Anyone who has been a parent for any length of time has a host of funny things that have happened in their household. Growing together as a family is often a great deal of fun. I know we have had times at our dinner table where milk has come out of someone’s nose because of a well timed comment. There have been times where we have been brought to tears because of the humor of a particular situation. Children say funny things.
You may remember the story of the Mother who put her children to bed. She then went and took a shower, wrapped her hair in a towel, put on a night shirt, took out her contacts, and was applying cold cream to her face when she heard a commotion coming from the children’s bedroom. She went down the hall to find the kids jumping on their beds and carrying on. Needless to say, she scolded them. She told them to get in bed and STAY THERE. The children quickly obeyed. And as mom was leaving she heard the one child say to the other in complete seriousness, “Who was that?”
There are stories of children who are misbehaving in church (a very embarrassing and awkward time for parents, I might add). On on occasion the child was acting up so much that the parent picked them up and started to take them out of the sanctuary. The child looked back at the congregation and said, “pray for me!” On another occasion, a child began to whistle during the Pastoral Prayer. The Mother looked at the child with horror and anger. The child innocently responded, “I asked God to teach me to whistle . . . . and He answered me!” Let’s face it, there are times when it is almost impossible to discipline your children because they are so funny!
This morning I want to look at the a couple of account of parents laughing. In this case the parents are Abraham and Sarah. These accounts are found in Genesis 17, 18 and 21. The account of the three visitors in Genesis 18 is an account we will look at more closely next week. This morning we will look only at the two different types of laughter that we find in these accounts. As we do, I hope you will be instructed and encouraged in your living and in your family life.
THE LAUGHTER OF DISBELIEF
The first records of laughter are at two different times when then Lord informs Abraham that even in their old age Abraham and Sarah are going to have a son. In the first case in Genesis 17 God called Abraham to circumcise the men in the family. This was a special act which signified the Jewish males devotion and commitment to the Lord. God commanded and Abraham obeyed.
Then we read in verses 15-18
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell face down; 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!” [Genesis 17:15-18]
Why did Abraham laugh? Because it seemed like an absurd notion. He had given up on the idea of Sarah ever bearing children. Sarah was too old. Abraham was content to let his family line come through Ishmael. suspect there was a part of Abraham that wanted to believe the words . . . but they seemed too incredible to be possible. Abraham was not laughing from joy . . . he was laughing at something he considered to be absurd. It was a derisive laugh.
The second account of laughter is very similar. This time the laughter is coming from Sarah. Three visitors come to the home of Abraham and Sarah. At least two of the visitors are identified as angels, the other is called “The LORD.” One of these visitors may very well be the preincarnate (before God became man) Christ. In the course of the conversation with Abraham the LORD speaks to Abraham.
Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” [Genesis 18:10-12]
Sarah, like Abraham was not laughing out of joy. She laughed because she thought, “these visitors must not know me or how old I am.” She was sure such a statement was a mistake. It was impossible for her to have a child. It was an absurd notion. It was so absurd that the thought seemed funny.
What happens next, however, is extremely important.
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child not that I am old?’ Is anything to hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (vv. 13-15)
God hears the laughter and addresses the situation. He understands that Sarah is not laughing because she is delighted with what the LORD says, she is laughing because she believes it is impossible. And God’s response to Sarah is this: “Sarah, your God is too small.” He asks her a rhetorical question: “Is ANYTHING too hard for the Lord?” The expected answer is “No”. The God who created the universe with a word is not limited by the world He created. What seemed impossible to Sarah was not impossible to God at all.
Can you sense the message here for contemporary believers? Do you see the importance of this passage for our everyday living? It applies to those with families and those without them. It applies to anyone who feels they are in an impossible situation.
- Those facing infertility . . . is your problem too hard for the Lord?
- Those facing an overwhelming illness . . . God is able to meet your needs
- Those who look at their rebellious children and feel they are “hopeless” . . . The problem may seem beyond you . . . but friend, do you think it is too hard for the Lord?
- Those who face old wounds that seem impossible to overcome . . . is this beyond God’s power to mend?
- Those raised in dysfunctional homes . . . God can unravel the mess and heal the pain
- Those who look at the costs of a college education and say, “It is impossible”. Do you really think it is impossible for the God of the Universe?
- Those who feel that their marriage is hopelessly over . . . The God who made you one can renew the love?
The list could go on. I suspect I’ve given enough examples to help you see your own need in the light of these words. The simple laughter of Abraham and Sarah remind us that we often laugh when we should trust. We often throw our hands up in the air when we should be putting them together in prayer. We are too prone to focus on our lack of strength instead of His sufficient strength.
Abraham and Sarah were reminded that the God who spoke to them is the Omnipotent God. He is the one who is all-powerful. He takes those who are dead and makes them live. He takes the sick and heals them. He takes broken relationships and lives and puts them back together. Whatever circumstance you face . . . remember . . . . it is not too hard for the Lord.
Does this mean that every problem will go away? Nope. But what it does mean is that God COULD remove every obstacle, heartache, disappointment if He wanted to. He has the power. His arms are not too short! So . . . if God can change things with a Word. . . and doesn’t . . . we must conclude that there is a good reason He doesn’t. There is something to be gained, a lesson to learn, a character trait to develop, a faith to build.
Do not give up on Him! He will not give up on you.
