There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament about a woman named Hannah. She’s married, but can’t have children, and her husband’s other wife adds to the grief of this by taunting and mocking her.
The emotion in the narrative is tangible. Hannah is ‘deeply distressed’ and ‘wept bitterly’ as she prayed to the Lord about her situation (1 Sam. 1:10).
The priest in the temple sees her pouring out her heart in prayer, but because she isn’t praying out loud, accuses her of being drunk.
But Hannah answered, “no my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine not strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.
Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Samuel 1:15-16)
When we’re in a situation that’s really hard on our emotions, it can be really easy to feel worthless and like we’re lacking in faith. We have this idea of what faith looks like, that believing in God against all the odds means we shouldn’t feel, or express the emotion and pain of what our circumstances are putting us through.
This is why I love Hannah’s story so much. She doesn’t hide how she’s feeling or pretend she’s ok when she isn’t. I think her act of faith was to take her anxiety, distress and vexation to the One who could do something about it.
There’s also something very intimate in this story, as it deals with Hannah’s deepest desire. She doesn’t necessarily ‘need’ a child; she is well-provided for at home. But the Father hears her heart, he knows her and remembers her. He intervenes in this situation which is causing Hannah so much heartbreak. She is not simply dismissed as an over-emotional woman.
My friend Garrett reminded me that there’s also a lot of emotion in the Gospels, especially at the end of Mark’s account. Peter weeps, Mary weeps; Jesus himself is “greatly distressed and troubled… sorrowful even to the point of death” (Mark 14:33-34). Was he worthless? Lacking in faith? No. He was bringing his suffering before the only One who could sustain him through it.
And God the Father answers every one of these people in their distress. Peter is forgiven, Mary is comforted, Hannah has not only one son, but many children. And Jesus? He is resurrected, raised from the dead, and becomes the Great High Priest, who mediates salvation for the whole of humanity.
A plethora of emotion doesn’t necessarily entail a lack of belief. Perhaps trusting God with the deepest things we feel is a profound sign of how strongly our faith is rooted into Him. And we can take comfort that God does answer his people.“They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:28-31)