Laughter is a funny thing!
Why do we laugh? You can laugh at someone, or with them. You can laugh with derision, or with joy. You can laugh politely, because you think you ought to; when you have to force a laugh out, but there are times, when you get a little tickle in your head, and you’ve got to work mighty hard to restrain it! There are slight titters, there are chuckles, there are belly-laughs, and there are laughs so hard your sides ache, and you have to beg people to STOP IT! because the laughter is agony. When you share fun with someone, it creates a bond, but when you ridicule them, it destroys the relationship.
Sarah did a fair bit of laughing – first in Genesis 18 v 12. Here my version says ‘she laughed to herself’, but I think she was actually laughing at herself. This was because the Lord had promised that, as old as she was, she would have a baby in one year’s time. How could that be so? It was painful to her, as she reflected on the years of hope deferred, so she mocks herself, her age, her barrenness. What a sad, hollow sort of laugh. Then she denied that she had laughed. She was embarrassed, found out, ashamed, arguing with the Lord.
What a contrast as I turn over the page to Genesis 21 v 6 – “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” This is real, joyful, infectious laughter. Why the difference? Because her prayer has been answered, her dream has come true, she has got what she wanted. Her baby was born, and her relationship with God is restored.
But what a waste! She had a whole year of hollow laughter, out of fellowship with God, just because he made her a promise she could not believe. She could have enjoyed that year, sharing the joy with her Lord, looking forward with expectation to the delight that awaited her. What a lot we lose with the wrong kind of laughter.
But what is really sad, is that Sarah’s relationship with the Lord was only good when she got what she wanted, when the promise was realized. It brings to mind Jesus’s words to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”