Recently, while reading the familiar story of a woman in the Bible named Hannah, I was struck by how she chose to handle the trying situation she found herself in with her rival, Peninnah.
In First Samuel, chapter 1, we meet a man named Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah, who is believed to have been Elkanah’s wife first, had no children. But Peninnah, on the other hand, did.
Year after year, we are told, Elkanah went up to worship and sacrifice to the LORD at Shiloh (verse 3); and year after year (while there), Peninnah would torture and berate Hannah for not having any children, a source of shame for women in biblical days.
In verses 4-7, we read, “On the day that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah, his wife, and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, [Peninnah] used to provoke her. Therefore, Hannah wept and would not eat.”
So, during this time set aside to worship the Lord, Peninnah, instead of worshiping and giving thanks, as she should have been doing, chooses to provoke and torture Hannah (which possibly sprang from jealousy, as we see that Elkanah loved Hannah). Nevertheless, Hannah’s response to her attacks is nothing short of amazing, and it’s a response that we, as Christian women, must endeavor to make in our own times of attack. In verse 9, we see that after they’d all eaten and drank, Hannah got up and went to the temple. “She was deeply distressed,” verse 10 says, “and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.”
Now, not once, as we see, did Hannah “clap back” or attempt to berate her attacker, nor did she implore and nag her husband to “put his other wife in her place”; instead, Hannah chose the better way—she ran to the One who has all power and might, the One who could love her, comfort her, and take care of the one who intended to harm her.
After pouring her heart out before her Father, verse 18 tells us that Hannah went on her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad (cf. Psalm 16:11). And because Hannah chose to respond in faith and prayer to the Almighty, He remembered her; and in due time, He answered her petition to open her womb, blessing her with Samuel, whom we now know as “The Prophet Samuel” (verses 19-20).
Sisters, when faced with mean-spirited, vicious attacks, the first thing our flesh wants to do is rise up; however, we aren’t called to walk in the way of our flesh, but in the way of the Spirit. As children of God, we are called to a higher standard; we are called to imitate Christ, in His actions and interactions. Many times Jesus was attacked, and for no reason at all; yet, “He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He never retaliated.
As followers of His, carrying our crosses as He did, we must take the same stance. We must let God avenge, because as He tells us in Romans 12:19, vengeance is His, and He will repay (in his own time and way).
Peninnah, who’d laughed and mocked Hannah in the beginning of our chapter, was no longer laughing and mocking when God remembered Hannah. As I always say to others, “God can handle folk (and situations) far better than we can.” So sisters, I beg of you today, to let Him do just that. Let Him be God (while you obey). He can handle it.