Devotions on Emotions (and Scripture) by the First Pres Pastors
A reflection on the following scriptures
1 Samuel 1:1-18
I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.
My first on-call presence that challenged me as I interned as a hospital chaplain in seminary was for a birth. I was honored to be present with a mother and father welcoming a child into the world but also holding them all in deep prayer as this little girl was born with significant omphalocele and other birth defects. Her major organs had developed outside of her body; so that joy of birth was also tinged with major anxiety, worry, and fear. While mom went through childbirth fine physically, I can only imagine the deep sorrow that surrounded her and her family as she was discharged, and her daughter was not. It was the first funeral I co-presided over a few weeks later, too when that infant passed.
What comfort and presence can God provide in that emptiness and silence? As I think about that powerful emotion of loneliness, I remember that mother and her child. I also remember another deeply lonely woman who waited for a child, one named Hannah. The beginning of the Biblical book of 1 Samuel we meet Hannah and hear of her pain in desiring to be a mother. While surrounded by a loving husband and children by his second wife, she still wept, and her heart ached. She prayed and she petitioned God. For Hannah, her prayers were answered – she gave birth to the priest Samuel. Because another powerful note on Hannah is that first child she borne, she returned him back to God. Samuel was raised as a priest in the temple after infancy.
Welcoming a child into the world is a great blessing and we celebrate God’s faithfulness in those times. Yet we also remember in the Biblical stories, like Hannah, are those painful, lonely moments when one feels God has abandoned them. Hannah speaks of her faith sustained in God before she ever knows she is pregnant. And I think the power in the rites of funerals and our joining in worship each Sunday, we also hear words that speak to God’s faithfulness, God’s presence in those lonely, broken times as well.
Ever faithful Lord, we fumble for words to speak in the silence of loneliness and ask your comfort. We pray for strength like Hannah to be faithful in those moments of deep pain and emptiness. Hear our sorrows and our joy. As Jesus’ disciples we pray. Amen.