Wounds of Grace
Many of us are familiar with the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel. She longed for a child and, when God answered her prayers, she gave him back to the Lord.
There is a key part of Hannah’s story that I had forgotten until I read it this morning. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, had two wives (not recommended, by the way). The other wife is described as Hannah’s “rival.” Though Elkanah loved Hannah, she had no children and the other wife “kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” It was something that “went on year after year.”
Hannah’s humanity is displayed in chapter one. Her dismay and pain led to the point that she wept and wouldn’t even eat. When we think about Hannah, we rightfully recall that her distress was from her longing for a child. But, perhaps, we neglect to recognize that her sorrow was constantly inflamed by the hatefulness of another.
As I read, current wounds on my heart came to mind. Whether they were placed unknowingly or with intention, the question is how do I respond?
From Hannah’s life, one of the first things I learn is that it’s okay to acknowledge the pain. The key is to take it before the Lord. “In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” When Samuel confronted Hannah after seeing her pray and mistook that she was drunk, she said, “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.” That’s not a Sunday school prayer wrapped in a pretty package. Hannah was bearing it all before God and He did not reject that from her. We have the same privilege.
When I’ve cried those ugly tears and laid it out to God, I must stop there in process of reacting from pain caused by another. Unlike Hannah, I have a problem in allowing pride to start seeping into my heart. I must put my heart before God to ask Him to remind me of my own sin. When someone wounds, I’m not coming before God as someone who has never sinned. Just as I have been wronged, I have wronged others. I need God to humble me with that truth because that is where grace is found.
God has and does forgive me. He gives undeserved grace time and time again. When I am confronted with the depth of my sin and am brought to my face by the grace that I do not deserve, it’s the beginning of being able to forgive others and extend grace to them. Who am I to withhold it?
Oh, it may continue to hurt. I may still cry while the wound heals. There are times that it will be harder than others to surrender the indignation of my heart for justice or revenge. That is why, like Hannah, I must keep praying to the Lord and then trust Him to transform my heart (the only heart I am responsible to God for).
If you continue to read Hannah’s story, you will discover that God gave her two more sons and two daughters. I would imagine that, after becoming a mother, she no longer endured the taunting of the other wife (though I would find it hard to imagine Hannah enjoying her presence).
God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the same way. Sometimes the very things that we hate enduring the most are the biggest acts of grace in our lives because of how God is able to use them to work in and through us. (Also, remember that Hannah’s prayers were answered over the course of many years). The hard lesson to learn is that I am called to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:19).
He uses those things to drive us to Himself, to reveal our own sin, and to give us a greater understanding and appreciation of His grace in our lives. God uses it to teach us to extend to others what we receive from Him. He grow us as He commands that we overcome evil with good and to pray for those that persecute.
If you read 1 Samuel chapter 2, you will find Hannah’s prayer after she had given her firstborn back to the Lord. She prayed, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. ‘There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.”
How do we respond when we are inflicted with wounds caused by another?
Focus on praising the Lord – even in the middle of the hurt. Redirect your mind and heart on Him and not the wound.
Ask God to remove arrogance from you so that you may be enabled to give the grace you have received.
Rest on the Rock. He is our hiding place, our protector, and our Healer. Like an old hymn says, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, That shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand.”
Pray for those that have hurt you. (No – not prayers of revenge!) Pray for God’s grace in their life just as you experience it in yours.
Look for opportunities to do good. Oh, how the flesh recoils with this one, right? But it’s not optional. “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thess. 5:15).
We are unable to do any of that without God. But, with Him, all things are possible. Change my heart, Oh God, and make me more like you so that I can see the wound for what it is – your grace!