Mastering Misunderstandings

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-18

Power verse 18

Our adult Sunday school class has been studying the Old Testament Tabernacle.  Now I will be the first to admit I find Old Testament Judaism to be less than spiritually thrilling.  But our church is blessed to have the kind of Sunday school teacher that can find some pretty profound truths in even the driest of scriptures. Bro: Perry pointed out how we are blessed to have a perfect priest who understands our innermost selves and never misjudges us, and yet often our faith is weak, while OT Jews had enough faith to bring their sacrifices to an imperfect priest knowing he was just a man. Despite the anointing, despite the holiness of the Levite priests they were still imperfect men; men who might misjudge you and misunderstand you.   My mind immediately flew to the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1. If ever someone was misunderstood surely it was poor Hannah.

In the beginning of chapter one Hannah is depressed. She is fretful v6; she is weeping and not eating v7. Why? She has a longing in her heart that is going unfulfilled, she is being vexed by “an adversary”, and to make matters worse her husband does not take her longing seriously. When she shares with him what is bothering her, his response is less than encouraging: v8 “Why weepest thou…am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Wow! Elkanah, let’s just make this all about you! So Hannah does what all good women should do when they are depressed, she goes to church and prays about it v 10-12.

Here is where Hannah faces one of the worst cases of misunderstandings I’ve ever seen. Her pastor, the priest Eli, watches her pray and because Hannah moves her mouth as she prays silently Eli assumes that she is DRUNK! And tells her so in v 14! I’m trying to imagine how I would have handled my pastor misunderstanding me to such an extent, especially if I were already hurt and depressed. I know for certain I couldn’t have handled it as gracefully as Hannah did! Her meek words in v 15 and 16 break my heart. Perhaps this gracious woman can teach us the way to master misunderstandings.

  1. She did not retaliate! Even though surely such an accusation must have hurt her already bruised emotions, she did not throw back an insult. She probably could have said some pretty cutting things about Eli and his rebellious sons. Chapter 3 tells all about Eli’s shortcomings as a father and priest, but Hannah took the high road, and in chapter 3 God let’s her son Samuel do the rebuking instead.
  2. She tried to see the misunderstanding from Eli’s point of view. V 16 she says, “Count not thy handmaid for a daughter of Belial”. Surely Eli saw many of these daughters of Belial around as this was a popular false religion of the time. Perhaps Hannah herself had seen these intoxicated women about. Perhaps there were similarities in their behavior to that of someone who was beside themselves with grief, muttering unintelligibly in prayer such as Hannah was. Hannah made an effort to at least try to see where the misunderstanding was coming from.
  3. She did not let the misunderstanding squash her dreams. Depending on a person’s disposition there is usually one of two reactions to misunderstandings. If you are high strung or a little defensive then a misunderstanding can bring out a fighting spirit in you. But if you are more passive and more prone to “giving in” then a misunderstanding can have an opposite, more damaging effect. Because people do not understand your dream, or your intentions, you simply give up on them, assuming that the other person is right to criticize you. It was a stupid idea to begin with. I think this is the worst reaction of all to a misunderstanding. Because over time you begin to doubt yourself on a very deep level. You begin to believe every negative thing that any unkind person may say or insinuate about you, and eventually your ambition and motivation shrivels up. That is not Christ like. Hannah knew that her desire was a godly one, and she was not about to give up on it, even if her adversary mocked her, even if her husband belittled her, even if her pastor completely misunderstood her. Misunderstandings changed her intentions none at all!
  4. She did not hold a grudge. V 18 she says to Eli “Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight.” Wow! What a lovely, forgiving spirit. The latter part of v 18 shows us the fruit of a forgiving spirit “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.” Joy was the fruit of her spirit!

In the end Hannah received so much more than she asked for. Not only did she get her longed for baby, but her son, Samuel, grew up to be one of the most powerful figures in Jewish history!  Have you handled past misunderstandings all wrong? Are you in the midst of a misunderstanding with someone today? Let’s take Hannah’s lessons to heart so that we can come out victorious as she did. 1 Samuel chapter 2 is a beautiful, poetic prayer that Hannah prayed when she came out on the other side of her misunderstanding. I pray the Lord will allow us all such grace.

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One thought on “Mastering Misunderstandings

  1. Another great devotion by my favorite writer! It is so easy to mishandle misunderstandings and respond according to our flesh by wanting to retaliate or give up on our dreams. I have to admit I’m guilty on both counts! I pray that the next time I’m misjudged, I will remember Hannah and this wonderful devotion and I will respond in a way that pleases the Lord.

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