Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by a bully, named Regina George or otherwise. How did you deal with it?
I tried to act tough. My childhood journals were the site of many strategy sessions, where I imagined the best comebacks and convinced myself that the bullies were jealous. I reminded myself that I didn’t care what other people thought of me. I hyped myself up. I told myself to brush it off.
And I would have told anyone else who was being bullied to do the same thing.
But would it be good advice?
How to deal with a bully
What would Hannah have thought of my advice?
Hannah was the wife of Elkanah, an average Israelite man. Hannah couldn’t have children, so she had to watch her husband marry a second wife, named Peninah.
And Peninah? She was a piece of work.
She popped out baby after baby, which must have been hard enough for Hannah. But on top of all of that, Peninah tormented Hannah.
Regularly, she sniped at Hannah. She made fun of her empty womb. She called her a useless wife, a waste of food and air.
Things only got worse whenever the family took their annual trip to Shiloh, where the tabernacle of God was. Elkanah would give Hannah a double portion of the meat from their sacrifice, because he loved her better. Peninah would crumble inside, and take it all out on Hannah.
What should Hannah have done? Imagine if she had asked someone’s advice today. Maybe she’d get a list of snarky comments to fire back at Peninah. Or she’d be encouraged to confront her husband and make him handle the situation. She’d definitely hear some well-meaning, creative insults about Peninah.
But what did Hannah do?
She cried. She cried so hard she couldn’t eat.
Exhausted from keeping it together, tired of trying to be strong, Hannah then went to the tabernacle, fell to her knees, and poured her heart out.
It wasn’t very girlboss of her. But that didn’t matter.
As Hannah knelt and prayed and begged, God came near. He listened to her. He loved her.
And He answered her. Through Eli, the priest, (who rudely interrupted her at first), God told Hannah to “go in peace”, because He had heard her and everything was going to be okay.
And she felt better. Hannah went home and ate and smiled, because God had met her in her weakness.
“You can break down in front of Me.”
Too often coming to Jesus is our last resort.
Too often we will rely on ourselves, summon our inner strength, strategize and plan and kill ourselves trying, before we kneel at the feet of Jesus.
It’s understandable. We live in a world where strength in the face of adversity is praised, encouraged, and supposed to come from within ourselves. Weakness, tears, or admitting our pain, on the other hand, is embarrassing. We’re not supposed to be like this. We’re supposed to get through this.
God is the complete opposite. In His presence, weakness is encouraged. He wants us to come to Him at the drop of a hat, at the most minor inconvenience. He teaches us to acknowledge our weakness, even to celebrate it, because it reminds us how much we need Him.
And then He makes us feel better. He gives us peace. He fills our hearts with warmth. We feel like we can get through another day, because the God of the universe has listened to us, heard our sorrows, and let us cry our tears.
And that’s all before He answers our prayers.
What is that but true friendship? Real love? The kind of relationship you never want to let go of? The kind of connection that lasts a lifetime?
I love my journal, and therapy is great, but Jesus? Jesus is the ultimate answer to every problem, every struggle, every bully.
What do you think? Have you ever poured your heart out to God the way Hannah did?