The first reading and the responsorial psalm give us before and after snapshots of Hannah that can help us understand how dramatically God changed her heart. Hannah went from weeping bitterly to joyfully proclaiming God’s faithfulness. But what happened in between? Well, Hannah tells us that: “The tottering are clothed in strength”, strength from God (1 Samuel 2:4).
Now, that’s easy for Hannah to say, because we know that God answered her prayer. But if we read her story carefully we’ll discover that Hannah changed before she conceived Samuel. After a few words from the priest Eli, Hannah’s despair began to lift, and she could eat and drink again. The next morning, she returned to worship with her husband, free from grief. God had strengthened her even while she waited for the answer to her prayer.
This is a hopeful image for us. We all experience uncertainty when our faith feels weak. But just as with Hannah, God stands ready to strengthen us and steady us with his peace. All he asks is that we lean on him and let him fill us with his grace. And Hannah can show us the way.
First, Hannah persevered. Year after barren year, she went with her husband to offer sacrifice and beg God for a child. Like Hannah, we can persevere in seeking God’s strength, even when we question whether anything will come of it.
Second, Hannah was honest with God. She didn’t bury her anxiety and put on a pious show. She poured out her complaint and admitted her unhappiness. What does this teach us? Well, just like Hannah, we can feel free to tell God exactly how we are feeling. He won’t be surprised or put off. He sees it all anyway. He may not always grant our requests, but he will always give us his peace. And God’s peace will give us the strength to trust him, even in our challenges. If, like Hannah, we persevere and are honest with God, we too can hear the words that Eli told Hannah: “Go in peace” (1 Samuel 1:17).