Grace takes you from where you are in your walk with God in life, to the place where God wants you to be. It is to a place of blessing, for you have been called to inherit a blessing. And, the promise of blessing becomes your experience, through the procedure, the instruction that comes along with it, in the word of God, which is: For, he who would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good, let him seek peace and pursue it. [1 Peter 3:10,11]
To see good days is the desire of every person; nevertheless, bad days may come, but you have a God who is in sovereign control, who can turn it around for your good. It all begins by speaking God’s word into your situation. ‘Let the weak say, I am strong’, is not living in denial, or having your head up in the clouds, but rather, it is a proclamation of faith, as you trust and rest in the truth of God’s word, that He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world. And the light and momentary afflictions that you may be going through even now, is nothing compared to the glory that is going to be revealed in you.
Speaking God’s word then needs to be followed by doing what is good, which simply put, is doing God’s will. And, His will for you is good, perfect and pleasurable, involving a turning away from evil, and a pursuit of peace. Peace in God’s kingdom is experiencing the fullness of all that God has for you, in all areas of your life. For invariably, in every person’s life, there may be an overflow in one area of his life, but dryness in another area. There may be sufficiency in a particular area, but lack in another. Financial surplus may be there, but not good health, for example. But, God’s peace is having all that you need, and in the manner that they ought to be. May you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers, is the blessing of the Lord. God wants you to have completeness in life.
Pursuing peace – the process :
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many become defiled. [Hebrews 12:14,15] Godly blessings come in godly ways. Dealing with bitterness and pursuing peace happens therefore, through the enabling of His grace, as He gives you the wisdom and strength to make it your experience. It is when you depend on your own strength that your efforts will end in a frustrating failure. Do not lean on your own understanding, the word of God declares, instructing you not to lean on your own understanding, but to commit your plans to the Lord. And, He will make you succeed.
Bitterness – its internal dimensions :
Life’s happenings can seem unfair and unjust, when limited to a worldly perspective. For, often things can happen in your life, for no fault of yours, to wound you and make you bitter and sorrowful in your inner being. And, learning to deal with it rightly, in order to overcome it, is of prime importance in your pursuit of peace, to experience the fullness of God in your life. From bitterness to a place of blessing is where God desires to lead you, even as He is with you, to counsel and empower you through His word. It all unfolds through the life of a young woman. She was hurt and embittered internally, due to what people were doing to her externally. And to add insult to injury, it was all because of something for which she was not responsible. Moreover, it was also not in her hands to bring about a solution.
Barrenness – the bitter pain of Hannah :
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord, and wept in anguish. [1 Samuel 1:10] Barrenness was considered to be a curse, in the culture of that day. Now, it is no longer thought to be so, but still, in the heart of a woman, there is always the longing to have a child of her own, once she is married. The bitterness in Hannah, that the word of God mentions therefore, is not in a negative sense. It describes how on account of her unfortunate circumstance, life to her had lost its flavor. There was no sweetness anymore, only bitterness and sorrow, for, what needed to be there was not there.
To her, it was about a child, but when you broaden the context, it can be the lack of a job, a relationship, finance, health etc.The flip side of it would be, when it is there, but not in the way it needed to be. In other words, one woman may be weeping bitterly, for she does not have a child, while another may be in tears, because she has a child who is not living or behaving rightly.Both are enormously painful for the mother ! Hannah, in her barrenness, was experiencing one side of it. And, when she was already in pain, due to her condition, there were external factors that fueled the pain. It was not surprising therefore, that she found herself broken hearted, and in a place of bitter anguish and sorrow !
In the world, there is always the one who is broken hearted, and also the one who is breaking the hearts of innocent people ! One must take care therefore, to look within, examine oneself to ascertain the truth of one’s own condition, by laying oneself bare on the altar of God’s grace. For, whatever side of the equation you may find yourself in, He desires to touch your heart, not to condemn, but to heal and deliver you. It is the knowledge of His truth in your heart, which will set you free. There are many scenarios in which bitterness can spring forth in a person, on account of mistreatment at the hands of another.
Hurt that is intentional :
And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. [1 Samuel 1:6] People can often be offensive, and condescending, to the less fortunate who come in their path, or in their circle of influence. It is the stark reality of this materialistic world ! And, sometimes they may not even be aware of it, which is sadder still, in a way. But, hurt is hurt ! One must be careful therefore, not to lecture with words of pompous self righteousness, the one who does not enjoy the same conveniences of life as you do.
You and I certainly do not know the story, the reason why the ragged little child, knocks at the window of our vehicle, begging for alms, at a traffic signal. The child was once a tiny little baby, cradled in its mother’s arms in tenderness and love. Harsh words of so called advice, only adds to its sorrow and misery. But, even a cup of cold water that you give to the needy, is what the Lord commends. And also, words hurt, even when they are camouflaged as jokes. Solomon, in his wisdom from God, describes it beautifully.
