“I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man.
Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, “An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?”
God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ Is anything too hard for God? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.”
Sarah lied. She said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was afraid.
But he said, “Yes you did; you laughed.” (Genesis 18:10-15, MSG)
I’ve been thinking about this passage almost every day for over a week now – when I am stirring pots on the stove, soaking my hands in dishwater, when I walk around the city, when I hear people talk, as I fall asleep and as I wake up. All these years later, Sarah’s story is fueling obstreperous thoughts that only calm down and make sense when I write about them.
I imagine Sarah standing in the opening of the tent, a bit slack-jawed, face flushed and laboring to breathe. Her hand trembling as she lifts it slowly up to her face.
I realize I’ve been laughing at God lately.
And slowly backing away from the doors He is opening with a list like Sarah’s of reasons why He might be wrong.
He’s asking me why I’m laughing.
Conviction feels a bit terrifying doesn’t it?
Initially, conviction requires something from us – a change of heart or perspective, making amends, taking risks, surrendering plans, sacrificing comfort or repentance. But after that initial dose of the fear of God, His love makes us brave enough to carry on.
God convicts and then asks these questions, “Will you trust that I love you? Will you trust that my ways are good?”
My friend Christie Purifoy is mentoring me on how to be brave.
I imagine Christie wasn’t laughing when she got the news that her brother-in-law Shawn, a Marine pilot, was on board one of the helicopters that crashed off the coast in Hawaii. In the blink of an eye, her sister becomes a young widow and nieces and nephews, fatherless. I imagine shock and disbelief, not laughter.
But when tragedy happens the very week you are set to launch your first book into the world, I imagine if there was any laughter, it mimicked Sarah’s. Laughter that erupts from a place that asks, “How in the world is this going to happen?”
Is anything too hard for God?
At a time set aside for the promotion of her work, Christie watched her plans crumble. And the communion of the saints come together to lift Roots and Sky up through her cloud of grief. God always knew that others would carry her words into the world at the appointed hour.
A year ago, if God would’ve shown up at Christie’s house, Maplehurst, saying this time next year the launch of your first book will coincide with the loss of your brother-in-law, I imagine like Sarah, she would’ve laughed in disbelief.
But when it actually happens, this is how she responds instead, “The book I wrote is not diminished by this sorrow. It is more true than I knew, and it has become, for me, an anchor outside this grief. It is, quite literally, the material form of my hope. If I once thought it was my gift to God then it is a gift he has given back to me. I can hold hope in my hands, even if I fail to see it in these circumstances.”
God is telling me to do some hard things and I tend to make lists of reasons why He might want to consider choosing someone else. And then Sarah’s long ago tale in Genesis paired with Christie’s story coming through my inbox remind me why I cannot laugh or pretend that I’m not laughing when I am falling on the floor uproariously inside my head.
The broken, imperfect, messy, stories of life are where we find the courage to hope. We laugh at God only when we eliminate Him from the equation.
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
“We believe it. We don’t understand it. We are still rocked by loss and grief, but we see God’s goodness everywhere. God is still good.”