Feb. 19—The prophet Samuel’s mother had been infertile, and Hannah wanted a child more than anything in the world (cf. 1 Samuel 1-3). In those days, most folks interpreted infertility as a curse from God, so Hannah had to cope with ridicule piled on top of heartache.

One day, Hannah went to the house of worship to pray, so broken up that she couldn’t even form the words to give voice to her pain. The priest on duty thought she was drunk, and he told Hannah to clean up her act before she bothered praying. When Hannah filled him in, things took a dramatic turn, and she wound up having not one but several children.

Hannah had promised her firstborn to God, so young Samuel spent his first years apprenticing 24/7 with the same priest who had heard his mother’s confession. Samuel means “heard by God” (God had heard Hannah’s prayer), and at some point, the time came for him to take ownership of his special name.

One night, Samuel thought he heard the old priest calling him out of bed, when, in fact, someone else wanted his attention. It took a little time, along with a bit of sluggish help from the aging mentor, but Samuel came to grasp the profound fact that what he had learned in religion was more than an academic exercise. “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).

William Faulkner once made the statement that he knew nothing about inspiration, only imagination, experience and observation. He also reread the Hebrew Bible every year to help him with his writing. It kept going. For those seeking similar strength for everyday living, take a tip from this story. Faith comes when you venture into the unknown. “Come unto me … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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