“Only a small number of the stories that make up the Story in scripture are what we might call ‘nice’ … A good reader can ‘learn’ from every character.” NT Wright, After You Believe

Hannah’s story is not nice. She was married to Elkanah but so was Peninnah (1 Sam 1:1-5). Hannah had no kids; Penny’s SUV was full of tots. When the family went to worship, Elk always gave everyone something to offer to God. “But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb.”

Seems like a nice gesture—except it isn’t. Elk’s “love” stirred up more strife, jealousy, and resentment. Emotional abuse is not love; it’s mind games.

Hannah’s “rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because 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, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat” (1:6-7).

Abuse is always about control. Verbal abuse victims tend to develop an inner voice that says: “what’s wrong with me?” Being bullied makes you think you’re worthless.

Hubby does invite Hannah to open up to him—only to silence her. “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1:8). When narcissists ask, “Why, why, why,” they mean, “stop it, be happy, it’s all about me.”

Hannah finally steps away to pray and now the priest lashes out at her. “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you” (1:9-14). Got to clean up your act when you’re in a place of worship. Spiritual abuse has to control the narrative to project a certain image.

But something happened to Hannah when she poured out her soul to the Lord. “I am not a worthless woman,” she told the priest (1:15-16). She found her voice! “And her face was no longer sad.” Something happens when you pray through the dark tunnel and finally get into the light.

After that, Hannah’s story is all about Hannah’s voice (1:21-2:10). Nice.

God hears the cries of your soul. Pour it out. You can pray through like Hannah. May the Lord restore your voice and fill you with his peace.