Scripture: 1 Samuel 1.13-14
Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
Reflection: Room For Hannah
By John Tillman
Eli’s judgmental and graceless confrontation of Hannah is ironic given that he had trouble confronting and dealing with the corruption of his own sons who served in the Tabernacle.
Hannah’s emotional distress, rather than bringing compassion, brought judgement and harsh words. In the intervening millennia, churches and ministers haven’t gotten much better at receiving with grace those who are in emotional distress.
At times, we do a better job of accepting the exuberant dancing of King David than the distraught expressions of Hannah. (And some churches don’t accept either) Church staff and attendees often reflect an unspoken belief that Christian Life has no place for sadness.
Churches are under a lot of pressure, after all, to be friendly, welcoming, life-affirming places. But if we fail to affirm life in its full spectrum of emotions we aren’t affirming life in total — merely positively charged life. As Christians, to address people in emotional distress as Jesus addressed those he ministered to, we must love them before they are healed, and even if they never are.
We need to show love to those suffering from the very real hurts and disfigurements of the soul that are caused by emotional distress. We need to approach these people and love them as the Savior did — touching them, giving them our attention, and reminding all those who are gathered that these people are a part of our community.
When someone is part of your community, you make space for them. You don’t force them to make do. We need to clear out some space for people in emotional distress — theological space, physical space, and liturgical space.
The only way for the church to become a counter-cultural, welcoming place when it comes to aiding those in emotional distress is if we, the members, do so. May we observe, see, and move to aid the hurting around us with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
– Parts of this devotional were previously published on Ministry Accelerator’s blog.
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.3
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.