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4 Women Who Changed The World

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“Hannah the Unfulfilled”

Pastor Ron,
Just wanted to let you know the prayer you prayed over us at the end of second service broke the orphan spirit in me. Those who feel unloved, unprotected, and un-valued…are all made new in Him. God is my father and I need Him! Women and men today are not all that different from those of past generations; we’re not all that different from those who lived under the bondage of physical slavery because we often live under the bondage of spiritual slavery. I keep getting this message as a burden of my heart, “set my people free.” Please pray that I will find my purpose God’s Kingdom will spring into action, in His time, and in way!
God Bless you

Hannah was a woman who suffered for many years under the burden of childlessness and carried a lingering sense of being unfulfilled. 

Some of you today are in a season of feeling unfulfilled.
Perhaps you had high hopes of building a business but the economy went south, a business partner ripped you off, the plan fell apart
For others the dream of going to college and pursuing a good career never happened and now you feel stuck in a job you hate and a life you never saw yourself living
Some of you are unemployed or under-employed and it’s lingered for months and months and there’s a dull ache in your heart
Maybe you’re single and long to be married and happy
Or maybe you’re married and you’re still longing to be happy

What are we supposed to do when the thing we hoped for and dreamed of for years doesn’t come to pass? How do we deal with unfulfilled longings, on-going disappointment and continual setbacks?

The Bible says in Proverbs 13:12;“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

I have come to the conclusion that God does some of His best work through the disappointments of life, through unfulfilled dreams and unrealized hopes. 

It’s in those moments we turn our hearts towards Him in a more passionate way as we seek answers to why it has not happened.

Hannah lived in a time and culture where having children was just about the sole purpose for being a woman, and for a long, long time she lived with an unfulfilled dream.

1 Samuel 1:1-2 – I’ve noticed that when I’m in a season where my desires are seemingly denied I will find myself around other people who are living the dream that I have, and I don’t want to see them! 

I’m not in a mood to rejoice with those who rejoice! 

“…Peninnah HAD children but Hannah HAD NO children.”

The contrast was there day after day staring Hannah in the face playing games with her mind and soul! 

And here’s something else I’ve noticed, the more I obsess on what I don’t have the more I struggle with those who have what I want. 

And that usually is more about me and my own insecurities than it is about them. 

But what makes it worse is when they know you’re hurting and they flaunt it in your face, and that’s exactly what Peninnah did! 

1 Samuel 1:3-5 – this story sounds a whole lot like Leah and Rachel. Leah was unloved but she had lots of children. Rachel was beautiful but she was barren. 

Rachel said to Jacob, “give me children or I will die.” That’s the language of the unfulfilled! 

When you look at these two women you realize they BOTH had their own struggles. Peninnah felt unloved and she became hateful and antagonistic towards Hannah.  

We all have our own personal struggles, our own unfulfilled desires. 

When we see others flourishing in the area that we are unfulfilled we may become jealous and even spiteful.
Young professional women may be envied by young mom’s with three kids and vice versa. They may become rivals. 

1 Samuel 1:6-7

Peninnah said hurtful things and she was very purposeful in it, but I have found that people can say hurtful things without ever realizing how much they are hurting others.

One childless woman wrote: “I’ve decided that the next time my uncle tells me I’d better start trying to have a baby now or soon I won’t be able to, that I’m going to say something like, “You’d better start trying to lose some weight now or soon it will never come off!” Both sayings are equally insulting. I have come to realize people aren’t necessarily mean. They just don’t think before they open their mouths.”

Another woman writes: “I am childless-not-by-choice. I feel sad, angry, and envious and those feelings are so strong. Right now I’m just looking forward to getting past Mother’s day for another year.”

One young lady told me recently, “If you don’t have kids people often treat you like you’re not a full-fledged adult, like you must be selfish and self-centered. The fact is I’d love to have a child but it hasn’t happened. It can be really painful.”

Peninnah was just nasty in her attacks. The Bible says she provoked Hannah ‘severely.’

And this constant attack became overwhelming to Hannah. For a time she slipped into a deep depression. Hannah refused to eat. She wept for days without control. 

There is a time to mourn and a time to weep, but we have to be careful not to stay in that dark place too long.

Hannah’s despair was so overwhelming that she couldn’t recognize the grace of God in all the other parts of her life.

It’s true, Hannah had no child, but she had a husband who loved her and who was very sympathetic and caring. 

God ALWAYS puts someone in our life in our darkest moments of despair, and in those moments we need to recognize the gift they are to us! 

God puts flesh on and sends His message of hope through people! 

1 Samuel 1:8

We can sense Elkanah’s love in his encouraging words to Hannah: “Don’t I mean more to you than 10 sons?”

