“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and strike the land with complete destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 1 Samuel 1:1-2
These passages are from two stories in the Old Testament. The first describes a promise of another Elijah coming to the people of Israel before the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord.’ The second speaks of someone having no children, and her grief. Both were fulfilled by God, the first described in the Gospels, the other in a son, Samuel. Since the second story seems more tangible, I’d like to focus there. Perhaps reading ‘the rest of the story’ would be beneficial for you, so take a few minutes to read it.
Hannah’s grief in having no children was intense. Her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, was blessed with children, and she made sure Hannah knew it (1 Samuel 1:6-8). Her husband, Elkanah, trying to sooth Hannah’s distress, failed miserably (1 Samuel 1:8). In this space between for Hannah, she was driven to prayer, so intense and emotional before God the priest Eli thought she was drunk. We don’t know how long Hannah suffered, but the depth of her despair indicates it wasn’t short term, and this wasn’t the first prayer.
For us, the year 2020 seems to be a ‘space between’ time, and it hasn’t been all that much fun. I’m sure we can relate in a small way with Hannah in this story, praying to God for it to be over, but it’s lingering on longer than we might want. Grief appears to be the most appropriate word here as we’ve all lost something. From time with family and friends to the actual loss of people we love (whether to the illness or not), grief seems a constant companion. Reminders of loss arise at every turn and entry into service establishments or churches.
Grieving is okay. Remembering things as they were is okay. Learning how to live in new paradigms is okay. We disciples of Jesus have someone closer than any family member or dear friend. We have someone who is present, showering us with grace and mercy, whether we feel it or not. Even if this between time continues into 2021 and beyond, remembering whose we are and whose is ours will make the hardest times easier. When rough times come, remember the passage in Song of Solomon of one lover for another: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3a).
By Rich Obrecht