How to turn Misunderstandings into Blessings

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Has anyone ever totally misjudged you and your motives? The bible, in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, tells the story of a woman named Hannah.

Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah, who was also married to another woman named Peninnah. Life was difficult for Hannah, because she hadn’t been able to have any children – whereas Peninnah had a few children – and used that as an excuse to make fun of Hannah.

As someone who has also struggled with infertility – I can’t imagine how awful it would feel to not only struggle with wanting something you can’t have, but to have someone in your own household completely rubbing in the fact that you hadn’t been able to have any children. After all, there’s living breathing proof right in front of her every day that the problem didn’t rest with Hannah’s husband.

Then, every year when they went to the tabernacle, Hannah would be so distraught at this annual reminder of her inability to have children that she would be reduced to tears and not be able to eat. One year, as the family was visiting the tabernacle at Shiloh, Hannah went by herself to pray.

As she was silently crying out to God in her anguish, she was spotted by a priest named Eli.

This is where the story takes an unexpected turn – because Eli jumped to the conclusion that Hannah was drunk, went over to her and said ‘must you come here drunk? before demanding she throw away her wine.

Now just imagine the same story unfolding in a modern church in 2021 – a woman who has been struggling with infertility for years comes into the church and finds herself pouring her heart out to God. She’s been mocked by her friends, who keep implying that there must be something wrong with her, because her husband has children from a previous relationship – but despite trying every option available and wanting children more than anything else on earth – it still hasn’t happened.

She’s crying so hard that she’s barely whispering… when the senior pastor wanders over to her, assumes she’s drunk, and demands she hand over her alcohol.

How do you think you would respond if your senior pastor wrongly accused you of evil in the middle of your greatest expression of pain before God?

It wouldn’t be much of a leap to accuse him of being an insensitive jerk, and walking straight back out of that church – never to return. I mean, what kind of pastor wouldn’t be able to spot someone deep in prayer?

Hannah had every right to feel deeply insulted, but notice something startling in the way that she responds to Eli. “Oh no, sir! she replied. I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! for I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

Hannah’s response was respectful and honoring, despite the fact that Eli’s behavior was offensive and insulting.

Then, perhaps in response to the honor that Hannah had extended to him, Eli’s manner completely changed and he blessed her.

Then, Hannah, continuing in an attitude of honor – thanked Eli and left the encounter changed – evidenced by her beginning to eat again and no longer being sad. Then, the Lord remembered Hannah’s request and she later gave birth to a son.

Verse 7 of Romans Chapter 13 says we are to ‘give respect and honor to those who are in authority’.

When we look at things from a worldly perspective, it’s easy to think that the reason we’re told to honor authority is to keep the chain of command structure in-tact, and for the benefit of the leader – or to make it easier for the leader to keep everything under control.

But what if the reason that God prompts us to honor the authority figures in our lives is for our sake and not for theirs?

When Hannah chose to respond out of honor for the position that Eli held, rather than in response to any offence that she was feeling because of his accusation – instead of receiving an argument, she received the blessing of a priest, which, in turn, resulted in her receiving the blessing of a child.

Eli’s countenance had changed in the space of Hannah’s initial response – so let me ask you – who was it who received the greatest benefit of the honor that Hannah showed towards Eli?

The problem with how we usually repay poor treatment from superiors is that we respond from a position of offense.

But the real way to position ourselves for God’s blessings is to choose to honor the authority figures in our lives.

By all accounts, Eli was a rather dodgy priest. He had certainly raised sons who the bible calls ‘scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests’ and was fully aware of what his sons were up to – but didn’t take any meaningful action to stop their poor behavior… and in time, Eli’s entire family was wiped out in judgement.

There are plenty of authority figures in the bible who receive severe consequences for their poor usage of the authority that God has extended to them, and you could certainly make the argument that Eli the man wasn’t doing much that ‘deserved’ respect.

But that’s not what honor is about – it’s about honoring the person because of the position of relative authority that they hold – in recognition that the authority they carry originated from God himself.

As you go about your day today, I encourage you to think about the words you’re using in your interactions with others… and do your best to follow the example of Hannah and respond from a heart position of honor.

Until next time, blue skies!

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