“I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man.
Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, “An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?”
God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ Is anything too hard for God? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.”
Sarah lied. She said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was afraid.
But he said, “Yes you did; you laughed.” (Genesis 18:10-15, MSG)
I’ve been thinking about this passage almost every day for over a week now – when I am stirring pots on the stove, soaking my hands in dishwater, when I walk around the city, when I hear people talk, as I fall asleep and as I wake up. All these years later, Sarah’s story is fueling obstreperous thoughts that only calm down and make sense when I write about them.
I imagine Sarah standing in the opening of the tent, a bit slack-jawed, face flushed and laboring to breathe. Her hand trembling as she lifts it slowly up to her face.
I realize I’ve been laughing at God lately.
And slowly backing away from the doors He is opening with a list like Sarah’s of reasons why He might be wrong.
He’s asking me why I’m laughing.
Conviction feels a bit terrifying doesn’t it?
Initially, conviction requires something from us – a change of heart or perspective, making amends, taking risks, surrendering plans, sacrificing comfort or repentance. But after that initial dose of the fear of God, His love makes us brave enough to carry on.
God convicts and then asks these questions, “Will you trust that I love you? Will you trust that my ways are good?”
My friend Christie Purifoy is mentoring me on how to be brave.
I imagine Christie wasn’t laughing when she got the news that her brother-in-law Shawn, a Marine pilot, was on board one of the helicopters that crashed off the coast in Hawaii. In the blink of an eye, her sister becomes a young widow and nieces and nephews, fatherless. I imagine shock and disbelief, not laughter.
But when tragedy happens the very week you are set to launch your first book into the world, I imagine if there was any laughter, it mimicked Sarah’s. Laughter that erupts from a place that asks, “How in the world is this going to happen?”
Is anything too hard for God?
At a time set aside for the promotion of her work, Christie watched her plans crumble. And the communion of the saints come together to lift Roots and Sky up through her cloud of grief. God always knew that others would carry her words into the world at the appointed hour.
A year ago, if God would’ve shown up at Christie’s house, Maplehurst, saying this time next year the launch of your first book will coincide with the loss of your brother-in-law, I imagine like Sarah, she would’ve laughed in disbelief.
But when it actually happens, this is how she responds instead, “The book I wrote is not diminished by this sorrow. It is more true than I knew, and it has become, for me, an anchor outside this grief. It is, quite literally, the material form of my hope. If I once thought it was my gift to God then it is a gift he has given back to me. I can hold hope in my hands, even if I fail to see it in these circumstances.”
God is telling me to do some hard things and I tend to make lists of reasons why He might want to consider choosing someone else. And then Sarah’s long ago tale in Genesis paired with Christie’s story coming through my inbox remind me why I cannot laugh or pretend that I’m not laughing when I am falling on the floor uproariously inside my head.
The broken, imperfect, messy, stories of life are where we find the courage to hope. We laugh at God only when we eliminate Him from the equation.
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
“We believe it. We don’t understand it. We are still rocked by loss and grief, but we see God’s goodness everywhere. God is still good.”
Find Christie’s book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons on Amazon (on sale for $7.90, Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.
So good, Shelly. So very good.
This morning I woke up with some words running through my head. LORD and Saviour or is it, Lord or Saviour. It’s not either or. He is the Lord and Lord over all. I picked up my Bible and as I read I began to think, our God is big and I ask too little. I too have laughed like Sarah. I laughed at the thought of becoming a mom so late in my life but God’s ways are always different than my point of view and that brings conviction. I have also been reading about daily bread. Manna for the day, God’s provision.
As we search for a new home there is plenty of asking but there is no laughing this time, just praising.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the manna lately too Celeste. Praying for the right place for you to land and for God’s timing in it all to be perfect. It always is but we often don’t realize that until afterward. Hang in there my friend. God is good. All the time. xx
Shelly, I needed to read this post as our family reels in grief for beloved friends in St. Louis whose fifteen-year-old son has died suddenly, unexpectedly. Tuesday, he went to bed not feeling particularly well and his parents found him unresponsive in his bed. That quickly, this young boy, who by all appearances was healthy, vibrant, and pulsing with life, crossed beyond the veil to behold his Savior. We are not laughing; we are grieving. But with laughter and grief are close companions, whether we experience disbelieved hopes or unimagined sorrow. I do not know Christie, but I know how you and other blogger friends love her, so I’ve learned of her touching story and read some of her words, which almost seem prophetic based on what has happened to her dear brother-in-love and their family. God prepared her in a way she couldn’t have anticipated and now comforts her through the very words He gave her to write. My friends wrote no words as far as I know, but I know they know that God has been writing their story and John David’s short story a day, a laugh, a hug, a joy, an experience at a time. And they love HIS story, which has informed their love and life in Christ. I know that God’s Word in and to and through them and God Himself will sustain them. You feed me words I (and they) know, but will need to remember over and over again: Nothing (not life, not sorrow, not grief, not death) is too hard for the Lord . . . to overcome! Please pray for them, Shelly. The funeral is Saturday. Love, Lynn
I’ve been thinking about this and praying for the family ever since you shared this Lynn. I can.not.even.imagine. My heart breaks for them and I don’t even know them.
I am unutterably grateful for your prayers, Shelly. Bless you!! The parents are Janey and Chip. The have three other children. I know you understand this b/c of how much you love your own sweet children. So grateful to you.
My copy of Christie’s book came yesterday; I’m going to wait a bit to read it as there are so.many.other.books. Her family’s loss and the timing of the book release are the most oddly juxtapositioned events I’ve heard of well, probably, ever. Only God. Only God could know, only God can carry, only God….
May you hear only God as you say ‘yes’ to his ask, my friend, no matter how much those voices in your head laugh at the foolishness. He is an upside down kingdom King, that is for sure.
I finished Christie’s book on Sabbath. It is so good, I couldn’t put it down. Had dinner late. Anyway, I know you will love it once you spend time with her words. She’s a beautiful writer.
This might sound odd, but I think the timing of this tragedy, as devastating as it is, does more to authenticate her book than anything, as she lives out the truths she wrote in it. Anyone who reads it will know they aren’t just empty words, but words of life. I believe, too, like Lynn, that God will be using her own words to comfort and strengthen her–because He has done that for me in the past, with really uncanny timing. I was also struck by your photos, and their relation to your text, because I was out just yesterday, photographing buds on the ends of branches and other signs of life in what seems dead by winter. Prayers for you and whatever lies before you, because I have a tendency to laugh when I shouldn’t, too!
I know what you mean about the timing of the book Sylvia. I picture her brother-in-law smiling about it actually. I can imagine he would be elated to know her book is beloved and read by many. God is so good to prepare us when we don’t even know it!! Thanks for being here.
Oh, my. God surely has grand, noteworthy plans for Christie’s book. Its impact can only be augmented by the circumstances surrounding its release. May God minister comfort and strength to her, just as Sylv and Lynn have said. For you, Shelly, I pray that as you tackle those hard things God is asking you to do–one step at a time–his wisdom, strength, and courage will fill your spirit with confidence!
Thank you Nancy. Your words are always seasoned with kind encouragement that believes and hopes above all things. I appreciate you so much!!
Beautiful, dear Shelly. I hope there is an Isaac-like joy ahead to meet you as you step out to do the hard things.
What a lovely blessing Amy! Thank you so much.