Praying Through the Pain

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.…she kept on praying to the LORD…” I Samuel 1: 10, 12

Infertility is defined as the inability of a woman of reproductive age to conceive after trying for twelve months. It’s a painful experience for women today, and it was a painful experience for women in Old Testament times, as well.

In I Samuel 1 we meet Hannah – a woman who experienced the pain of infertility – compounded by another wife of her husband who provoked and taunted her.  The cycle of hoping and waiting and being disappointed went on year after year.

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe it’s not a baby you have hoped for, but something else:

  • the restoration of a relationship
  • waiting for a job
  • healing from physical or mental sickness
  • a prodigal child to come back to God
  • your husband to come to know God

These are all good things.  If you’ve prayed over good things that seem unselfish and God-honoring, but have yet to receive an answer, maybe you find yourself asking what I like to call “Hurting Heart Questions:”

  • Does God see?
  • Does God care?
  • Why would God withhold good when He has the ability to provide it?
  • Why does God say no or hold back?

Many of us – maybe all of us – have asked those hurting heart questions.  Maybe you are asking them now.  Perhaps you are grappling with a crisis in your life and find yourself saying to God like David in Psalm 13:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say,
“I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Hard places like this–times where we wait and ask and pray–when we know we would rightfully give God the glory if only He would answer, but there is no answer…are what I like to call a crisis of faith.

We will all come to a crisis of faith at some point: a place where we know God can, but He chooses not to. It’s a hard place. A place that has us grappling with the deep theological questions and ramifications of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. A place where our faith is truly and deeply and profoundly tested…

A place where we as women of God must choose to believe God and bow to God in spite of our circumstances.  A place where in the midst of all that we don’t know, we choose declare what we do know:

  • God is great.
  • God is good.
  • God is faithful.
  • God is loving.

And that’s exactly what David does next.  After questioning God in in the  first four verses of Psalm 13, David  makes this declaration in verses 5 and 6:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

And that is precisely what Hannah did, as well.  In verses 9-16 Hannah presses in and prays even through her pain and tears.

The passage says she prays in “bitterness of soul.” Have you mistakenly assumed you need to dry up your tears and put on your happy face before you come to God?

He can take it!

Hannah prays through the pain, through the tears, through the anguish and disappointment. Her heart is hurting, but rather than blaming God, she asks God to open her womb.

Scripture is filled with examples of folks who brought their requests before God…

  • David asked God to heal his child
  • Mary and Martha asked Jesus (God in the flesh) to save their brother
  • Even Jesus Himself asked God to let the cup pass from Him,

Men and women of faith of every generation have brought their pain to God.  It is a choice.  A deliberate act of our will to sometimes deny how we feel and choose to pray.

Sometimes we blame God. Or perhaps become angry with God. Maybe choose to walk away from God.

But I want to challenge you to woman up: to be a woman of God who chooses to trust God even in – especially in – your hurt and pain.

I’m encouraging you to follow Hannah’s example…and perhaps, even in bitterness of soul and in tears, to bring your burden before the One who knows you best and loves you most.

He is ultimately the One with the power to change our circumstances.

The woman of God prays through her pain.


Laura Macfarlan

A video of the entire teaching lecture can viewed here