Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 1 Samuel 1:6-7
In ancient times, being barren was a major affliction. I suppose it probably still is in many parts of the world. But for Hannah (and for all the other women in the Bible whose stories begin with being barren), it meant no security at all for their future. Once their husband was gone, with no children of their own and with no ability to own property or earn a living, they would be destitute. Desperation, then, does not even come close to describing the state of being for them.
Churches often go through seasons of desperation as well. Maybe you know well what I mean. After years of budget shortfalls and then an economic crisis, there is suddenly a severe conflict and families leaving the church, and then the sudden death of a key leader and then a moral failure on another’s part and so on and so forth…the desperation can all pile up pretty quickly. Then there are the anguishing cries to the Lord, “How long will you allow this to continue?!” Month after month of praying can turn into year after year. The landscape of the church turns into a parched, dry, barren land. Heretofore strong, faithful members begin to question whether the Lord has simply lifted his hand from the church…His glory has departed…He has written “Ichabod” across the door.
In such “barren” circumstances, hope for the future is all but waned completely. It becomes impossible to even imagine a future. Only the most faithful few even remain. It can feel awfully destitute…much like Hannah no doubt felt in 1 Samuel 1.
It bears remembering during such a season that the same God who answered Hannah’s desperate cries (as well as the desperate cries of the other barren women of the Bible) hears the cries on behalf of your church. That same God whose timing for Hannah’s pregnancy was perfect also has the perfect timing for accomplishing His purposes through your church’s barren season. Why did the Lord close Hannah’s womb? So that He would be glorified when Samuel was born. Why has He permitted your church’s curent struggles? So that He will be glorified when the blessings come.
Keep the faith, my friend. He has not forsaken His church. Humbly cry out to Him, seek His face, and He will hear and will answer. In His perfect time.