Pain from the past and anticipation of the future often keep us from rejoicing in the good things God gives us. It’s difficult at times to take much delight in the blessings we receive when so many other things are going wrong. Still, the Scriptures offer many examples of prayers in which God’s faithful people celebrated because they were able to see that their personal stories were part of God’s story, part of His glorious plan for creation. Let’s consider just one example: the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1–10.
Hannah’s prayer begins with her personal story in 1 Samuel 2:1–5. As the first chapter of 1 Samuel tells us, Hannah was barren. Her husband, Elkanah, had no sympathy, and his second wife, Peninnah, relentlessly mocked her. God eased Hannah’s pain with the gift of her son, Samuel. Still, grief could easily have crushed her spirit because of what she was about to face. To fulfill her sacred vow, she would soon have to dedicate her young son to service at the tabernacle, leaving her painfully longing to be with him. Even so, Hannah’s heart was full of joy. “My heart exults in the Lord,” she began. “There is no rock like our God” (vv. 1–2).
How was Hannah able to rejoice in these circumstances? Verses 6–10 reveal that Hannah rejoiced because she believed that her experience was part of something much greater—God’s wondrous story of salvation.
In verses 6–8, Hannah first acknowledged that the birth of Samuel could not be dismissed as an insignificant fluke of history. Rather, she saw that her experience fit a pattern repeated in God’s interactions with His creatures. God had raised her up and humbled those who mocked her. And she rejoiced because she knew that, “The Lord kills and brings to life . . . he brings low and he exalts” (1 Sam. 2:6–7). The same is true for you and me. When we take time in prayer to acknowledge how events in our lives fit with what God has done in history and in our contemporary world, our hearts are filled with amazement at the blessings He has poured out on us.
Beyond this, in verses 9–10 Hannah also acknowledged that the birth of Samuel was a foretaste of even greater things to come. Her heart turned toward the day when “the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (v. 10). Hannah’s joy enlarged as she recognized that her personal experience was a token of the day that God would judge all the earth through the reign of Israel’s future king. We, too, can celebrate blessings in our lives when we remember that they are foretastes of what is to come when Christ the King returns in glory. Sorrows from the past and worries about the future give way to utter delight when we affirm in prayer that the blessings we receive demonstrate that we are part of the grand story of God’s coming kingdom.