Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. (I Samuel 1:2, 6)
Hannah was one of two wives taken by Elkanah. She was barren, while Peninnah was not. Yet, her husband loved her deeply - in spite of the fact she could not bear him any children. Hannah lived in anguish because she was barren - for it was the supreme act of a woman to bear her husband children in those days. To be barren meant she was not fulfilling her entire 'duty' as a wife - although she may have been loved very deeply by Elkanah, she felt 'less than' when she considered how the other woman could bring forth Elkanah's progeny. I wonder how many times we consider ourselves 'less than' just because we look at others as the 'standard' by which we measure ourselves and not God's view of us as 'immensely loved and cherished'?
It is easy for others to look upon our lives and criticize what they see on the surface, isn't it? The more we allow their 'impression' of what is on the surface to determine what we become on the inside, the more we will be down on ourselves. God is the only judge of our character that is trustworthy. He is the only one who really knows the intent and desire of our heart. He alone is the one who proclaims our worth or value. So, why do we put so much thought into what others think of us, how we measure up to their standards, or how well they speak of us? Maybe it is a bit of pride - for we all want to be thought well of, don't we? It could be a bit of envy because we might want what others have, not even knowing the 'price' they may have paid to have whatever it is they have.
There is something within this passage I want us to see: "...the Lord had kept her from having children." Why would God keep her from having the desire of her heart? As we read on in the account, we see how much anguish this caused her - not only because she was taunted by Peninnah, but because she so yearned to be a mother. The story goes on to reveal that year after year, feast time after feast time, she'd come to the Temple of God and pray for a child, until one year God heard her plea. That very night, she was with child. We may not understand God's delay in answering our prayers, but we can count on the fact he never turns a deaf ear to our prayers. Samuel would come of this union - of this extreme 'delay' in God's plan. Could it be that God was preparing Hannah's heart to be ready to bear Samuel and at the same time be ready to dedicate him to the service of God?
Hannah remained faithful through all those years to love her husband, follow her God, and be the woman called her to become. She never took her eyes off of God's standard, even when others tried to impose theirs on her. The more we use a standard other than God's to view our circumstances, the more we move into feelings of despair and a lack of worth. Whatever standard we are using other than God's is 'flawed' and will bring us more anguish than we might ever realize. Keeping our eyes on God's standard might mean we experience a delay in 'accomplishing' what we desire, but it is his perfect timing that makes all things perfect! It can be the hardest thing to wait on God's timing, but as long as we remain faithful to what he shows us to do, we are in the right place for his blessing to come. Just sayin!