Reading 1 Samuel
What to know For many women in Islam, honor is obtained through having sons. In some areas of the world, women who have only daughters are considered cursed. In these places, the even greater marker of a "curse" is the inability to have any children at all. Let's pause to clarify what we mean by cursed. In Islamic contexts, this can include either the belief that God Himself has chosen to curse the woman (perhaps because of a secret evil He knows about her,) or that someone has practiced magic against her. It's significant to recognize that these assumptions are not typically applied to men: the "shame" of infertility is placed on the shoulders of the woman; the man's reputation is left intact. (Note that although we often hear of Shame / Honor and Fear / Power as separate paradigms, many times, they carry areas of deep overlap.) If your friend lives in a context where these beliefs are pervasive, the opening lines of Hannah's story might carry surprising weight. What to say Listen as your friend reflects on Hannah's emotions about childlessness and the behavior of Elkanah's other wife. Don't assume that only women will be impacted by this passage: Listen to what your friend shares. Share Luke 13:4-5 with your friend. Jesus rebuked the religious teachers of his day (and the gossiping crowds) for assuming that when tragedy befalls a person, it's an indication of their standing before God. His words are strong and pointed, telling his listeners that unless they repent, they will perish. What might Jesus say to people today who lay this burden on women, calling into question God's love for them because of infertility? What might Jesus say to any person who is living in fear of being cursed? How might he bless this person?
Move forward to Hannah's prayer, her vow, and her prayer of worship. If God leads, ask your friend if they've ever experienced prayer like this: a moment of "pouring out [your] soul" to God. Pray together.