1 Samuel 1:1-20
Imagine being aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia as it pierced through the atmosphere on its descent back to earth. As the protective shields on its left wing peeled away, heated gas began to find its way into the cockpit. Although the men and women aboard the shuttle were among the most intelligent and the bravest people this country had to offer, when the hole opened and the heated gases came inside, the astronauts were powerless to do anything to save the doomed spacecraft and themselves.
There’s not a single person immune to being powerless or feeling powerless under the right conditions.
News from a doctor, the stock market, word from a boss about your job, can render us powerless or make us feel powerless over situations in our lives.
There are some people who feel powerless every day. A battered spouse, a person with an addiction, a child without proper care, a person who cannot get help in the legal system–all have the same thing in common, a feeling of being powerless.
When these feelings are prolonged, they wear on our self-image and our feelings of self-worth. They can cause deep-seated anger to well up inside of us or cause us to retreat into a deep depression. They can cause us to become unhappy, lose hope, to miss out on joy, and lose our positive self-image.
Perhaps you feel powerless about something right now in your life. You may have tried to overcome the issue. Perhaps you feel defeated.
One of Satan’s most effective tools to destroy the human psyche and spirit is a voice that whispers messages in our ears that there is no hope, that we are powerless, that we are defeated.
This morning, I want to use Hannah’s story to help us overcome situations where we feel powerless. What do we do?
Hannah was a woman who felt powerless and it affected her sense of self-worth, a feeling that can happen to any of us under the right conditions.
Not only did Hannah feel powerless, but also she even felt despair.
Hannah was married to Elkanah. But Elkanah also had another wife, Peninnah. Even though polygamy was an accepted practice during certain periods of biblical history, there are not any biblical stories where this arrangement produced a healthy family system.
In this family system, Hannah and Peninnah ended up competing for the love and affection of their husband, Elkanah. Because they had to compete for his love and affection, they ended up as rivals.
As it turned out, Hannah was unable to have children while Peninnah was able to give Elkanah several. So, Hannah felt she was not as worthy as a wife compared to Peninnah.
1) If you want to regain power over your life, don’t play the comparison game.
We play the comparison game for two reasons.
A) We are looking for people we think are inferior to us so we can feel better about ourselves. Perhaps we think they are not as smart, not as wealthy, not as good looking, or as popular as we are. We need to be assured that we have worth and to do that, we look for people we think are inferior to us. If we believed everyone was inferior to us, we wouldn’t have a self-image problem; we’d have an ego problem. Can anyone say “Donald Trump?”
B) When we play the comparison game, we are also looking for people that outshine us. We want to know who is getting more attention. Who looks better than we look? Who makes better grades? Who has more friends? Who makes more money? The list is unending. However, all this does is to make us feel bad about ourselves. This is the feeling Hannah got when she compared herself to Peninnah.
The scripture says that year after year when the family went to the house of the Lord to offer their sacrifices, Peninnah provoked Hannah. She irritated her. She belittled her, reminding her that she was a nobody because she couldn’t have children. Hannah was provoked until she cried. She then lost her appetite and fell into a despondent state.
Why? Because Peninnah was her competition. Peninnah could have children and Hannah couldn’t. In Hannah’s day, to be barren was the worst social stigma a woman could have. To not be able to bear a child, it was believed, was a curse from God. So Hannah felt like she was under God’s curse, which is just what Peninnah wanted her to believe.
Hannah gave up her power to Peninnah. Even though Hannah could not have children, she was still her husband’s favorite, so why did Peninnah have power over her?
Peninnah’s opinion mattered because she allowed it to matter.
Isn’t it interesting how we do that to ourselves? People we don’t even like, people who are absolute jerks, end up ruining our day because of something they say about us. Why? Because we allow them to have power over us.
Sometimes it only takes one person’s opinion to throw us into a psychological tailspin. How do we reclaim that power?
Some people hear negative comments for so long they begin to believe them. It could be your parents, a teacher, a coach, a sibling, a boss, an ex-husband or ex-wife, a co-worker, a rival, a peer group. It could be anybody. These important people are people we want to accept us, so we give them a lot of power. If they don’t accept us, their words cut to the quick.
Sometimes, the words of someone that is not important to us at all will remind us of words we have heard from people that are important to us and we think, “Maybe that person is right.” We give away our power.
Hannah allowed the comments of one person to crush her. She felt the pain in her body; she felt it in her psyche; she felt pain in her spirit.
If everyone is telling us the same thing, we ought to pay attention. But be careful about giving your power away to one person.
If we are healthy enough, we can listen to others critiques, see if there is any truth to their words and make adjustments if necessary without giving up our power and dismiss their words if we believe that the problem is theirs and not ours. Because many times, that’s the issue. The problem lies with the person dumping his or her stuff on us.
2) If we have a person that is seeking to take away our power, it may help to have an advocate, but no advocate can do what we must do for ourselves.
