JOY differs significantly from being happy

1 Samuel 1:18 “[Hannah] said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.”

Hannah wanted a son and couldn’t understand why God didn’t give her the desire of her heart. She prayed fervently for years and became deeply sorrowful, to the point of not eating. One last time, she returned to the temple and pleaded with God. She went so far as to bargain with Him. She would dedicate the child back to Him if He gave her a son. Confident that God had heard her and knowing she’d done all she could, she got up, leaving her cares behind.

1 Samuel 1:18 is one of my favorite scriptures because I resonate with Hannah. I have had years of barrenness—not of a child—but of feeling empty. Those feelings pop up more often than I like to admit, especially as an author. My mind is my enemy, and I fight it daily. Words like “I’m not good enough.” Or “I don’t have the skill or training necessary to be a successful author.” Even “balancing writing with life is too hard” threatens to keep me from what I know God would have me do. The excuses are many, and they wear on me. They leave my soul parched and dry.

When I allow my barrenness to consume me, I cannot be an effective tool for God to use. So, like Hannah, I go to God in prayer. But Hannah took three additional steps that I think were key to her ability to keep her emptiness from consuming her.

She surrendered the issue to the Lord.

The scripture says: “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” She didn’t argue with God and didn’t take matters into her own hands. Hannah consciously decided to do what was right, no matter how she felt. She put God first above her desire. I find this incredibly difficult, but Hannah proves it is possible.

She ate something.

The scripture says: “Then she went her way and ate something.” Hannah refueled, giving her body the nourishment it needed to continue doing life. I often do this a little too much at times. But figuring out what rejuvenates us is important.

She kept a positive attitude.

The last part of the scripture says this: “And her face was no longer downcast.” This is significant. Hannah didn’t just put on a happy face to fool everyone around her. If you’re like me, Facelessbook and Instagorgeous often distort my view of who is truly happy. On social media, it appears everyone else is getting the desire of their heart, or so it seems by the smiling faces in the posts. Hannah chose JOY which differs significantly from being happy. Happiness is an outward expression of what is inside us and depends on our circumstances. Joy comes from changing what is inside us to see goodness in situations, no matter the circumstance.

Whatever your barrenness, don’t lose focus of what God has placed on your heart.

Hannah had a barren womb but had she not poured her heart out to God, she may have ended up with a barren soul. If that is the desert you walk in today, consider following Hannah’s actions. Pray. Surrender. Refuel. And, Choose JOY.

Heidi Gray McGill first presented this devotional on August 13, 2022, at the Association of Christian Fiction Writers Upstate South Carolina. @AFCWUpstateSC

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Published by Author Heidi Gray McGill

Heidi and her husband of over thirty years live in South Carolina. Besides writing Christian fiction with relatable characters in life-changing stories, Heidi relishes time with family and friends. She enjoys scrapbooking, playing games, traveling, and building bridges with her grandsons that must fall with a loud crash and usually involve a monster truck.

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