The Laughter of Joy
There is one more time when laughter is mentioned in this wonderful story. But this laughter is different.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” [Genesis 21:6,7]
Now Sarah has her son in her arms. It is too good to be true. She laughs out of joy. There are several reasons for her laughter,
She laughs for joy at the faithfulness of God. Sarah thought about how incredible it was that she, at 90 years old was delivering and nursing a baby. God had promised . . . the promised seemed impossible to fulfill . . .but God did what He said He would do. Sarah could only laugh with delight as she thought about God’s gracious love.
Do you ever sit back and think about what God has done and shake your head and smile? I do. That’s the same kind of thing that was happening with Sarah. God’s goodness was so astounding that she could not help but smile.
She laughs with wonder at the blessings of parenthood. Can you think of anyone who would have appreciated having a child more than Sarah did at this point? For 90 years she has wished she could have a child. When she fantasized about a better life . . . it included her as a mother. Sarah lived in a world where women unable to have children were seen as deficient. Every time she saw a family together she ached for what she could not have. Every time she saw Ishmael and Hagar she was reminded of her own failure.
For Sarah, parenthood was the finest thing that could happen to her. To her it was a blessing that exceeded what she had dared to hope. This one who had laughed because of her doubt now laughed because of her joy. This was an experience more wonderful than she dared to hoe for. She laughed with delight to be a part of the creative process and give birth to a child. Sarah did not take this moment for granted. To her motherhood was not a burden . . . it was a privilege.
Some of you know what it is to wait and wait and finally to be blessed with a child. Some of you have overcome pregnancies that ended in pain and disappointment. You understand this kind of laughter. You know what a treasure it is to have your children.
But most of us, though we love our children and wouldn’t trade them for anything, lose sight of the blessing. We forget that sense of wonder that we had when we first held our child in our hands. Parenthood is certainly a big responsibility. And yes there are countless obligations . . . but we must never forget that it is a tremendous privilege.
Having children gives us a chance to appreciate God’s goodness in a new way,
- We understand the joy of creating
- As we work to provide for our children we come to understand how God provides for us
- As we discipline our children we come to understand the means God often uses to teach us….and why
- As we think about the love we have for our children, we appreciate with new forcefulness the love or Father in Heaven must have had to be willing to sacrifice His Son for our sake. That thought is unthinkable for most of us.
- As we yearn for those times of conversation and time to be together with our children we better understand the summons of God to prayer.
Parenting is a privilege we must never take for granted.
She appreciated the Opportunities of Parenthood. I suspect that Sarah thought about the rich joy that is a part of sharing your life with another. The privilege of teaching this child to walk and talk and think and hopefully to believe. What an awesome privilege and a joyful opportunity.
Many dads when their son is born immediately go out and buy their son a ball glove. Their child cannot appreciate these things at present . . . but it is a gift that comes from the joyful anticipation of what is ahead. Dad is imagining teaching his son how to throw a ball. He is thinking already of helping him develop his batting eye.
Or dad may go out and buy his daughter a new dress. She can’t appreciate that either but dad is already thinking about the beauty of his little girl. He is already anticipating seeing her head off to prom or that day when he will (hopefully) walk her down the aisle. Even in those first days dads sometimes well up with tears at the thought of seeing his little girl leave home. Not even hours old and dad is beginning to anticipate separation anxiety. He talks about not letting her date until she is 30. He talks about how strict he will be in screening her boyfriends . . . all before she is a week old.
The reason for this is that joyful sense of anticipation. God has granted us such a rich privilege. We have a wonderful opportunity to be a part of molding a young life. It makes us smile and maybe laugh with joy.
What happens? Where does this joy at our opportunity go? When does this opportunity turn into drudgery? What causes us to start complaining when we began the process rejoicing? When did we start seeing our opportunity and privilege as a burden?
Let me ask you, when was the last time you thought about the blessing God has given you in calling you to Himself? When was the last time you chuckled out loud at the absurd, yet wonderful thought that you . . . you . . are considered a child of God? When was the last time you looked at your children and thanked God for the laughter He had brought into your home? When was the last time you stood in the doorway of your child’s room and watched them sleep with tears in your eyes as you thought about the joy that life had brought to your soul? When was the last time you saw the rich privilege and challenge of helping your children grow and develop?
Like Sarah, we need to understand that God’s faithfulness is undeserved and His blessings . . . especially the blessing of family, should always be received and cherished joyfully.
Here are some things for you to do this week:
FIRST, post a sign in your house somewhere that says, “Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?” Look at it often and take it to heart. Say the words over and over. Remind yourself of His sufficiency for EVERY problem and situation. When you are tempted to despair, repeat those words. When you feel like you can’t handle life anymore . . . repeat those words. When you face an impossible situation, remember the truth of those words. The next time you feel like laughing at God’s promise . . . remember who it is who is making the promise.
SECOND, take out the baby pictures. Remember that joy that you felt when you first held your child in your arms. Remember how honored you were to be given that gift of life. Think about how different your life would be if you did not have your child(ren). When you’ve done that do several things
- Get on your knees and thank God for the privilege and opportunities of parenthood
- Find a way to tell your child how special they are to you
- If possible, contact your parents and thank them for the influence they have had over your life.
The account of Abraham and Sarah is certainly a unique situation. We don’t anticipate hearing about any other 90 year old first time mothers. But as unique as their story is . . . the lessons we can learn from these accounts are lessons that transcend the generations. They are lessons we need to be reminded of again and again. May God help us to learn . . . and to remember.