’s story will be an encouragement to you as she has been to me. I also pray that if your Bible study is coming to a close as mine are, that you’ll seek out another study to work through during the summer. That is exactly what I intend to do!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,


[i] Debbie Williams, Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion (Howard Books, New York), 2006, p. 230.


  1. Donna, thank you for this message. I can get so caught up in circumstances that I forget that God is all I need. This reminded me of my need to surrender my needs to God and let him be ALL for me. You and your blog are a blessing in my life.... I just wanted you to know and to thank you for blessing us by your sharing.
    May you feel God's peace :).

    P.S. There is an article/story in the magazine Real Simple (Nov 2010) on pgs. 232-235 titled "Inside the God Box" that talks about surrender that you might like. I just saw it yesterday.

    1. Jen,

      Those pesky life circumstances! Just when we think we've got them all under control, they can wind up all over the floor like 52 pick up. It's in those circumstances that we have to surrender. Surrender to God and turn that despair into rejoicing. This is a great lesson for all of us.

      Thanks for the information about the article in Real Simple. I'll check it out.

      Grace and peace be yours in and always,