|Laughing at God
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ďWill a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?Ē (Genesis 17:17)
Thatís right, I laughed. I fell on my face -- partly out of reverence for God, partly because I would have doubled over if I hadnít -- and I laughed. And it wasnít a snicker, either, or a chuckle. It was caught-by-surprise, wiping-away-tears, shoulder-shaking, belly-aching laughter. It had been a long time since I had laughed like that. It wasnít my intention to laugh at anything God said, it really wasnít. I couldnít help it.
Before you get all self-righteous, throwing around words like ďfaithĒ and phrases like ďnothing is impossible with GodĒ -- well, you would have laughed too. Youíd have done exactly what I did. I was a hundred years old at the time; a hundred then wasnít what it is today, but trust me, it was still old. It had been a few anniversaries since Sarah and I had shared the same tent, if you know what Iím saying.
And Sarah -- well, she was always beautiful to me, but she wasnít turning a lot of heads anymore. Age and hard living had taken a toll on her. The baby boat had sailed a long time ago, if it had ever been in port for her. She had hoped the longest, long after everyone else had given up, but eventually she let me break up the crib for firewood and give the baby clothes away. I didnít think sheíd ever recover from that lost hope; thatís why she couldnít stand Hagar and wanted nothing to do with Ishmael. She wasnít being cruel. She wasnít cold or hateful. She just had a broken heart.
So, yeah -- I laughed. God said that we were going to have a son, ninety-year-old Sarah and her hundred-year-old husband, and I laughed. I told you, donít go all holier-than-thou on me; I imagine I have a thing or two to teach you about trusting God. (When was the last time you left your home and your identity just because he told you to?) You would have laughed, too -- at best you would have laughed.
Honestly, Iím not sure if I laughed because I didnít believe it could possibly be true, or because I actually believed it might be. Sometimes the line between denial and delight is awfully thin. When you hear news like that, laughter isnít a bad response -- though maybe not the most reverent. You laugh because itís too ridiculous to be true. You laugh because itís too good to believe. You laugh because you picture yourself at 100, holding your baby boy in your arms. You laugh because you know that youíll probably lose teeth at the same rate that he gains them, or that some days youíre likely to have as many accidents as he does.
You laugh because itís crazy, but you also laugh because thatís what people do when theyíre delighted.
Iím not sure why I laughed, but apparently God didnít think my guffaw at his expense was anything to get worked up over. He let it pass without comment. Later, when Sarah reacted the same way to the same news, he only gently reprimanded her, if you could even call it a reprimand. ďIs anything too hard for the LORD?Ē Thatís a good question. I know, you say no -- nothingís too hard for the LORD. But then why do you live like some things are just a little beyond him? Why are you so afraid of so many things, as if itís too hard for God to overcome the things you fear? Why do you fear not having what you need, as if itís too hard for him to take care of you? Why do you fear getting older, or death, as if itís too hard for God to sustain you in your old age, as if itís too hard for him to raise the dead?
Why do you fear your life being out of your control, as if itís too hard for God to take control?
Is anything too hard for the LORD? Sitting here tonight, holding this tiny baby while my ninety-year-old wife, his mother, gets a little sleep, Iím going to have to say no. Nothing is too hard for him. Iím never going to have a hard time believing what he says again, and if he ever makes me laugh again it will be from pure joy at the prospects of what heís promised me. Is anything too hard for LORD? Meet Isaac here, and answer the question yourself.
And the next time you find yourself inclined to laugh at something God says, remember Isaacís wrinkly little red face. The next time youíre afraid, wondering what might come next, remember Isaac and remember that sometimes itís right at that thin line between delight and despair that God does his best work. Is anything too hard for the LORD? Not those marriage problems that youíre convinced canít be overcome. Not your childís alienation from you and from every value you ever taught him. Not the financial problems that keep you up nights. Not the disease that causes you chronic pain and weakness. Not the addictions that have ravaged your life. Not even your own faithlessness and frailty. If God kept this promise to Sarah and me, there isnít a promise too big for him to keep. Sitting here tonight, with my son babbling in my arms, I know that thereís nothing too hard for him.
Well, maybe one thing, come to think of it. If God had a son, I canít imagine that he would give him up. Maybe that would be too hard: to let his son die and do nothing. Thatís good news for us, his children -- maybe he protects us and watches over us because itís too hard for him to imagine giving us up. He fights for his people like I would fight for this boy in my arms tonight, and for the same reasons. If he had a son, and for some reason it came down to giving him up -- I wonder if he could do it.
I couldnít, even if he asked me to. I canít imagine God could either.
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