oes laughter define faith and doubt? This seems to be the case when Abraham and Sarah laughed. When Abraham is informed that he will have a son by Sarah, he threw himself on his face and laughed (Gen 17.17). Sarah too laughed when she heard about bearing a son at her advanced age. However, God asked Abraham, why did Sarah Laugh (Gen 18:13-14)? God didn’t ask Abraham why he laughed. Why did God put Sarah to the task? How was Abraham’s laughter different from Sarah’s?
Some would say that Abraham’s was the laughter of delight, of optimism, a laugh of astonishment. Abraham believed God and was happy because a son would be born to him, in spite of such improbability. In contrast, Sarah’s laughter was of scorn and lack of faith—a burst of doubting laughter, since Sarah had lost faith in her ability to bear. If that is the case, Abraham’s was a ‘reverent’ laugh and Sarah’s ‘irreverent’ laugh.
Abraham had faith from the beginning whereas Sarah had it only after she knew that fact. Such faith leaves something to be desired, for if the miraculous thing had begun to happen, it is no longer a matter of believing but of knowing.
Then, how do we know our ‘laughter’ depicts doubt or faith? There is much more to the laughter of Sarah. Abraham laughed when God informed him about the promise, but this was not the case with Sarah. Sarah did not laugh when sheheard the promise, but “laughed” when she saw her youthfulness returning—a feeling that she should have “pleasure”(‘edhenâh) at her ripe age. Sarah comments on her age quite rudely as “all dried up/used up, worn out like a garment” (bâlâh the same verb in Job 13:28) meaning she was “well past it”! Sarah also described Abraham as “old” using a Hebrew word form zâqên (used for an old tree stump Job 14:8). It seems that she did not credit the promise of bearing a child until she had seen a change occur in herself. Sarah only believed after she knew that she would bear a child. It implies that she was of little faith and did not trust God’s promise to her. That is why God asked Abraham, “Is anything too wondrous for the Lord?”
Both Abraham and Sarah laughed! However, the timing of their laughter was different. Abraham laughed as soon as God told him that he would have a child. The very moment, even before he sensed a changed in his body, he had absolute faith in God. In contrast, Sarah did not laugh immediately, but only after discerning that biological changes were occur-ring in her body. Sarah wanted to know everything with absolute certainty, which is an unrealistic attitude to faith. Faith is about being willing to live in existence and promises of God, and eventually knowing that one day, that existence and those promises will be vindicated.
Abraham had faith from the beginning whereas Sarah had it only after she knew that fact. Such faith leaves something to be desired, for if the miraculous thing had begun to happen, it is no longer a matter of believing but of knowing. Sarah showed a morbid preoccupation with doubt—a sense and feeling that God is shut out of her life.
Ultimately, God had the last laugh. So, Abraham laughs, Sarah laughs, and even God leaves a little out in his reporting of Sarah’s thoughts, but everyone has the last laugh, for, in the words of Sarah, “all who hear [of the birth of Isaac] will laugh with me” (Gen 21:6)! When there is so much of doubt around us, let the timing of laughter be like Abraham, so that, before things change around us, let us have absolute faith in our resurrected Lord