Saturday, September 08, 2007

What Depression Can Sometimes Lead To

If you have never read Hannah's story in the Bible, it is in 1 Samuel 1-2, in the Old Testament. Hannah is one of Elkanah's two wives. Although she is his favorite wife, she had no children. Year after year, she was reminded of that when the family went with Elkanah when he performed his yearly religious sacrifice and his other wife made fun of her.

Every year during the sacrificial meal, Hannah was depressed and could not eat. But finally one year she decided to go to God and make a vow. Her vow was that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to God to serve him. Her prayer was so intense, the temple priest thought she was drunk. After explaining her situation, she asked him to pray for her, and the priest wished for her everything she asked God for.

And, He did.

She presented the boy to the same priest that saw her praying in the temple, and dedicated him to God. She left him there and visited him every year, bringing clothes that she had made for him. She had five more children afterwards.

I think of Hannah on many occasions. First of all, how the story seems so real on so many levels. Hannah's emotional vulnerability is easy for women to relate to, no matter what trouble they are going through. The Bible shows us a glimpse of what happens a lot in life: a wife depressed and a husband's inability to console her (Hey, you've got me, Honey! Isn't that all you would want in life?).

Then Hannah talks to God. She doesn't go through any middle man priest. She gets very personal and shows her trouble to Him. She makes a vow. She doesn't ask her husband if it would be a okay with him if she left their son with an old guy at a temple several miles away-- an old guy, by the way, who has bad sons and doesn't discipline them. In fact, Elkanah has no idea of Hannah's plan until a year later. Then, he basically says to her it's okay by him, whatever she wants.

He trusted his wife. She trusted him to trust her.

It sort of defies what we would all call a traditional marriage, with the wife making some major decisions independently. I am sure, though, if Elkanah was opposed to it, Hannah wouldn't fight it. But Hannah knew that her godly husband would not oppose such a vow to God. He would support it, and he continued to support it throughout each year when they visited their son and worshiped together. And even though they did not get to raise their son on a daily basis, he turned out to be a godly man despite the circumstances, not by accident nor a lucky break. Samuel knew his purpose, it was to serve God. And Hannah understood, by the evidence of her prayers recorded in the Bible, what kind of God Samuel was meant to serve.

Because of his sons' bad behavior, the temple priest, Eli, was warned through prophecy that his family--that was set apart by God since the days of Moses and Aaron--was to be wiped out. God warned him through Samuel when the day was soon approaching. And Samuel took Eli's place in serving God. And when the people wanted to replace God's leadership with a king, Samuel brought the demand to God and did what God wanted him to, even though it meant a place of lesser prominence for himself and his family. Samuel was a man of true godly character.

A lot of the time, I hear other believers say that Christians should never be depressed.

But here is the story of Hannah who was sad for many years. She did not hide it. She felt what she felt. She poured her heart out to God. She made a decision, not out of blind faith, but on faith full of knowledge of the Almighty. Her emotions led her to God, not away from Him. And when she went to Him, the servant of God, Samuel resulted. And God makes sure that we know about Hannah. Maybe because there is something there for both men and women to learn from.

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