Introduction: Talking with my classmates at one of my high school
reunions gave me a profound insight. I realized that everyone in my
high school class, even the most popular, had feelings of
inferiority when they were in high school. It just came with being a
teenager. Do people ever get over that feeling? I doubt that anyone
completely gets over feeling that others are better. Indeed, unless
you are the most talented person in the world, others are better.
The Bible tells us to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”
( Romans 12:3) and encourages us to be “humble” ( Ephesians 4:2).
But, what happens when your sense of self-worth becomes so low that
you have trouble living? How should we react when those closest to
us have well-intentioned, but unhelpful solutions? Let’s plunge
into our study of the Bible and learn from the story of Hannah, a
woman who suffered severe problems with her self-worth.
- The Problem
- Read 1 Samuel 1:1-2. What problem do you instantly see
with this family? (First, the husband has two wives –
which sets the stage for rivalry. Second, one wife
(Peninnah)has children and the other wife (Hannah) has
- Is this Hannah’s fault? (“Fault,” might not be the
right word, but the failure seems to be on Hannah’s
side of things because the other wife bore children
with the same husband.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:3-5. How do you think the husband’s
practice affects the situation?
- Do you think he is trying to make things better?
- Do you think this is working? (Of course not. The
husband might have the best intentions, but he
cannot be that smart. Why should the wife who has
more children get less? The text says because the
husband “loved” Hannah – with the implication that
he loved Peninnah less or not at all). The
combination of those two things has got to make
- What do you think is important about the fact that
the husband’s gift is meant to compensate for the
fact that the “Lord had closed her womb?” (The
suggestion is that God does not care for Hannah. She
is suffering under some sort of curse – and her
husband is trying to make up for God’s disapproval.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:6. Are we surprised? Put yourself in
Peninnah’s place. You have the children and therefore
should rightly have the greater affection. What would
you do in her place?
- Read 1 Samuel 1:7-8. Is Hannah at fault for her husband’s
actions? Is there anything that she can do to help her
situation – to stop the insults from Peninnah?
- Has the husband correctly identified the problem?
(He thinks the issue is about him. If Hannah has
him, why does she need children?)
- Has that thinking worked so far? (No. This is
what is behind the “double portion” solution
that is causing problems.)
- What, really, is the issue? (It has to do with
Hannah’s feelings of self-worth. Not the worth of
her husband. She thinks that if she were worthy she
would reflect her husband’s love by bearing him a
child. Her husband says “You’ve got me – I’m worth
more than many sons. Good to hear that he has
feelings of self-worth, but it is not doing much to
fix the real problem.)
- When a person is having trouble with self-worth,
have you ever said “God loves you?”
- Are you being like the husband? Or, is this
- Let’s divert for a moment to a parallel story. Read
Genesis 30:1-2. How are Rachel and Jacob handling this in
comparison to Hannah and her husband?
- The Solution
- Read 1 Samuel 1:9-10. This is our first clue about what
Hannah is doing to try to “fix” her bitter situation.
What is it? (Crying and turning to God.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:11. Does Hannah seem to think she is
cursed? (No. She asks God to notice her misery and to
remember her. She does not seem to believe that God has
already noticed her and has cursed her.)
- What contract does Hannah offer to God?
- Is this a bribe?
- Have you ever prayed that if you won the
lottery, you would give half of it to the
- Is your lottery offer a “Hannah prayer?”
- Who gets what benefits in Hannah’s prayer
offer? (Hannah gets to say that she bore a son
– and that should stop the abuse at home. She
would know that her son was alive – although
not with her. God would get a man that, as a
Nazirite, was specially set apart to Him. (For
more about the Nazirite vow, see Numbers 6.))
- Normally, the Nazarite vow was taken for a certain
period of time. Hannah pledges that her potential
son will be a Nazirite all of his life. Can she make
such a promise for her son?
- Read 1 Samuel 1:12-14. How does this fit into Hannah’s
feelings of a lack of self-worth?
- What does this show us about the intensity of her
- Have you prayed as intensely as that?
- Read 1 Samuel 1:15-18. What does Eli say that causes
Hannah’s change in attitude? (He prays for her and
suggests that God has heard her prayer.)
- I may have seemed critical of Hannah and her “bribe.”
What is good about her approach and the approach of Eli?
(Humans are not perfect. God wants us to turn to Him with
our problems. Hannah has done this. If I were shown a
record of all of my stupid, selfish, “bribe” prayers in
the past I’m sure I would be embarrassed.)
- Answered Prayer
- Read 1 Samuel 1:19-20. What is the result of Hannah’s
imperfect prayer? (She gets what she requested – a son!)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:24-28. Tell me what kind of feelings are
going through the minds of Hannah, Samuel and Eli? (I’m
not sure any of them are excited about this. Hannah is
keeping her word, but it is probably breaking her heart.
Samuel does not want to leave his mother and his home.
Eli is probably asking himself what he is going to do
with this little kid?)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:1 and 1 Samuel 2:9-10. What is the key to
Hannah’s joy and her victory over her problems? (She
rejoices in God. She says that we do not have victory
over our problems by using our strength, we have victory
by relying on God.)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:18-21. Recall that at the moment that
Samuel was handed over we speculated that no one was
excited about the transfer. How do things seem now?
(Hannah has had several children. Eli seems to be happy
with the situation. Samuel is growing up in the presence
of God. It seems like a much happier situation.)
- Read 1 Samuel 3:19-21. How does this whole situation work
out for Samuel and Israel? (Samuel becomes the instrument
by which God speaks to His people.)
- Contemplate the original problem and how things
ended up. When you face problems, could it be
because God has great things in mind for you or your
- Is every problem an opportunity for God to be
glorified through you?
- Friend, are you struggling with some problem? Are you
having issues with your self-worth? Will you turn to God,
seek His help, and look for great things to happen?
- Next week: Jonathan – Born for Greatness.