Today I indulged a bit. I don’t usually watch much TV because I’m weak and I know the effect it has on my mind but the lure of relaxing in front of the TV was too much for me to bear, so today I watched two episodes of one of my favorite shows, “White Collar.” In the show, the smooth talking, well-dressed Neal Caffrey solves criminal cases with the FBI without even wrinkling his shirt. And I sit there eating my potato chips, legs kicked up on the couch, wishing I was him. Great smile. Awesome hair. Slim fit suit. Just the right amount of scruff on his chin. Afterwards, my life doesn’t seem so exciting as I daydream about living the high life full of adventure, money, pretty things, and designer suits.
These sentiments probably echo through the hearts of many of you. A quick glance through Facebook and we’re already comparing our lives to everyone else’s; it doesn’t take a slick character on TV to make us discontent with life, with the failed dreams and forgotten hopes of our younger days. There’s so much we’ve wished for that didn’t happen, and so much that has happened that we wish never did.
With this thought in mind, I turned to first Samuel 1 and the story of Hannah. Hannah, the mother of Samuel and second wife of Elkanah was barren (which culturally for any woman was highly detestable and looked down upon). The rival wife, Peninnah, was her Neal Caffrey: not only did she have two sons with Elkanah, but she had prestige. She brought the family honor, and probably had awesome hair. Then she went a step further than that: she provoked grief and irritation within Hannah (1 Sam. 1:6). That’s like having Neal Caffrey step out of the TV screen and flaunt around in his skinny pants and charming smile right in front of you! Not just once either, look at what Scripture tells us:
So it went on year by year. As often as she [Hannah] went up tot he house of the Lord, she [Peninnah] used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Sam. 1:7).
Hannah’s life wasn’t what she had hoped for. No one hopes to be a barren, unable to provide any offspring for the family, to be despised by those around her. Hannah was continually in grave distress: she wept, she refrained from eating, she was depressed.
Often times we feel this same way about life, like God dealt us the wrong hand, that our lives weren’t supposed to end up this way. We think about what we could be doing, how different our lives could have been had we chosen a different path. Yet we’re stuck with this. This life is ours to own for who knows how long.
Yet consider what Hannah did: “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (1 Sam. 1:10). She wept bitterly and vowed to give her son to the Lord “all the days of his life.” This wasn’t a vengeful bitterness, but a passionate and heartfelt bitterness that conveyed the depth of her longing for change. Her prayers were real. They weren’t afterthoughts. They weren’t a last-ditch effort after she had tried everything else. Her prayers were a natural response to the difficulties of life.
Justin McKitterick writes, “where are the men with calloused knees and tender hearts? How easy it is to feel conviction over our prayerlessness yet do nothing to change. Too often we are content with halfhearted requests uttered as we drift off to sleep instead of enjoying the awesome privilege of deep communion with God himself.”
When’s the last time you wept bitterly in prayer? Have you ever? You are discontent with your life but have you petitioned the Lord through prayer? And when’s the last time you committed the result of your prayers to the Lord? Or are all your prayers about you?
We know that God is sovereign, and in being so he’s equipped us with a very powerful, potent weapon: Prayer. In our distress and discontentment we have the ability to petition our Lord, and boldly. Hannah did so and she bore Samuel, the last judge of Israel and the man who anointed both King Saul and King David. Imagine having a passionate prayer life that results in calloused knees and God’s life altering blessings! Neal Caffrey, you have nothing on our God.