One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrew 11:11:
“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”
I love it so much because I read the ‘original’ version back in Genesis and I know that Sarah full of faith was first Sarah full of laughter (Genesis 18:9-15). It wasn’t joyful laughter, but incredulous, disbelieving laughter. It was the wrong time laughter, laugh at a funeral laughter, or maybe more like a snide snicker, where she thought herself unseen and unheard.
Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. So she laughed to herself: “After I am worn out and my Lord is old, will I have delight?” But the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ Is anything impossible for the Lord ?
At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.” Sarah denied it. “I did not laugh,” she said, because she was afraid. But he replied, “No, you did laugh.”
Genesis 18:11-15 CSB
But c’mon it was pretty laughable…. they were old, old, old. Sarah had waited a very long time. She and Abraham had been waiting…..and waiting…..AND WAITING. Twenty-five years they had been waiting. Proverbs says hope delayed makes the heart sick. (Proverbs 13:12) When it’s loooooooooong past the promise given, it can be hard to accept the promise as it grows near.
We may have lost our faith, we may have felt fooled and foolish and it may have twisted into cynicism in our heart. We may have locked up our deepest desires & longings in the vault of our heart because it seems too painful to venture to those places.
God does seem to like to wait until every last glowing ember of our fires have completely gone out and hold no heat, no life, nothing but charred ashes so that he might blow his divine breath upon them to create life that I cannot take any credit for.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61:3 NLT
But sometimes it’s not until our longing seems a place of desolation, burned up ashes, that the Lord will bring the river to the desert to transform our barren wasteland into a garden of delight, a place of prosperity and beauty.
It’s almost as if what I count as the end of a thing, God views as the start. Maybe he has to wait until I forsake my scheming ways to bring to pass HIS promise by MY hand (Remember Ishmael?), before he can finally perform on my behalf.
Hebrews 11:11 gives me such hope that God is rewriting my history from one of doubt, failure and defeat to one of faith, victory and overcoming.
Psalm 18:24 The Message
God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
I thank God that he has allowed my history and yours to be written loosely in the sand, where the tide of forgiveness and mercy comes in on the shores of his love and softens the hard lines we’ve written. His love rewrites our story weaving it into HIS story. In tender mercy, he removes our doubt and skepticism from our eternal story, commending us for things he bore the brunt of.
God hears our mocking laughter, our disbelief, but he does not turn his back on us. He draws near and turns our laugh of derision and disbelief into the laughter of joy and hope fulfilled. Isaac, the child of promise. Isaac the name that means laughter.