What’s eating away at your joy?

Shall we remember the story of poor Hannah (1 Samuel 1:9-20). Her joy has been eaten away by years of barrenness. Now she surrenders it all to God; even that which she desires most — a child — by promising to give him back to God if he would help her to conceive. In that total surrender, her prayers are finally answered.

How sad that she had allowed herself to be in turmoil for so many years, feeling inferior because of her barrenness, rather than choosing to trust God.

Did God give her the child because she became so desperate that she bargained with him in the temple? Did he make her wait until she abandoned everything into his hands? Of course not. He didn’t want her to feel despair nor to reach the point of agony that we see in this story. The child he gave her had been part of his plans since before Hannah herself was born: The child he gave her was Samuel, who would become one of Israel’s greatest and holiest priests, who would anoint the first king (Saul) and then find and anoint David to replace Saul when the latter became harmful to Israel.

In the Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28), Jesus removes a harmful spirit from a man. What harmful spirits are affecting you? What’s eating away your joy? Who’s making you feel inferior? What are you relying on that’s dangerous to your trust in God? What holds you back from totally surrendering yourself into his plans and finding your joy in him?

Even religiousness can be harmful. That might sound irreverent, but — do we perform religious rites and deeds because we hope this will bribe God into answering our prayers? Or maybe because it makes us look good to others? Rather, we should be so in love with God that religious rites and good deeds are an expression of our devotion, and our self esteem doesn’t come from what others think of us but from God’s tremendous love for us.

Do you have enthusiasm or minimalism? Do you eagerly jump at new opportunities to grow spiritually or do you simply rely on what you’re already doing? It takes hard work and determination to mature enough spiritually to surrender everything to God.

Are you waiting on God to spell out what you’re to do next or maybe to give you what you’re waiting for simply because you’ve bargained with him? Rather, we should be moving ahead, taking initiative and walking forward in the next step toward fulfilling our holy dreams and desires, trusting that God will guide our feet and keep us from wandering too far astray.

God doesn’t wait for us to get desperate or to bargain with him. There’s a plan at work. He’s already doing what needs to be done. When we’re unhappy, it’s time to surrender to him what we’ve asked for as if we truly trust him to do what’s best with it. But be careful: This is either a bargaining tool we’re using to stay in control, or it’s complete trust in his divine control.

Are you ready to surrender?