Don't Be a Peninnah

Adam Navis

READ : Samuel 1:1-20

And her rival used to provoke her. (v. 6)

Discussions about abortion, teenage pregnancy, miscarriage, embryonic stem-cell research, or undergoing fertility treatments can be touchy. Such issues touch on strong religious convictions about the purpose and sanctity of life. Sometimes people express strong opinions without full understanding. I call such people “Peninnahs” because they provoke those who are already hurting.

I remember a time when my wife and I had to abandon an attempt at in-vitro fertilization. We had spent six weeks building up to this moment. There had been pills to take and injections to administer. We had rearranged our schedules. We had hoped and prayed. And it all came to nothing. We were crushed. I wrote in my journal, “Caryn and I are having a difficult time trying to decide how much more time, money, and emotional energy to put into fertility expenses. It is really hard to know what to do. Some considerations are practical and some are emotional, but all together it makes for one complicated decision-making process.”

And while the “Peninnahs” in our life were more kind than Hannah's rival, their words only made things more difficult for us. We were walking in a place that was morally ambiguous, financially expensive, and emotionally draining. The last thing we wanted was for people to bring up questions of theology. We needed them to comfort us rather than provoke.


Lord Jesus, fill our hearts and guide our tongues.