I remember the day like it was yesterday.
I was a senior in high school, and I had waited months to hear back from my first-choice college. I grabbed the envelope from the mailbox, stared at it for a moment, took a deep breath, and opened it. All of my hopes and dreams were about to become a reality, or I would need to choose a different route.
“Dear Kaitlyn, although you are a strong applicant….” You get the idea. The words seeped into my heart, and my spirit fell in disappointment. I was wait-listed, an even longer period of waiting. I was disappointed and back to where I started: waiting on an answer. I ended up attending a different university and am so thankful that I did. My reality is different than 18-year-old me had expected but so incredibly beautiful and blessed. Have you been here? Waiting for an answer? Or maybe you have your answer, but it doesn’t look like you thought it would. Sometimes our answer is to wait, and when we wait, sometimes our answer ends up being different than we expected or wanted but that doesn’t subtract from God’s goodness or faithfulness. When I think about the desires of our hearts and waiting for answers, I can’t help but turn to 1 Samuel.
In 1 Samuel 1, we find Hannah in a desperate situation. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, has two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, and Hannah did not. Each year, Elkanah would leave town with his two wives and make a sacrifice to the Lord. Every year Peninnah would mock Hannah because of her barren womb until Hannah wept and mourned (v. 7). One day, when they finished the sacrifice, Hannah left the table and prayed to the Lord about her hurts and deepest desires.
“In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1 Samuel 1:10-11
Hannah’s response is so beautiful to me. Hannah had a desire. She had a longing that ran deep within her soul, and she was hurting. She longed for a child and didn’t know if she would ever receive that blessing. Hannah was in a place of deep anguish. Hannah wept bitterly (v. 10). Notice her response was not to become angry or to seek answers but to cry out to the LORD. She was in a dark place of longing and hurt but chose to seek the LORD in her moment of pain. This was years of pain that Hannah experienced. Every year she was beaten down and stripped of her strength to the point of utter humiliation and desperation, but nevertheless, she turned to the LORD in prayer with the conviction that He would fulfill her deepest desire.
Notice Hannah vowed in her prayer that if the Lord gave her a son, she would dedicate his life to the LORD’s service. Hannah was so faithful. Even if God was to fulfill her desire for a child, she was going to give him up so he could serve the Lord. Hannah didn’t vow this so that God would give her what she wanted; she vowed this to Him because she lived under the conviction that only the LORD could satisfy the deep thirsts of her soul. God later blesses Hannah with a beautiful baby boy, and she is faithful to her promise to give her baby up so he can serve the LORD. Hannah teaches us that waiting for an answer hurts, but it is in the waiting that the presence of the Lord is felt the strongest. Hannah didn’t choose to retreat in her moment of hurt. She chose to run to God.
When we are aching and longing, our response is often to retreat. The second we experience pain, we hide from the Lord. We become angry and doubtful, forgetting God’s goodness and all He’s done for us. We seek projection and suggestion from others, craving a glimpse of discernment, but their responses and attempts to help do not soothe our restless souls. We are in pain but refuse to seek the refuge that redeems all wounds and broken dreams. What if we used our hurts to run to the Lord instead of running from Him? I have a feeling that we would face trials with more confidence and trust in God’s promises.
When we go into seasons of trial, hurt, and uncertainty we can know that, no matter the outcome, the Lord works for our good (Romans 8:28). Even if He does not answer our prayers exactly the way we wanted or expected, He is still faithful to provide for us in ways that are so much sweeter than expected or desired.
When we are waiting, longing, and asking, it’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to cry and to ask God. But do not let hurt stop you from running to Him. Don’t be afraid to ask God for your heart’s desires, but understand that even if your prayer isn’t answered in the way you expected, His presence is the only thing that can fill the void in your heart. God is in your midst, and His presence is the only thing that can satisfy your soul. Hannah cried out to the Lord from her hurt and He heard her. He heard her, and He answered her.
However, I have a feeling that even if Hannah did not receive a child, she would still seek Him. Because it wasn’t the birth of her son that satisfied her soul, it was God’s presence amid her waiting place. Where’s your waiting place today? How can you be faithful, even when it’s hard? Identify those areas and then run to God. Tell Him exactly what you’re feeling and ask. I promise you will see Him move. Rest in the truth that no matter the outcome, He is still faithful, He is still good, and is working all things together for you.