Words of sport, or, deadly wounds ? !
The words of a whisperer or slanderer are like dainty morsels, or words of sport (to some, but to others are like deadly wounds). They go down to the innermost parts of the body, or (of the victim’s nature) [Prov 26:22] They can be casually spoken words, said as if they are not meant to be taken seriously, but in a world where communication is primarily through words, they will still cause pain and hurt. It is why God’s word declares that life and death are in the power of the tongue. And open rebuke is easier to deal with, than smooth words that polish and cover up bad intentions of the heart. It is what Solomon goes on to picturesquely capture in the very next verse.
Smooth lips, and evil heart ! :
Like glaze covering an earthen vessel, are smooth lips with an evil heart. [Prov 26:23] Words of some people can be nothing but empty flattery, like an ornament that looks like gold, but is not truly made of precious gold. The psalmist expresses similar sentiments too; and such people are around even today ! With speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war; With words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords. [Psalms 55:21] It is the one who pretends to be your friend, while harboring evil within. And it all leads to a powerful underlying truth of a heart and mouth disconnect that can affect any area of your life. The bible emphasizes its’ significance in your worship and your faith.
True worship and godly faith :
God says about the Israelites, through the prophet Isaiah, These people draw near Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me; their worship of Me is nothing but rules taught by men. [Isaiah 29:13] It is a powerful indictment from God Almighty that stresses the necessity of a heart and mouth connection in your worship of Him. And, faith is effective only when you believe in your heart, to confess it with your mouth. It is then that the transaction is complete. It is the foundational truth in the kingdom of God, where pretense and the counterfeit find no place at all.
People can hurt you with their words. Guard your heart therefore through divine discernment, from needlessly getting hurt. It may be difficult, but God’s enabling grace will make it all possible. The other side of it is very important too; that you may not be the one who causes hurt ! And, truth concerning one’s own self is often very unpalatable to receive, and difficult to swallow. It is why David prays, ‘Lord, see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way’. And, led by God, strengthened by His grace, you can shine as pure gold, not hurting people, either intentionally or unintentionally. But, when offensive words are thrown at you, time and time again, continually for years, it can undermine your spiritual vitality. It is what Hannah experienced.
When the joy of your faith is undermined :
So it was, year by year, when Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her; therefore, she wept and did not eat. [1 Samuel 1:7] ‘I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord’, are the words of the psalmist. But, to Hannah, what was supposed to be a joyous ascent, to the temple of God with her family, became a time of being taunted by her rival, year after year. And when what is meant to be a joyful event, is a bitter experience because of sheer pain and provocation, even your faith can be questioned or undermined.
For, when you are in the house of God, in worship and in praise, week after week, but still see no visible sign of an answer to your prayer, people around you, can be offensive, going even to the extent of maligning your God. And, what could be more painful than that ? ! David writes about one such experience ; As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God ?’ [Psalms 42:10]
What happens when even spiritual things become difficult ?
Therefore Hannah wept, and did not eat. [1 Samuel 1:7] Hannah shed tears, and did not eat; David goes a step further in describing his pain; what he ate and drank were his tears !! My tears have been my food, day and night, as they continually say unto me, ‘Where is your God’. [Psalms 42:3] But the truth was, God had answered David’s prayer; there was only a gestation time that was involved. His identity was going to be recorded forever as ‘the man after God’s own heart’ ! It is just that some prayers take a longer time for the answer to be seen.
But, one never knows what God is doing behind the scenes. He is the good Father, who loves to give good gifts to His children. He has nothing bad at all to give, because He is a good God. Passing judgment on the faith and spirituality of a person, based on an, as yet unanswered prayer in their life, would not be a wise thing to do at all. Stretch out your hand instead, to strengthen and encourage them.
Stand with the suffering and broken people, whom God sends in your path, lift them up, and help them to stand upright. It will not only minister in their lives, it will also bring healing within you. Lord Jesus, when He healed and restored the sight of the blind man, pointed out the needlessness of investigating the cause of the man having been born blind. The ultimate reason, the Lord said, was that the works of God may be revealed in the blind man.
A sorrowful spirit :
This was the condition of Hannah, as the bitter provocation took its toll in her. But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my Lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit’. [1 Samuel 1:15] And in words with which you and I can identify with, when oppressed by the enemy, whoever or whatever it may be, David describes : For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness, like those long dead. Therefore, my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed. [Psalms 143:3,4] And even now, if you too are like David, crushed to the ground, unable to rise up, because of the painful oppression in your soul, you need to see it, and see it through the scriptures, that you may come out on the other side.
The pain of being misunderstood :
When the inability and lack in a person gets insulted, the pain increases. Eli, the priest, mistook her to be a drunken, worthless person, as she was praying in deep agony, that she could not even vocalize. But Hannah clarified her condition, saying, ‘Regard not your handmaid as a wicked woman, for out of my great complaint and bitter provocation I have been speaking’ [1 Samuel 1:16] She was in the house of God, pouring out her agony unto Him. And, the representative of God, Eli the priest, an old man who had been serving the Lord for many years, misunderstood her, to insult her character.
