Hannah The Frustration of Appetite Denied

Dear Lord,

   I would like to take a moment to thank You for whatever gift I have for writing this book. The Christian community is at present absolutely enthralled by the matter of gifts. I went through a time of great personal disturbance because some of my dearest Christian friends were delighting in gifts and bestowals foreign to the way You were dealing with me. Then a few glances in my direction denoted a hint of envy as I exercised the gifts I had been given. Very confusing!

   Help me to appreciate the gifts you present to me, Lord, and not compare my gifts with those of my friends; for only You know what we truly need.

   In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen.                    

   Christian speakers come in all sizes, ages, shapes, and range of effectiveness. Everyone had told me how I would love Millie Dehnert, so I was prepared not to love her. I just knew she would be one of those fantastically capable women who spend the time left over from handcrafting their luggage telling less capable

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women that they, too, can do anything. I was prepared for someone in stiffly starched saintliness, who had never ever had a run in her panty hose.

   I wasn't prepared for Millie at all! She is cute and pretty and easy to talk to, and had just spilled a bottle of oily medicine all over her new Italian knit suit. I loved her immediately! She is also an excellent Bible teacher. The morning she spoke, she taught from 1 Samuel. Millie introduced me to Hannah, Elkanah's second wife. Hannah in her turn introduced me to the principle for dealing with the depression that comes from frustrated appetite.

And he had two wives; the name of one Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

1 Samuel 1:2                        

   In Hannah's day any woman who failed to produce children was considered a useless link in the chain leading to the Messiah. Hannah had no children. Bad as that was, it was not the worst part. The worst part was that her husband's other wife did have children!

   Can you imagine being one wife in a two-wife household, and the other gets all the favors? Elkanah loved his wife Hannah. He said she was his favorite, but when the time came for him to offer temple sacrifices in honor of his wives, guess who got the smaller portion?

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And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.

1 Samuel 1:6                    

   Of course she did! More than one woman cannot function in a household without causing rivalry and not just in the kitchen. They can work it out, but women are basically as competitive for their roles as Olympic challengers are for their medals. When the contest is over, the atmosphere can be quite cozy. Until that time, there can be love, support, fellowship, and selflessness, but there is still rivalry.

   In the case of Peninnah, there was little love, and certainly no support. I can just hear her: "Hannah, I've got to run by the store and pick up the decorations for Junior's birthday party. But of course you wouldn't know anything about that. You don't have children." Or, "Hannah, whose turn is it for the car pool? Oh, you don't know, do you? You don't have children!"

   Childbearing is not the only creative activity available to women, but childbearing was the one thing Hannah wanted most. It would have given her an unquestioned place in the plan of God, an unequivocal part in His creativity, and unrivaled assurance of productive purpose satisfied. Poor Hannah reacted by becoming depressed.

   Hannah was depressed because she was in a very depressing situation. The way she dealt with her depression offers you and me a victorious way to deal with ours.

   To help us understand Hannah's victory, let' consider

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some of the details of her misery. Maybe we can identify with them.

   ...therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am I not better to thee than ten sons?

1 Samuel 1:7, 8                

   Every time they went to the temple, poor Hannah got a fresh set of sorrows. Weeping, she refused to eat. (Here I differ from Hannah. Under stress I weepeth little and eateth much.) Enter loving husband.

   "Why, Hannah, why in the world are you sad?"

   She sniffled up at him from the depths of whatever they used as tissues. "I don't have any children, and what's-her-name has a whole kindergarten."

   Now Elkanah prove himself to be pure man. "But Hannah, my love," he says, putting down his paper after first marking his place, "why should that make you sad? You've got me." (I can just picture the expression on Hannah's face.) "Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

   Elkanah loved Hannah. She pleased him. There is nothing to indicate they were not a close and loving couple, but.... If anyone reading this, man or woman, is suffering the agony of a deep, repeated depression that, like Hannah's, is a result of being non-productive, you know that one of the deepest hurts is the lack of understanding from someone very close to you.

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   Young couples always think they will go through everything together. But God does not deal with us collectively. He deals with us individually. Love makes it possible for us to empathize with things we can't understand, but love does not give experiential understanding. Hannah's comfort was not to come from Elkanah.

   Poor old Elkanah! Imagine how depressed he would become, dwelling on the fact of Hannah's depression. One depression can easily lead to another!

   Hannah did a smart thing. Instead of belittling her husband because he didn't understand her, she figured out that Elkanah was not her source of help, and went to a higher court. She went to the temple to pray out her problem.

Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunking. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.

1 Samuel 1:13, 14                    

   The highest human agent for organized religion offered her only sharp words of correction! None of that helps Hannah one bit. She didn't get understanding from her husband, and now her priest gives her a temperance lecture.

And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt... give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all

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the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

1 Samuel 1:11            

   Hannah, who had exhausted the means of human counsel, was in the best shape she'd been in since the first of the chapter! With no help from Elkanah, no understanding from Eli, she applied the principle that releases the believer from the frustration of an unfulfilled appetite.

   She offered her request to God Himself and asked Him to render her productive. She turned the desire of her heart over to the Lord God Almighty and promised to give back to Him that which He might give to her. That's the key! "Oh, God, if You choose to make me productive, I will give to You that which You produce through me!"

   That's not as easy as it sounds. Are you praying for creativity, with plans to keep for yourself the produce? Hannah prayed a prayer not of claiming, not of bargaining but of releasing and she was released!

   She prayed out her needs and Eli was touched by her earnestness. He blessed her and she went away smiling.

.... So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

1 Samuel 1:18              

   I don't think she smiled because she was convinced she would have a child, but because she was convinced God would do the right thing. No good thing

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will He withhold. God answered her with a son! A mighty son from a mighty mother because of the limitless might of God.

   She bore Samuel, the last judge priest of Israel. Samuel, who anointed kings. Samuel, who bridged the gap between a nation doing what it thought was right and one that acted under the Sovereign authority.

   Are you willing to give freely unto God that marriage or that career or that creative opportunity you are praying for so earnestly?

And when she had weaned him, she took up with her... and brought him unto the house of Lord...

1 Samuel 1:24                

   Hannah did not take the vow lightly. When she had weaned her child, her only child, she took him to the temple and left him there! She gave back to God that which God had given to her. It was not a casual symbolic gesture. It was real. Hannah went home to a childless house. At least it was childless on her side — Peninnah's side was overrun with teenagers by then.

   However, you can't outgive God.

And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.

1 Samuel 2:21          

   How typical of the grace of our creative God!

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Acting on the Hannah Principle

  Hannah's principle has frequently pointed my stumbling feet in the right direction. I would like to tell you about one time in particular when I, too, put my appetite in the hands of the living Lord.

   Acting is a bewildering profession. In many ways, it is unlike any other career. A doctor is a doctor, whether he is seeing a patient or vacationing in the Bahamas. But an actress not acting is no longer an actress. If I'm not acting, I'm not sure I'm doing anything at all!

   I have loved working with the After Dinner Players, that Christian drama company I formed several years ago. As we began to expand our work, I was working full-time doing the directing and management plus writing the scripts. I do not act with the company, but was thoroughly enjoying the various activities that did involve me.

   It was while I was watching a rehearsal that I sensed the beginning of a longing to be acting again. I knew I could not dismiss that just-beginning hunger the way you dismiss your stomach's gnawing when you've changed time zones and it hasn't. I went home and thought about it.

   I wanted to act again. It had been almost a year since I had been on stage, and I was beginning to miss it. I did not feel free to take jobs that would take me away from home for a full season, and there was no immediate opportunity for me to work in Houston. I could see no possibility for me to resume acting, and yet I had to admit I was thinking of it with real longing.

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   I turned the whole thing over to the Lord, "Lord, I'm going to give You this right away, before it's too much trouble for either of us. I'm beginning to want to act again. I don't want to interfere with what You want to do through me, and I thank You for the opportunities You are giving me. If You want me to act, open an opportunity. If not, please take away the appetite."

   We can trust God to handle the deepest yearning of our hearts, because He has promised He will withhold no good thing from us. We can be sure that all He gives or withholds is by His good choice. The appetite we try to handle, subdue, dismiss, or deny, will nip us at the heels each step we take. It will trip us, frustrate us, trick us, defeat us, and — like the bully at the beach — kick sand in our faces.

   If you have some hidden or openly admitted yearning, give it over to God. Submit it to the Sovereign authority of His will. Don't hold God to your plan! Hold your plan up to Him and say: "This is my request. This is what I want, but break my plan if You must and let Your perfect will be done."

No Good Thing Will He Withhold

   It was about three weeks later that a friend of many years called me from California. Bill Roberts and I had been actors together in New York. (His death a few years ago brought loss to a great many of us and added a new dimension of joy to heaven.)

