One of the most heroic figures in Scripture is not known for slaying a giant, conquering a nation, or hurdling a wall. Her name is Hannah. Her role in the biblical narrative is rather simple: to give birth. But it’s the obstacles she overcomes on her way to this outcome that reveal her to be a hero.
In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah faces three rather ordinary challenges that show her life to be a difficult one. First, she is one of two wives of Elkanah. Penninah, her rival, is not kind to Hannah. She “used to provoke her grievously to irritate” Hannah (v. 6). Penninah tormented Hannah because the latter could not conceive. Already we see that Hannah faces serious adversity in her day-to-day life.
Hannah’s second challenge is her husband’s inability to understand her pain. Penninah would wound Hannah as regularly “as she went up to the house of the Lord,” leaving Hannah in tears (v. 7). Elkanah seems to be a kind man, but he suffers from a common malady: obtuseness. Hannah’s husband seeks to encourage her, but he offers cold comfort.
Hannah’s third challenge comes when she goes to the house of the Lord. She is clearly a devout and godly woman. She goes to worship at Shiloh and to pour out her heart to Yahweh. She is “deeply distressed” while there, and she weeps “bitterly” (v. 10). What happens next is painful. Eli the priest sees her lips moving and takes her for a drunk. Instead of offering her solace, he issues a stinging rebuke.
At every level, Hannah is suffering. There is an escalation of her suffering in this passage that shows the difficult spiritual climate of Israel in her era. Despite her trials, she perseveres. She prays, goes to worship, and cries out to her God. Yahweh then shows her favor. Eli pronounces a blessing on her, she conceives, and soon gives birth to a son named Samuel (vv. 17–20), who becomes one of Yahweh’s greatest prophets.
When challenges occur in our lives, we have a choice: will we remember Hannah? Her example is powerful. Yet Hannah foreshadows another child born to a persevering mother, a son who met many, many more difficulties on his life’s path. Jesus Christ overcame a family who did not understand His purpose, a band of disciples who consistently misunderstood His teachings, and a foe who craved His undoing. Despite these trials, He followed the will of God all the way to the cross. He suffered and died to bring us to glory—and to give us daily strength to honestly face and perseveringly triumph over our own difficulties.
God is the Savior not only of the blood-streaked warrior, but the henpecked friend, the physically challenged sufferer, and the misunderstood wife. His grace is perfectly fitted for our daily struggles—indeed, it is more than sufficient for them. It makes heroes of even the most unsuspecting and normal of God’s people.