It’s always nice to have someone come to our rescue, but no one can give you power if you don’t believe that you have it.
Did you notice that Hannah’s husband Elkanah tried his best to cheer up his wife? He believed she was a person of worth. But she had given so much of her power to Peninnah that she wasn’t able to allow the love of Elkanah to lift her spirits.
When the sacrificial animal was killed and the meat was divided, Elkanah brought Hannah a double portion of the meat. He said to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downtrodden? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
I give Elkanah an A for effort. But have you ever tried to pour self-esteem into someone who wasn’t buying your remedies or your words?
In fact, Elkanah was actually part of the problem. What do you expect here? The man has two wives. Do you really think he can keep them both happy? In showing favoritism to Hannah over Peninnah, he caused Peninnah to hate Hannah more.
In fact, Peninnah probably also suffered from poor self-esteem as well. Look at things from her perspective. She is the one blessed with all the children. From her perspective, she has given her husband everything a husband should have to earn his love and yet she still takes second place to Hannah. So, in order to lift herself up, she tries to tear Hannah down.
Peninnah hated Hannah because she wasn’t able to win Elkanah’s affection.
When other people are trying to tear you down and make an example out of you, remember that the deficiency might not be in you. If you see that person has a point, admit it, seek to get better, but also remember that the deficiency could be in the one trying to tear you down. Be careful about giving away your power.
3) Look what Hannah did next. She stood up and she voiced her pain. If you are suffering from a poor self-image, you need to stand up and voice your pain before the Lord. You need to find a trusted friend or qualified you can confide in.
Admitting that we are weak can release us to grow in our inner strength. (Anselm Gruen, “Building Self-Esteem,” Burns and Oates/Search Press Limited: 2000, p. 74).
Hannah began to take her power back when she acknowledged her weaknesses. She accepted herself, her good points and her inadequacies. (Ibid, p. 54) She named them and voiced her pain.
People with a healthy self-image are those who can admit they have both weaknesses and strengths. They have even learned to look at their own weaknesses with some humor and tolerance. (Ibid, p. 55) When we can come to terms with our wounds, we can find they are potentially life giving rather than only being ugly scars.
4) Hannah made a vow (commitment) as a way of taking back her power. She told God that if he would give her a child she would give the child back to God for all the days of his life. This vow is an example of Hannah trusting in God to take care of her life.
We have to be very careful in making vows as vow-making made out of a moment of emotion without enough forethought can be made unwisely. However, when we make commitments to God they can have life-changing effects on our lives. They can be turning points where we will always look back and say, “That’s the day I reclaimed power in my life because I turned that part of my life over to God.” God is the one with the power and I get my power from God.
2 Samuel 22:33 says that it “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”
That power of Hannah’s vow was that she turned this part of her life over to God. She simply said, “If you bless me with a child, I will give the child to you.” The beauty was that even if God had not blessed Hannah with a child, she still had reclaimed power because she had acknowledged that this was in God’s hands, and hers.
5) Hannah learned that God is the only One we should give ultimate power and authority over us. No human being should be granted that authority in our lives. Because Hannah learned that, she stopped comparing herself to others.
If you are comparing yourself to others, you should stop. We should not base our real value on the opinion of others, their praises or their criticisms.
We should base our worth on the fact that God has made us in His image and that God has offered grace and salvation to us through Jesus Christ. Our worth is based in the saving acts of our Lord Jesus.
In her worship, Hannah found her worth in the assurances of God.
We must have a faith that is deep enough that even if we don’t get what we pray for, we can know that God is going to take care of us. We are in God’s hands. God knows us, has a plan for us, and is journeying with us each day. Our goal is to stay in constant communion with God so we will know and understand God’s will.
6) Hannah left the temple with power because she had faith that God was going to give her what she needed, whatever that might be. She trusted God. She became open to the fact that God accepted her as she was. The basis of our faith is that God accepts us unconditionally.
If you want to reclaim power over your life, remember that God accepts you unconditionally.
Are you struggling with self-image today? Have you been giving your power away to people who should not be trusted with it?
Have you allowed Satan to use anything about you to remind you that you do not measure up and that you never will?
Today, I bring good news. By the power of God’s word, I tell you that if you will allow the promises of God to drop into the barren crevices of your soul, you will begin to sing a new song. You will begin to realize that God has made you and is still in the process of making you.
The feeling of hope you feel inside of you this morning that you can reclaim your feeling of value and self-worth is the voice of God’s Holy Spirit speaking to you, telling you that you are somebody of value because God doesn’t make any junk.
Like Hannah, I encourage you to trust God to journey with you. Make a commitment to him today that you are not going to listen to the negative voices that seek to tear you down, but that you are going to listen to the voice of the Lord who seeks to lift you up and make you into the best possible person you can be, so that you will live the abundant life Jesus made you to live, filled with hope, filled with joy, and filled with promise.
Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit is where you receive your power to live a victorious life every single day.