Hannah’s discouragement leads to desperation, and in her desperation, she cries out to God. Remember, we’ve said that our emotions move us somewhere. In this case, Hannah allows her discouragement to drive her to connection.

We can read her prayer for connection: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut” (1 Samuel 1:11 NLT). She says to God, “I will give him back to you”—which may sound like she’s negotiating: “God, if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you.” But we can’t negotiate with God. It’s literally impossible. God holds all the chips. We’ve got nothing to offer him that he needs, and God does not negotiate with us. God isn’t holding out on us until he gets what he wants. What Hannah is doing here isn’t negotiating; it’s surrendering.

This is Hannah going back out into the water and casting her nets out one more time. She’s letting go of her way and surrendering to God’s will.

As she was praying to the LORD, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

“Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 1:12–15 NLT)

Don’t miss the description and the progression that takes place in this passage. I was very discouraged, so I poured out my heart to God.

And that’s what you do. When your way isn’t working and you feel very discouraged, the first thing you need to do is simply pour out your heart to God.

Hannah then says to Eli, “Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” To which Eli replies, “Go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” Hannah responds with gratitude and “went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:16–18).

The order of things here is interesting. After Hannah cries out to God, she feels better. She is no longer discouraged. I have some questions for you:

  • Is she pregnant? No.
  • Has she been promised a miracle? No.
  • Does God speak to her in an audible voice and tell her she will conceive? No.
  • Does God tell her she’s finally going to get her way? No.

And yet she is no longer discouraged. Don’t miss this: her discouraging circumstances have not changed, but her connection with God has.

We are told that Hannah and the rest of the family returned home. After some time had passed, Hannah conceived. She was given a son, whom she named Samuel, which sounds like the Hebrew “heard by God.” So now every time she said his name, she was reminded that in her discouragement God had heard her.

Discouragement is a loss of hope, but every time Hannah spoke Samuel’s name, her heart was filled with hope. Discouragement can do one of two things: it can either drive us away from God or draw us closer to him.

Maybe you find yourself on an adventure you never would have chosen, and you know you don’t have the power to choose what happens next in your story. But while you can’t choose your own adventures, you can choose how you will respond to them. This can be a chapter in your story where you cry out to God, put your hope in him, and then, with his strength, get up and keep moving forward.

Kyle Idleman, When Your Way Isn’t Working: Finding Purpose and Contentment through Deep Connection with Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2023), 50–53.


We have just released a 12-week study on the topic: When Your Way Isn’t Working by Kyle Idleman. You can get it on Amazon. It is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking.