It definitely counts as an unusual event when three visitors turn up from nowhere to visit your tent. Especially when it turns out that the visitors are God Himself and a couple of angels! And particularly when they predict that one year later you would have a baby. And even more so when you are 90 years old and your husband is nearing 100!
As Genesis 18:9-15 says, this was what happened to Sarah. She had desired to have a child for decades and yet, despite trying and trying and trying it had never happened. And now, at her age, the possibility of falling pregnant had disappeared along with her monthly periods.
The three heavenly visitors had arrived and Abraham asked her to prepare a meal for their impromptu guests. As she prepared the meal she listened to them talking to her husband. When they mentioned that upon their return in a years’ time she would have a son (v10) she laughed. She just couldn’t help herself.
But it wasn’t a raucous belly-aching laugh. It was a laugh to herself. Almost a laugh under her breath. It wasn’t meant for others to hear. And it certainly wasn’t a laugh of joy. As she laughed she said, ‘After I have become old, shall I have the pleasure?’
Hers was a laugh filled with pain. A laugh with which she tried to shield herself from disappointment. For years, Sarah had experienced month after month of the sign in her body indicating that, yet again, she was not pregnant, until eventually that sign itself had dried up. This had caused layers of pain to be laid upon her heart and her laughter here was an attempt to avoid more pain. All the signs pointed to her having a baby as being impossible. So her laugh was a laugh of self-protection. And a laugh of disbelief.
And right into the heart of that pain, disappointment and doubt God speaks. He asks a question which challenges Sarah’s faith by focussing on who God is: ‘Is anything too difficult for the Lord?’ (v14) Surrounded by evidence which stacks up and leads to a clear conclusion, God’s question opens a door through which a shaft of light invades. The answer should clearly be ‘No’ but the implications are immense. There is no womb too barren for God to make fruitful. There is no wall too high for God to scale. There is no chasm too wide for God to cross. There is no circumstance too difficult for God to deal with.
This is a faith question. A question which searches right to the very heart of what we believe. Is God able to do the impossible? The reality is that our God is one who is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). God’s question forces us to confront whether we believe this or not.
And notice how God is prepared to poke Sarah’s pain in order for her to focus her attention on Him once again. He doesn’t avoid the issue but instead uses her acceptance of an impossible situation to remind her the He is bigger, He is greater, He is sovereign and He is able. He is the God of the impossible. He is the God of miracles.
Sarah’s story continues in Genesis 21:1-7: A year passed, during which time Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. I’ll write that again: A year passed, during which time Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son! Yes, it happened! Sarah, a 90 year old woman had a baby! The God of miracles made possible what was impossible. There is nothing beyond the scope of His powers. There is nothing which sits outside of His remit!
And this next bit is so beautifully redemptive:
Sarah named her son Isaac which means ‘He laughs’. Everyone has experienced the infectious laughter of a baby, the way that you almost can’t help yourself smile as a baby chuckles at something. And the laughing Isaac caused Sarah to say, ‘God has made laughter for me’. Wow!
It’s a miracle. A baby where there was no physical possibility. A child in the place of barrenness. The honour of motherhood after years of longing. Laughter instead of mourning. A house of joy instead of weeping (Psalm 113:9).
And within the miracle there is restoration. The woman who laughed in pain at the idea of bearing a child now laughs in the presence of a gurgling, chuckling baby. Pain replaced by joy. The woman who laughed with disbelief now laughs with pleasure. And notice how she said that everyone else who hears will laugh with her (v7)? Miracles don’t just affect individuals. They affect whole families and whole communities.
Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) and gifts are designed to be enjoyed! If you’re a mum this Mother’s Day why not laugh a little? Why not recall the fact that God used you in the miracle of life? And if there are impossibilities which you face why not remember that nothing is impossible for Him and pray that you, like Sarah, will be able to one day laugh with others about what God has done?
Sarah laughed in pain and disbelief but ultimately was able to laugh at all God had done.