By Cosette Landon
Sometimes, often before we parents feel "ready," we're required to relinquish control over our offspring's lives and futures. Bewildered and apprehensive, a parade of worst-case scenarios can take over our minds. For me, revisiting the story of Hannah and Samuel stirs me to wonder at God's faithfulness and at a mother's trust when faced with letting go.
We meet Hannah, a sensitive soul, who felt every barb of the scorn being hurled at her for her barrenness. Under the pressure of what the Puritans referred to as "severe providences," Hannah flees to her Lord as her only refuge. In the place of prayer, she wrestles with Him for a blessing and receives exactly that for which she prayed—a son. Her deep sorrow gives way to calm and confidence. Later, we find her praying again, this time from a heart filled with joy and thanksgiving to God. But it is this second prayer that we find the most remarkable because she speaks it after she delivers her young son, in accordance with her vow, into an environment as undesirable as we can imagine.
Initially, we're gripped by the premature separation of mother and child. Even though there was certainly supernatural grace given to both Samuel and Hannah, it is hard to imagine that they wouldn't have parted without some grief. We know of no female figure in the temple at that time who would have stepped in to take an interest in Samuel and to nurture and comfort him. He appears rather cut adrift. But difficult as the separation would have been for Samuel, there were several reasons it would have tested Hannah far more.
Hannah was leaving her child to the guidance of an indolent father figure. Eli's destructive personal habits and failures in child-rearing would have been obvious to every pilgrim to the temple. When she released little Samuel to his care, Hannah would surely have been aware of Eli's intemperate eating (condemned by the Lord in 1 Samuel 2:29) and his sons' rebellion. Imagine placing your child under the daily care and instruction of someone with such a track record!
Hannah knew Samuel would be in the company of the wicked would-be mentors, Hophni and Phinehas. Called in 1 Samuel 2:12 "sons of Belial" who "knew not the Lord," Eli's immoral, worthless sons were the worst kind of example and influence for an impressionable young boy. Samuel is suddenly unsheltered—taken out from under the security of godly parents to live amid the corrupt and soul-vexing behavior of this priest's sons.
Hannah knew Samuel was entering an especially difficult life of service while still very young. Placed in the temple for training, it is very possible that Samuel was called on take up the slack for the lazy neglect of his superiors. Whether this occurred, Samuel certainly wasn't free to enjoy hours of play nor the regular companionship of other children. In the unglamorous life of the temple priesthood, his childhood became a sober one of routine, rigor, and responsibility.
Any conscientious parent would instinctively recoil at sending a child into such conditions. But Hannah responds with a prayer of praise. Perhaps 1 Samuel 2:9 reveals the secret of her remarkable faith. Here Hannah proclaims her belief that the Lord will "keep the feet of his saints" and that "by strength shall no man prevail." She needed not fear the excesses and influences her young son would encounter in leaving home. He was fulfilling the Lord's will for his life. She believed the Lord willing and capable to "keep the feet" of this tender saint. And in his unfolding story, we see the vulnerable young Samuel kept safe from the destruction of Eli's wayward household. The time of its influence was fairly short.
When providence calls us to let go, we can find comfort in the Lord's keeping power and the same divine grace that comforted Hannah is still available to us. Whether our children are young or grown and settled near or far, we have every motivation to pray for their deliverance from evil. And for ourselves we can ask for the quieting grace of a confident heart and the cheering hope of joyful expectations, knowing that the Heavenly Father loves our children even more than we do.
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