   Bill was calling to warn me I might be getting a call from a film producer he had been talking to recently. The next morning Mr. Frank Jacobson called me from

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California and asked me to send pictures and a résume. I honestly thought it was a joke! I told my husband there was no way that a film company would consider an actress whose work they didn't know. There was no possible way my work could be known in California. I had never worked there!

   My husband encouraged me to send the pictures and résume, so I did. In a short time, Mr. Jacobson asked me to fly out for an interview and screen test. I flew out, had the test, met the film's director, James Collier, visited with the president of World Wide Pictures, and called my husband to say the trip was a wasted effort.

   We did further testing and interviews and before I left they told me I would be considered for the role of Katje in the film The Hiding Place. Lorraine and I were thrilled. We praised the Lord for His wonders, and then we read the book. Katje isn't in it! Later, I was assured that Katje had been a real person and would have a significant role in the film, so I began to plan for my two weeks in Holland.

   Jimmy Collier called me again. Would I come out for another day of interview? I asked him, "Have you cast the role of Corrie yet? Could I know who it will be?"

   There was a tiny, earth-preparing pause.

   "You!" Jimmy said.    

   Me! Me? Me to play the part of Corrie ten Boom? How is it possible?

   The night before I left home for my second interview in California, I was very aware of the significance of the opportunity being offered me. I would be playing the part of a real woman who is known and

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loved by millions all over the world. I would be playing a major role in a major movie with established stars, when I had little or no experience in film. I would be gone from my home and my work in Houston for many weeks.

   I prayed, "Oh, Lord, force me to do Your will. I don't even want to want this if it is not of You."

   Then I remembered my earlier prayer, "Oh, Lord, if You want me to act — open an opportunity." A whole chain of events, which the world calls coincidences, and yet there are God's fingerprints all over each link. God touched, used, moved, and blessed people and incidents and opened unto me a door of opportunity.

   The wonder of that whole film experience will take a telling all to itself. The absolute joy of working with Julie Harris, whom I love as a special sister. The craftsmanship of Eileen Heckart, Arthur O'Connell, and the finest crew ever assembled! What it meant to work for the first time with a director whose allegiance was totally to my Lord Jesus Christ — a brilliant director, who served His Master with his craft well honed. The encouragement of Ruth Graham's sensitive letters throughout the filming. The special fellowship with Joan Winmill Brown, whose love and prayer preceded me into each day. The never-failing love and confidence of Corrie ten Boom, who was with us in Holland and most of our time in England. The special friendship with Lillian Postell, Jimmy's secretary, and Ellen deKroon, Corrie's companion. The dear friends from home, Daisy and Jack Kinard, who visited me on the set in London. The assurance that family and friends were prayerfully involved with each day's

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shooting. All the precious people whom God used to bless me with their fellowship, their prayers, and their skills.

   I thank the Lord for the movie. I praise His name for every fact of that wonderful experience, but I am more grateful for the principle that it produced. The movie was for a period of time: the principle is timeless in its accuracy.

... no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11              

The Fulfilled Runner

   One of the heaviest causes of depression and despair is the lack of creative productivity in a life that yearns for it. Much of the depression within the Christian community comes from the dearth of opportunity for creative expression honoring to the Lord.

   There can be no joyful exercise of our talents unless it flows from our fellowship with Christ. The Christian artist who denies God's dictum for relationship automatically cuts off his supply of God's creative energy. That's the reason many Christians who have forsaken a lifestyle compatible with the teachings of Christ find their creative practices stale and unrewarding.

   On the other hand, the Christian community, while quite properly avoiding practices not honoring to Christ, has been deaf to the cry of Christians yearning for expression in the arts. The Christian artist has been weeping tears of frustration under the goading of an

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appetite without opportunity.

   But God never stimulates the appetite without having the meal ready! You can trust Him. God will honor the prayers like Hannah's. I believe we will see Christian drama becoming a ministry along with Christian music. I believe God has purposes other than frustration for all His children, and is working it out in His time in the best possible way.

   We cannot handle the despair of unfulfilled appetites. They lodge in the stomach like stolen manna and cause all sorts of gastric disturbances. I can't cope with that. You can't, either. If you are trying to work out or work around some hidden yearning, you'll never make the course in joy. If you are trying to censor your appetites into submission, you'll never handle the curves in the track. We can only turn these appetites over to God and let Him handle them His way.

   In the next chapter we'll tackle the problem of the Christian halted by guilt, but Hannah's principle is for the freeing from the mire of frustrated appetite.

   Come, Hannahs of the world. God, who strings your tears into necklaces of diamonds, would have you run again! 

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