What kind of laugh do you have?

What kind of laugh do you have?

For better or for worse, I’m a laugher. I laugh when I’m nervous, I laugh when I’m happy, I laugh when I’m not quite sure what else to do, I laugh when I’m skeptical, and naturally I laugh when something is funny. Basically, I laugh a lot. This gets me into trouble. In fact, in this way I take very much after one of my namesakes: Sarah.

In the Bible, Sarah is known for many things, but perhaps one of the more well known characteristics is her laugh. You see, like me, Sarah was a laugher, but also like me, Sarah’s laugh wasn’t always well timed.

Sarah had life pretty good, she had a wonderful husband, lots of money and possessions. She had everything she could want except the only thing she really wanted: a baby. Isn’t that how that always goes, the thing we want most is the thing we can’t have. However, life passed her by and she resigned herself to her lot in life: barren. But her barrenness went far beyond her literally not having children, she developed a barrenness of soul.

At one point, well after she’d given up hope, God spoke to her husband and told him that they would have a baby. But that was 20 years ago… no baby here. I wonder how they reconciled that with who God is. How do we reconcile God’s goodness and His truthfulness when there is literally no possible way for His promise to come true?

So, when the three strangers came to their tent door and Sarah overheard their conversation, she couldn’t help but laugh. You see, the man said that she would have a baby. Soon. And while the Bible tells us that Sarah looked really good for her age, no matter how good she looked the fact was she was 90 years old… her biological clock had long stopped ticking. Time was up. God had failed to keep His word. But the man said that God would visit them, that despite the biology of the situation she would have a baby, and she laughed – not loudly or obnoxiously, but laugh she did, and the man called her on it.

The man who made the statement (who just happened to be the Angle of the Lord), heard Sarah’s thoughts, heard her scornful laugh, and put her on the spot, “Why did Sarah laugh… is anything too difficult for the Lord?” And so, Sarah responded how most of us would have responded, denial. But it’s kind of difficult to contradict God, Him knowing everything and all.

Here has been my question over the years as I read this account, “Why did Sarah get the bad rap for laughing, she actually wasn’t the only one!” Just the chapter before this, her husband Abraham laughed too at the very same word. I never got why God never corrected him. But recently I saw it.

In Chapter 17 God visited Abraham, covenanted with him, changed his name and gave the promise that he would have a baby. And this is what we’re told happened, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'”

It’s a very similar reaction to Sarah’s. Similar, but not the same. Here’s what I think the difference was: Abraham was talking to God, his relationship was one of friendship and trust. When God spoke, when He finally put a timetable to His promise, Abraham laughed out of true amusement. He found ironic joy in God’s timing, believed God was fully capable and would do as He said.

Sarah, my good friend Sarah, saw the irony alright, but not the joy. Her laugh was different. When Sarah laughed it was full of scorn. Her tone was sarcastic and her thoughts brooding. “Great! NOW I get this pleasure, after years of crying and sorrow, now when I can least enjoy it and all the damage is done. Thanks a lot.” It’s not the fact that she laughed that needed correcting, but how she laughed.

Though her husband was called the “friend of God”, Sarah was never given that distinction. Sarah’s relationship with God was secondhand. She heard of the promises through her husband or by eavesdropping. She didn’t have the intimacy with God to give her joy in His plans and timing. She saw life through her own selfish perspective rather than the eternal perspective of how this barren women birthing a son would effect history from that time forward until the end of time all together. Sarah was still part of the promise, but she lost the opportunity of rejoicing in it because her perspective was inward rather than heavenward.

So, I’ve been thinking about the ways and times that I’ve laughed at God. And there have been several. Sometimes I laughed like Abraham, but more often I laugh like Sarah. I don’t think that just because I laughed I’m going to miss out on God’s promise, but I wonder if sometimes my perspective causes me to miss out on the joy of God’s promise. Am I caught up in my own perceived lack or am I a “friend of God”, anxiously waiting the revealing of His plan? Something to consider.