Our children belong to God, each with a unique destiny and calling. They were His idea from the beginning, and He loves them even more than we can imagine.
The story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2 is rich and complex and one that, as a mother, I’ve struggled to read over the years. If you aren’t familiar with it, Hannah was the wife of Elkanah; more specifically, she was one of Elkanah’s wives along with Penninah. Penninah was able to bear children, and Hannah was not (1 Sam. 1:2). In those days, children meant everything to a woman’s sense of security and identity. They were her health and life insurance policies before such things existed. Not only did Hannah have the daily dysfunction and tension of polygamy to manage, but she also grappled with the heartbreak of infertility while witnessing her husband’s other wife bear multiple children. Not only that, but Scripture says that Penninah made matters worse by taunting Hannah and making fun of her for not having any children, year after year, bringing Hannah to such depression that she couldn’t even eat (1:6-7). I can’t begin to imagine the jealousy, the comparison, and the painful feelings of inadequacy she must have felt.
In desperation, weeping bitterly in deep anguish, Hannah prayed to God. She poured out her soul, expressing her deepest desires and fears to the One who understood her longings and her pain, and she made a vow: “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 1:10-11)
The Lord heard her plea, and in time, she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, which means “God has heard.”
And then they all lived happily ever after and celebrated every holiday together, and Hannah was never sad or lonely again. The end.
Well, that’s the happy rom-com ending I would have written. What actually happened was that when Samuel was old enough (somewhere between the ripe old age of eighteen months and five years!), Hannah kept her word, brought him back to the temple, handed her precious little boy over to Eli, the priest, and said, “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life. And they worshiped the Lord there.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28)
This story used to make me so sad. I read it and thought that if I were Hannah, I would have tried to bargain with God. I might have said, “You know, God, You were so generous and kind to give me this child. Can I at least keep him until he’s eighteen? Then you can have him.” I also thought God was cruel for making her keep her promise. After all, this was the child she longed for, that she prayed for, while she watched her competition bear child after child, all while making fun of her for her inability to do the same. I always wanted God to say, “Hannah, you’ve suffered enough, and I’ve decided you can keep him. I don’t need him. I can use someone else.”
Until I started releasing my own children out into the world.
Granted, my circumstances are vastly different from Hannah’s, but with two children who’ve already flown the nest and two still at home, I am learning these lessons firsthand. From my college-aged daughter moving out into her own apartment in a whole new city to my second-born moving over 1,200 miles away to dedicate her life in service to our country and attend the United States Air Force Academy, I understand now more than ever that as much as I love my children and prayed for them, they were never really my children to begin with. They’ve always been His; He created them, after all. They are sons and daughters of God. He simply chose me to care for them for a little while. Hannah recognized that Samuel was a gift from God and that her role was that of a steward, nurturing and guiding him for a season but ultimately surrendering him to the One who created him for a divine purpose. As parents, this acknowledgment requires a gentle release of any possessiveness and selfishness on our part and a profound trust in God's sovereign plan. Our children belong to God, each with a unique destiny and calling. They were His idea from the beginning, and He loves them even more than we can imagine.
Surrendering our children means recognizing God's ownership and entrusting them into His capable and loving hands. It takes great faith. But for us to do that, we must trust God first in our own lives. We must love Him first, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, even above our children! Notice Hannah and Elkanah’s posture after handing their son over to Eli, the priest: “And they worshiped the Lord there.” Our love for God must be greater than our love for our children, or we will look to them to make us happy, and they were never meant to fill that role. Hannah and Elkanah had faith in God for their son because they knew God personally and had faith for themselves.
Surrendering them starts with entrusting them to the Lord's unfailing love and purposes for them through prayer. As parents, God invites us to partner with Him in prayer, sharing our hopes and fears for our children. Surrendering our children requires a willingness to obey God's leading, even when it pulls at the deepest fibers of our motherly instincts. But He walks with us on this path with grace and compassion because He knows that His plan for our children far surpasses our own.
And what about Samuel? Because of Hannah’s faith and willingness to let Samuel go, he became one of the most pivotal and influential leaders in the Old Testament, emerging as a beacon of strength and wisdom during a tumultuous period in Israel's history. Samuel’s dedication to God from a young age transformed him into Israel’s final judge and first prophet, and he played a crucial role in uniting the nation of Israel and establishing a sense of stability amidst the chaos of the time. Samuel's leadership was characterized by his unwavering commitment to God's commands and a keen discernment of His will. He fearlessly confronted kings, anointed King David, and led with unparalleled clarity, focus, and vision. Samuel's influence extended far beyond his lifetime, shaping the destiny of Israel for generations to come. His legacy is a testament to the transformative power of faith, integrity, and steadfast leadership.
That’s quite a bio.
This should inspire all of us as parents to pray boldly for all our kids, sending them out into the world in faith and not shrinking back in fear but rather placing our faith in the God who will lead them and walk with them every step of the way. What kind of leaders could God produce with that kind of faith?
This Veteran’s Day hits differently with a daughter who is currently on active duty, as I read the news of rising tensions in the Middle East. But because I know she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be, and I know who God has called and created her to be, I’ve never been more proud to offer my little girl to the service of our country. We are in better hands because people like her, who love Jesus and their country, are serving.
Hannah's surrender did not equal abandonment but strengthened her bond with both Samuel and God. She continued to visit Samuel, providing him with a new robe every year (1 Samuel 2:18-19). Surrendering Samuel to God didn’t mean Hannah had to relinquish her role as a mother; it meant entrusting him to a God who loved him even more profoundly than she did and had a magnificent plan for his life, one that she could have thwarted had she placed her selfish desires above God’s plans.
Hannah's journey speaks directly to the hearts of women who grapple with surrendering their children to God’s service. Through her example, we find that true surrender is rooted in prayer, recognizing God's ownership, and obedient trust in His plan. As mothers, our most profound act of love may be to release our children into the tender embrace of the One who knows them intimately and has a purpose beyond anything we can even ask or imagine. I no longer read this story with sadness but an overwhelming sense of pride that we get to play a significant role and partner with God’s plan for the children He gives us. May we find strength and courage in Hannah's story as we surrender our children to God, trusting in His perfect plan and witnessing Him lovingly provide for them in ways we could have never fathomed because the One Who calls them is faithful.