There once lived a man named Elkanah, who had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Although he loved both women, Elkanah loved Hannah more and lavished gifts on her. Despite that fact, Peninnah bore him the children that would carry on his legacy.
Perhaps Peninnah did not like that her husband loved Hannah more, so she tortured Hannah with abusive words and continuously reminded her that she could not conceive. The abuse weighed on Hannah’s heart and left her wounded for years. She wept and did not eat. She prayed, but God did not open her womb. Her husband, frustrated by her bemoaning, finally asked her, “Why are you not eating? Why are you crying? Why are you so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
Even so, Hannah did not give up on her faith, and after years of prayer, she finally conceived a son named Samuel, who grew to be a prophet of God.
Each time I read chapter one of First Samuel, I linger on that sentence: “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” I can imagine God reminding me of those words as I pine for something that is not in His will for me—at least not at that moment.
When faith wanes, sin begins to seep into the empty crevices of our heart where hope once resided. Unresolved trails can lead to constant complaining that morphs into depression. Then depression becomes debilitating, and thoughts of suicide become prevalent. People can resort to self-injury to release the rising tide of suffering. Finally, anger and hatred set in, and our emotions boil over and begin to accuse God of being unjust and unkind.
Pain demands a catharsis. It requires something external to take over and to satisfy the struggle in our souls. Cutters, hair pullers, alcoholics, overeaters, drug addicts, etc. desire one thing: control. If we cannot change our circumstances, right the wrong done to us, or heal the illness we suffer, we act to eliminate the pain by creating an alternate issue to cover or surpass the suffering that debilitates us.
In his book, “Hope & Help for Self-Injurers and Cutters,” Mark Shaw, D. Min., says, “God wants the ‘cutter’ and person who is grieving a loss to turn to Him for comfort and resist turning to ‘cutting,’ alcohol, drugs, sex, eating for comfort, or any similar pleasure, to relieve pain.” At its core, this is a self-reliant attitude…God, the Creator, wants His creation to rely upon Him, not oneself.”
We sin when we cross the line and say to God that He is not enough, and we are now the masters of our own lives. Autonomy is an ugly word to God. It declares that God is incompetent, and we can live our lives without Him.
In his sermon, “Friendship, Liberty, and Lordship,” Pastor John MacArthur says, “Being a true follower of Christ means the end of human autonomy. And that is as it should be because self-determination turns out to be nothing more than an illusion anyway. The only kind of liberty it offers is “free[dom] in regard to righteousness” (Romans 6:20)—and that is the very essence of bondage to sin. Its inevitable end is death and destruction. If we want true liberty from sin and all its fruits, it is not autonomy that we need, but a different kind of bondage: complete surrender to the lordship of Christ.”
After Israel suffered 70 years enslaved in Babylon, God tells them, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible always provides a roadmap to our trials, and Jeremiah does that for us as well. First, the verses say we are to acknowledge that God is in control and has a plan for our suffering. Our pain has not escaped Him, He is not asleep at the wheel, and yes, even after years of pain, His plan is still on track.
Second, God tells us to come to Him and pray. Even if we pray for the same issue—like Hannah, God continues to listen.
Third, continue to seek Him. By studying the Bible, listening to solid teaching, joining a church, and humbling yourself before God, you will find the relief your soul longs for in due time—although it may not be in the way you had planned.
Finally, make a habit of rehearsing God’s blessings to you. Recall the ways He acts in righteousness, purity, and holiness. Learn of God’s goodness for it is a part of His character, and God cannot challenge His nature.
So next time we desire to take control of a painful situation, remember that God wants you to come to Him, He desires you to release the reigns of your life, and trust Him. Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”