Pray for the Discouraged

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Surrender Yourself
We read in Samuel 1:9-11 that Hannah gets up, she surrenders, and she cries out to God. She says, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” She pours her heart out to the Lord in this moment. She got up, she took her empty cup that no one else could ever fill for her, and she finally holds it up to God.  After this crying out to the Lord and a discussion with Eli, Scripture tells us that she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. But why? What changed? Was she pregnant? No. Did God tell her that she would become pregnant? No. Was there this audible voice promising deliverance? No, nothing like that. Nothing changed, but she surrendered her circumstances to God and accepted that he is the Lord of Heaven's armies. He has power. He can be trusted. And finally, the Bible says that after some time she was given a son and she named him Samuel, which means heard by God or asked of God. Chapter two begins with Hannah praying another prayer. It’s a prayer of celebration, in which she states, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: What in your life do you need to surrender over to God and cry out to him regarding? Will you humble yourself and do that today?
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Looking for Deliverance
Everything given plus little replenished equals desperately empty. So many of us look to outside sources to fill our cup when we feel empty and drained. You might hold your cup up to your spouse, your children, a new house, a promotion, or a new car, but only Jesus can fill your soul. Nothing can fill the place that was designed by God for himself. We see in Scripture that Hannah’s cup was empty and she's hoping her husband can fill it. She think, at least initially, if only I could have kids then my cup would be filled and I wouldn't feel discouraged anymore. Like many of us, Hannah keeps holding her empty cup up to all these sources and she is left feeling even more discouraged.  In 1 Samuel 1:9 we read that after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. This phrase, “got up”, is communicating more than a posture. In other words, she's tired of feeling the way she feels. She doesn't want us to sit down and feel this way any longer. She gets up, and she goes. When you're discouraged, one of the most difficult things to do is to get up. Hannah goes to pray and she prays with some desperation verse 10. The verse says, “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” And the word for crying bitterly here indicates like a presence of tears; it’s wailing and weeping. In fact, there are five Hebrew words in these handful of verses that describe the emotion that Hannah felt. All of which we would probably connect to or describe discouragement. We don't even have enough English words to translate those five words. So, there aren't enough words to capture the amount and degree of discouragement that Hannah feels. Some of you know this level of discouragement and the difficulty that comes with even communicating it.  DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Who or what have you held your cup out to in the past for it to be filled? What was the result of looking to someone/something outside of God to fill your soul?
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Weight of Disappointment
A simple equation for discouragement is disappointment plus time equals discouragement. When you're disappointed and the same things keep happening or that same person keeps letting you down, it can feel frustrating and overwhelming. Maybe it feels like it’s been that way for so long that you've run out of hope that things could ever change. Samuel 1:7 shows us just how desperate things were for Hannah. The verse says that she was in tears and so upset that she wouldn't even eat. Hannah is experiencing emotional exhaustion, but it's turned into physical exhaustion that consumes her.  One of the reasons Hannah was especially discouraged was because she was living with these constant comparisons. Panina, her husband's other wife, was always there to remind her of how Hannah was less than because she didn’t have children. Most of us compare ourselves to others pretty regularly, whether we realize it or not. When we do this though, we tend to compare ourselves to the strengths of those people and inevitably that begins to cause discouragement in our lives. Especially if you, like Hannah, have somebody in your life doing that to you, who thinks that they might be helping you by pointing out your weaknesses and comparing you to someone else; hoping it will make you realize some places you need to grow. But their criticism and comparison only adds to the level of discouragement we feel and oftentimes leaves us feeling incredibly lonely. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Who in your life do you compare yourself to? What are the strengths and skills they have that you find yourself comparing?
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For Hannah, the cultural weight of her infertility would have been significantly heavy. In this time and culture, a woman's primary contribution was thought to be having children and being a mother. And so, their society and culture didn't have a lot of compassion for a woman who couldn't contribute in that way. People would often make that woman feel like it was their fault, that they had done something wrong and this is somehow God's punishment to them, despite that belief being completely non-biblical. In fact, what you see if you study infertility in Scripture, you see that women who battled infertility were often very righteous women. Abraham's wife, Sarah, Isaac's wife, Rebecca, and Jacob's wife, Rachel, and Elizabeth, who would become the mother of John the Baptist all struggled with infertility during their lives.  But discouragement often tries to convince you that God is against you. In other words, it's one thing to go through a struggle, but if you begin to think it's your fault or it's something you did, and because of that, God is punishing you, it becomes very different. Maybe it's a financial struggle, health issue, or it's a child that just can't seem to get on the right track. When you start to tell yourself that this is God's punishment in life then that discouragement starts to feel very overwhelming. But God isn’t against you. He's for you. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: When have you felt that your struggle or hardship was because of God punishing you? Can you see that struggle differently in hindsight?