So often when we feel bitter and downcast we are unable to sense the good gifts God has given us, the evidences of His love and grace. 

Aren’t you glad our stories don’t usually end on our worst days!!

Gradually, over time, Hannah LEARNED to take Peninnah’s painful taunts and take them to the feet of God.

1 Samuel 1:9-10 – this is the VERY BEST PLACE to pour out the bitterness and pain of our broken heart. 

Here’s what I know about God. He can handle our anger. 
        *God can handle our questions. 
        *He can handle every human emotion, the good, the bad/the ugly.

After Hannah poured it all out then she was ready to lay it all on the altar.

She prayed a strange prayer, “Lord, if you give me what I’m asking for I’ll give it back to you entirely.”

1 Samuel 1:11

I think there were….Three Lessons Hannah Learned

#1 God Wants Us To Surrender Our Desires To Him

Sometimes what we long for becomes an obsession. It becomes the driving focus of our every thought and in that season of life nothing else matters. We think have to have it. 

God says, give your desires to me, lay them on the altar. 

In 1981 we decided we wanted to have a child after 5 years of marriage…..nothing happened….Dorene got tested…..I got tested…..3 years passed…..home pregnancy test we thought was positive…we/I told some people….it turned out to be false….Dorene’s conversation with God….August 28, 1984 Desiree = desire, much wished for child.

(Screen) Here’s Desiree on Day #1
(Screen) Here she is this past Christmas

I believe that sometimes God WAITS and tests our hearts in order to determine what’s really at the core of our desires.

And then God asks; are you willing to lay your desire on the altar? (Abraham and Isaac)

God wants us to surrender our desires to Him….

#2 God Wants Us To Find Our Fulfillment In Him

I read about a Nigerian tribe (Igbo) who prize children so highly it pretty much sums up their entire purpose in life. They value children so much that they actually name them with names that speak of their intense desire for children!
Nwabu-uwa – a child is all the world to me
Nwakasi, a child is priceless, most precious
Nwakego, a child out-values all money, all wealth

In that culture life for the childless is torturous. A childless woman is regarded as an outrage, an atrocity, and everyone knows a childless couple is destined to have trouble.

God wants us to enjoy our family. He wants us to love our spouse and enjoy our children.
But did you know that it’s actually possible to for us to put our children BEFORE God?
It’s actually possible to make an idol out of our children (gods at war: chapter #12).

I love my children but I I love God even more.

#3 God Wants Us To Be Patient In The Unknowing

There’s an uncomfortable place that we find ourselves in sometimes in life, the place of the unknowing.

In the place of the unknowing, we may not know if we’ll ever see our desire fulfilled. In the place of the unknowing, we may not ever know WHY we cannot have what we so eagerly desire.

We have to become comfortable in that place. We have to put the unknowing into an ALL-KNOWING, SOVEREIGN GOD’S HANDS and trust that no matter what God knows what’s best for us.

(Screen) We must resist the urge to beat ourselves up…..there must be something wrong with me….I’m deficient.

One lady said; “My infertility is of unknown cause, and doctors can’t find a thing wrong. I feel like my body has failed me, like I’ve failed my husband and my family and I’m helpless to do anything about it. I don’t feel like this all the time, but it creeps up on me now and then. Here’s what I’ve learned. Don’t let an imperfect body make you feel as if you have something to be ashamed of. It’s not because of “you” that you can’t have kids – it’s because of the imperfect body that “you” just happen to live in. We are not our bodies. We can be whole, worthy and wonderful people – even if our bodies are imperfect.”

That a good perspective! 

Be patient in the unknowing. Lean into the mystery of it all. Resist the urge to beat yourself up. 

(Screen) We must ALSO resist the urge to beat God up….there must be something wrong with God…He’s deficient.

No one can conceive unless God calls that child into being. Trust in the goodness of God. 

When couples try to have children and cannot, we must follow His leading. It may mean pursuing medical treatment. It may mean building your family through adoption. It may mean choosing to live child free.

Let me close with this: the first command God gave us was to be fruitful and multiply. The last command Jesus gave us was to be fruitful and make disciples. Reproducing physical children is a wonderful part of being human, but it is not the only way God has ordained for us to leave a lasting legacy.

God has many gifts for us. (Screen) In 1 Corinthians 7 the apostle Paul called celibacy (non-marriage) a gift from God. In Proverbs 18 Solomon calls a wife God’s gift to a man. In Psalms 127 children are called a gift from the Lord.

(Screen) So one way to think biblically about infertility is to recognize that while the gift of children has been withheld, children are only one of many gifts through which chooses to God give his blessings. 

PRAYER: “The greatest sense of unfulfillment is living a life without Christ…”



About Ron Bontrager

Lead Pastor of Lakeview Church in Indianapolis.

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