I Am Hannah
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; He humbles, and He exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” I Samuel 2:6-8
I think we can agree that women across the globe understand what it’s like to feel invisible, dismissed, and misused. While oppression exists in every corner of the world, we know that women in places where there is great economic distress, institutional corruption and damaging cultural norms pay a much greater price for injustice. In the darkest of places are the women who rise from the tyranny of their circumstances and light the way for generations to come.
Over the last 20 years, I have had the incredible privilege of working with women all over the continent of Africa. I’ve walked alongside these women and watched them overcome suffering on a level that most of us will never experience.
On a recent trip to Kenya, I met with a group of women who have committed their lives to being salt and light and sharing the love of Christ with anyone God brings into their path. We gathered for Bible study, and I shared with them the story of Hannah.
What most people remember about Hannah’s story is that she prayed for a son and was granted Samuel. I’m more drawn to how God used Hannah, the woman regarded as lowly and invisible, to magnify His glory.
Hannah is the picture of oppression. She is a woman whose value and worth were seen only in her ability to bear children, and yet she was barren. She felt unseen, unwanted, and despised. She was living in a world that didn’t provide any hope. The judge and priest of Israel, who should have represented the justice and holiness of God, allowed the system to become a vessel of the vilest corruption. For Hannah, there was nowhere else to turn – nowhere to go but to the Lord. In desperation, she cried out to Him.
And because Hannah placed her trust in the Lord, He used this woman – a woman who was nothing in the eyes of the world – to shift the entire trajectory of His people! Hannah was the willing vessel God chose to use to bring about His glory and change among his own people through her son, Samuel.
When I finished sharing the story of Hannah, I began meeting with the women one by one, getting to know them and to hear their stories.
One of these women significantly challenged my understanding of oppression and left an indelible mark on my heart. She came in very quietly. She had a beautiful smile and eyes that lit up as she spoke about her ministry to other women. And then I asked about her family.
She said, “I am Hannah.”
“You’re Hannah?” I asked, not understanding what she meant.
“Yes,” she responded with tears filling her eyes. “I’ve been married for 16 years. I’ve not been able to bear children. My husband took another wife, and he has children with her. I can’t do anything but live in the home with them. There is nothing else for me to do.”
Sitting before me was a beautiful woman who loves the Lord, married to a husband who has chosen another wife to whom his favor is now drawn because she is able to bear children. This woman knows loneliness and rejection.
And yet she has found a higher purpose. Through a deep trust in God born through her own suffering, she is allowing God to use her to go into the streets and to daily minister to other women who need to hear about the love of Jesus. She shares the Gospel with boldness, authority, love, and compassion, regardless of the pain she feels from the rejection and oppression she is living under. Through this woman, many have turned to Christ and are shining the light for others.
While the societal norms of this woman’s country are not relatable to most in the United States, there is so much to glean from her powerful testimony. In every culture across the world, there are women who are oppressed and isolated in their communities and marriages, leaving them feeling heartbroken and without purpose. And yet, God uses them in the depths of their brokenness to spread His love, share their stories, and provide hope for others.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the Lord meets us in the depths of our heartbreak, lifts us out of the mire of despair with His loving hands, sets our feet upon solid ground, and walks alongside us through it all.
Jesus never fails us. He chooses the lowly, the things that are despised, to nullify those things that are the highest.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20