A few years ago, Lisa and I were privileged to visit the Holy Land.  As part of the trip, we were also able to visit the country of Jordan on the East Bank of the Jordan River.  On one day, on our way to visit the Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan, our tour guide pointed out the great number of mosques we saw in the surrounding area.  As he described what we were seeing, he pointed out that it is legal for a Jordanian man to divorce his wife if she was barren, unable to bare him a child. In fact, even if the wife bore daughters but not a son, it is grounds for divorce.  Even today in that society, the importance and pressure placed upon a man to a male heir is incredible.  Their whole identity is wrapped up in a child.

This is the pressure Elkanah and Hannah suffered in 1 Samuel 1.  Hannah was barren.  She could not bear a child.  The pressure was immense!  She prayed!  For years she prayed!  From the depths of her heart she prayed that the Lord would grant her the ability to bear a son for her husband. To his credit and because he loved Hannah, Elkanah stuck with Hannah and didn’t send her away.  “She continued praying before the Lord.”  (1 Sam. 1:12) 

Even as a child, this story intrigued me.  I could almost feel the pain Hannah and Elkanah must have been feeling.  The emptiness.  The sadness.  The humiliation.  The ridicule at the hands of those around them. 

As an adult, those feelings became a reality.  After a couple years of marriage, Lisa and I decided we would like to start a family.  But month after month went by.  Years went by, and still no child.  We began to see doctors and specialist in hopes of figuring out why we couldn’t conceive.  With good intentions, people began to ask, “So, when will a little Lindeman be coming?”  “When are you two going to start that family?”  “You’re so good with other people’s children, when are you going to have children of your own?”   Each question was met with a smile.  In private, the tears began to flow.  The pressure was on!

It started as a quest.  It steadily grew into more of an obsession.  We dieted.  We exercised.  We visited doctor after doctor.  Medicines were prescribed.  Money and miles were spent to meet with specialists.  Months went by.  Years went by.  Through it all, scarcely a day would go by that we didn’t talk about it, cry about it, pray about it.  And I confess, our identity and self-image was deeply affected by our malady.  Everywhere we looked, it seemed we saw couples with babies, women great with child.  Even those who didn’t want children seemed to have children.  Yet, as desperately as we wanted them, we were left childless.  Why?  Were we not worthy?  Did God not see us as being capable?  What was wrong with us?

We often find our identity in what we can do, what we have, what we can accomplish.  Our self-worth is wrapped up in our accomplishments, our possessions, our abilities, or our status . . . regardless of whether we were actually “earned” those things or not.  When push comes to shove, we become slaves to those things in which we find our identity and self-worth.  We struggle and crumble under the pressure.

Hannah finally acknowledged this truth.  She came to the conclusion that, if she would have a son, that boy would be a gift from God.  She placed her grief, her hopes, and her identity into God’s hands.  In a very real sense, she sacrificed her hopes before the Lord, offering her dreams and desires to God’s care.  And as a result, she found herself at peace, finding her identity and hope in her heavenly Father.  “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.”

When we find our identity in the things of this world, we become slaves to them.  They rule us.  They take over our lives.  We are possessed by them.

But when we find our identity in Jesus, we are set free.  Free indeed!  For it is then that we realize that our identity, our purpose, our self-worth, our hope are founded on something that lasts . . . in our Creator who made us in His image and loves us so much that He was willing to give His Son in exchange for us!  Jesus!  Jesus only!

May you find your identity in Him!

Pastor Tim

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine!”  –  Your Heavenly Father

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