Events present us with opportunities, but that’s often hard to see when we’re worried. There are a lot of worries right now. It’s rare that we face our worries with laughter, and the Bible presents us with numerous occasions where laughter is the response in the face of events, and events that leave us worried.
The first is the laughter of disbelief. Sarah’s laughter at the announcement by those three messengers that she and Abraham will have a son provokes laugher from Sarah as well as recognition of the limitation she sees to such impossibility ever happening. Yet it seems that her thoughts are heard and understood. The denial of Sarah to her laughter is the response of disbelief. It’s interesting that in chapter 17 of Genesis (the chapter right before we get Sarah’s laughter), Abraham also laughs when God tells him that he and Sarah are to have a son, a future. It’s then that God tells Abraham that the child is to be named Isaac (literally meaning ‘he who laughs’).
The second is laughter of joy. Once Isaac is born, in chapter 21, Sarah laughs again. And yet, it’s a joyful laughter which seems to acknowledge the absurdity, the complexity, of the moment. At her age, after all this time, she gives birth to a child in laughter who will be defined by that name. The verb translated as laughter can also mean “mockery;” is that what God is doing in this moment, and if so, to whom?
There’s a fine line between laughter of joy and laugher of mockery. The laughter of disbelief is easier to identify with when events leave us worried and anxious. These are anxious days and there is so much uncertainty. The events of these days invite a response and laughter is as good a response as any. Whether our laughter is disbelief, mocking, or joy, listen to the laughter that arises out of you in those moments, name it, and allow yourself to feel it because it’s clear that God feels it too and calls us from that place into a future with a promise as laughable as it may seem.
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