How painful it must have been to the broken woman ! When people who are close to you, and who are supposed to understand you, fail to do so, the bitter anguish can be overwhelming. Hannah was able to clarify her position though. And, it all reinforces the truth of how every person needs to develop a sympathetic attitude towards others, to speak the truth with courage, clarity and compassion. For, truth spoken without compassion will hurt people Hannah, even in her pain, had the understanding to be able to clarify.
May God bring into your life, people with understanding, who will stand with you to lend you a helping hand in your times of need, that you may stand upright. And, may God make you a person who will be the hand of comfort and strength to people who are weary. The world today is so full of apathy, and polluted by evil and strife. But, in its brokenness, the world needs to experience the peace of God through the children of God, who know that there is a loving and understanding God.
The One who fully understands you :
There is someone who understands; and, Hannah went to Him; to the Lord who understands you today, always. You may be as complex as complex can be, but the Lord God your Maker will never misunderstand you. Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, offered sincere words of comfort; but man’s comfort can never be a substitute for the comfort that you receive from God. The one word of comfort from Him will make all the difference in your situation, drowning out a thousand words of comfort that may come to you from people. Therefore, do what Hannah did; just go to Him.
Pouring out your heart to God :
I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. [1 Samuel 1:15] Hannah focused on God; it is wondrously expressed as a pouring out of her soul. And, David with clarity says why you and I can do so. Trust in Him at all times, you people. Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. [Psalms 62:8] Being guarded with people may be a necessity at times. But, it should not lead you to being guarded with God, for He is your refuge. You can bare yourself, and go to Him just as you are, without any pretense, for He knows you completely. He knows it all.
And, true prayer happens, when you know that God knows it all ! Being open and vulnerable with Him in prayer is a sign of your trust in Him. And, it is when you open up to Him that you can receive from Him. David goes on to emphatically declare why, you need to trust in God alone. Surely men of low degree are a vapor; men of high degree are a lie. If they are weighed on scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor. [Psalms 62:9] And it is John Bunyan who has said thus, ‘A heart without words is infinitely better than words without heart’. ! Maybe today, you are or have been misunderstood, and your pain is so great, that you are unable to vocalize it. But God understands. And, as you focus on Him, He answers you. Hannah received a wonderful reply from God that settled her heart.
‘Go in peace’ :
Then Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him’. [1 Samuel 1:17] And, Hannah knew in her heart, that she would be barren no more ! With a transformed countenance, she ate and drank; her face was no longer sad ! So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son. [1 Samuel 1:18]
Talking about Sarah, the word of God says, it was by faith that she received strength to conceive. [Hebrews 11:11] The Lord gave Ruth conception and she bore a son. [Ruth 4:13] And, it is true not just in the physical realm, but also in the spirit and in your soul. For the word of God is the seed, which when planted in the land, the soil of your heart, will bring forth a fruitful yield, that He may be glorified in your life.
His vision for your life conceived
Through God’s word of promise to you, received by faith in your heart, you will be enabled, strengthened to conceive an idea, or a plan, an enterprise, or a company, or whatever vision He has for you. It will in time see your life become abundant and prosperous. Hannah conceived in course of time and bore a son, to rejoice and exalt in the Lord. She entered into a new chapter in her life. It was one of joyous fulfillment, and she sang a new song, a song of sweetness from the Lord.
The new song ! :
You may have been like Hannah, taunted and misunderstood, but a glorious second chapter awaits you. You will stand in the same place as Hannah to proclaim her joyful words, ‘No one is holy like you Lord, for there is none besides You; nor is there any Rock like our God’. [1 Samuel 2:2] You will know and say, ‘No one can understand or minister to me like Him. I was down, but now He has lifted me up, to put a new song in my mouth’.
From bitterness to blessing in CHRIST !
As you sing your new song, may Christ remain your focus, the one thing in your life, from which everything else flows. Forget the evil that people have done to hurt you. Only remember the soothing word of promise that God has spoken to you. He is the God who turns your bitter marah into sweet water, for when you deal with bitterness and overcome it, you will experience His peace. The Lord went willingly to the Cross, to overcome death, the devil and destruction. And now, by His stripes all the innermost wounds of your broken heart have been healed.
You may have been crushed and broken, unable to lift yourself up, having a sorrowful spirit in you. But, the Lord has lifted you up from the miry cay, to set your feet upon the rock. He has put a new song in your mouth, the song of Hannah, that declares, ‘There is no God like our God’. And, the sweetness of His presence will turn away every trace of bitterness in you, as His grace takes you to the place where He wants you to be the place of blessing, that you may see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
In the Name of Christ Jesus Amen.