Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Gen. 17:17-19)
Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (18:11-12)
Is anything too hard for God? (18:14).
Sometimes God just makes me laugh. I have walked with him long enough to know that he rarely does things the way I expect, but beyond that, his ways often seem downright crazy from a human perspective. Years ago, when I met my husband, I started to get the idea that God had put him in my path, in spite of my protests. I had lived through abuse, and really wasn’t open for a new relationship, especially not with somebody who was so…well, so flawed and human. Yet, the more I objected, the more God seemed to change my heart and convict me of my judgmental attitudes. I continued to voice my complaints in the form of prayers to God. Oddly enough after each prayer my soon-to-be husband would, without any provocation from me, volunteer the answer to my prayer concern. This happened 3 specific times to the point I was just dumbfounded. If I hadn’t been praying silently, I would’ve thought the man had my house bugged. I struggled for a few weeks in prayer, and the answers kept coming in ways that blew my mind. Finally, when it became undeniable that God was in it, I said, “Lord, this is not what I expected!” In my spirit I could almost hear him laughing and asking me, “When have I ever worked in the way you expected?” Good question! Because as long as I have known him, his ways have surely been higher than mine, and have never gone according to my preconceived notions. I couldn’t help but join God and laugh at myself for forgetting that wonderful truth.
As I read the story of Abraham and Sarah this morning, I recognized the all too familiar dynamics. In Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations, and it was credited to him as righteousness. By chapter 16, Sarah and Abraham decided to help God out. Sarah was past her childbearing years, so even though they believed God, they figured he was going to work in a way that seemed possible on human terms. I’ve done this many times. “Sure I believe you God, but obviously, you must have meant you would bless me this way.” The problem is that when we decide to “help” God it often complicates the situation greatly, as in the case of Hagar. We think we are helping, but usually we are hurting ourselves by failing to wait on his best. When God came back and let Abraham and Sarah know they were wrong in their assumptions, they both laughed. God’s response was to tell them their future son’s name would be Isaac, which means, “he laughs.” Isn’t that great? For the rest of their lives, they would be reminded that they laughed at God’s promise. I can’t help but think that God was laughing back at them. They were limiting him to the realm of human possibility, and he was about to show them that mortal limitations are nothing to him. I’m sure he takes great pleasure in doing that. Like any good parent, he enjoys teaching his children. And what a lesson it was! By this this point both had lived long, full lives and knew how things work in this world. So when God showed up with something completely unexpectedly, the result was laughter. They were laughing at how preposterous it was, and yet I am sure they both felt a twinge of hope.
That is how it has been in my life. When God shows up unexpectedly I shake my head and laugh at how absurd it seems, but I also know that something wonderful just might happen. These things don’t happen every day. If they did we wouldn’t laugh, because they wouldn’t seem impossible. We live in a world bound by limitations, but every now and then God comes in and blows them to smithereens. It’s not something we can contrive or force, but for those who walk faithfully with him, it is bound to happen every once and a while. Sometimes the absurdity requires action on our behalf, so we could possibly end up looking pretty foolish too.
When my sister was young, she got caught up in a pretty harmful lifestyle. I had been praying diligently for her salvation and deliverance. One day she called to tell me she had been in a motorcycle accident, and was home from work unable to walk. After we got off the phone, I got the strongest impression to go pray for her healing, and as much as I tried to fight it, I couldn’t shake it. That night our church had an evangelist speaking, and this crazy thought kept nagging me that if I would go pray for her healing, and then get her to church, she would commit her life to God. Crazy!! I argued, “Lord, who do you think I am, Oral Roberts?” But as crazy as the whole idea seemed, I had enough concern for my sister and enough hope in God to act on it. I called my mom, who had faith to pray for anything, and she agreed to drive the hour with me to go and pray for healing. When we arrived, we briefly explained to Paula that we were going to pray for her healing. Being a captive audience, she had little choice but to agree, so we laid hands on her and prayed. Nothing happened! I began to wonder if I missed God. In fact, with all the pain meds she was on, she actually fell asleep. Mom and I looked at each other wondering if we should go or stay. We decided to stay and chatted for about 15 minutes. Suddenly, Paula woke up and ran to the bathroom! The knee that was swollen and unable to bend earlier was moving just fine! When she came out of the bathroom, we pointed out that her leg was better, and her eyes got as wide as saucers. I then suggested that since God healed her, she might want to come to church with us that night and thank him. She agreed, and sure enough, at church she committed her life to Jesus. She has never been the same since, and it all started with a laughable thought that I feel sure God planted in my mind.
True faith will inevitably bring you to moments that will seem absolutely absurd, foolish and even laughable. Like Abraham and Sarah you will find yourself asking, “Really God, are you kidding?” Surely the father of our faith and his wife had prayed for decades to have a child, but it was not until all hope seemed lost that God showed up. That’s just what he does. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that reveals a pretty good sense of humor on his part. Just when we think we have it all figured out, he comes in and completely turns all of our perceptions upside down. He does it to remind us that even though we are limited by time, space and brokenness, this world is not all there is. We have a God who lives outside the boundaries of the earth, and occasionally gives us a glimpse of life beyond it by miraculously suspending the rules of nature. Can you imagine the twinkle in his eye, the smile on his face, and even the chuckle in his voice as he gently reminds us that he is so much greater than anything here in the temporal realm? I love Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Cheer up! Maybe even stop and laugh for a moment. Take joy in the One who delights in you and invites you to share in his joy. A life of faith is one of laughter and surprises. What an awesome privilege we have to share it with our amazing God!