True to God’s word, Sarah had a baby boy, Isaac.
Can you just see her in her traveling desert nursery? Layers of sheepskins overlapping, white and resplendent on a bed covered by a breezy gauze canopy. Sarah and Isaac lying together face-to-face, her aging lips kissing his plump ones, her sinewy fingers caressing his, fresh and stubby. Sarah looking up in wonder at her husband, sharing the deepest joy with this flawed yet faithful man. I can see her eyes crinkling at the sides, inviting Abraham to cuddle Isaac with her. Theirs was a world of quiet wonder, of warmth, of fascination at the spectacle of life — a newborn baby.
Sarah’s worn-out body carried fat new life, and the delight of the whole marvelous affair caused an outburst — this time of felicity. She said so wonderfully in Genesis 21:6-7,
God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!
Sarah’s laughter as she held that baby inspires me to laugh in enchanted expectation. She traded secret mocking for the gorgeous tinkling of the laughter of a well-loved child, for surprise and delight and belief.
Regardless of what things appear to be or what our expectations demand of us, we are being invited to openly enjoy the anticipation of goodness. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us,
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
As He knew Sarah, God knows us, hears us, and says there is beauty to come. We may not see it now, but it will come, as sure as Sarah’s vintage arms held fat new life, sweet breath promised and delivered.
Not only did God turn her bitter laughter joyful, but Sarah also made it into the coveted “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11:
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead — a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. — Hebrews 11:11-16, emphasis mine
Do you see the goodness of God in all this? His plans were good. Because of Sarah’s and Abraham’s belief, there came a whole nation of people who looked to God despite their circumstances. God’s plans were to bless and rescue and love, in ways above what we expect or even know to ask for. And did you notice how these saints saw from a distance? They put on the lenses of Scripture, the sharp, clear, extremely good promises of God, to see further than they could see on their own.
What about Bathsheba? Bathsheba chose to honor God in the face of nasty circumstances, becoming a woman of dignity who raised her son to become a wise king. One who penned books of wisdom in the Old Testament. She unknowingly became a pivotal figure in the ancient movement lifting up a woman’s place in society, a shining star who not only lived it herself, but guides women across the ages toward a life of valor and excellence. Bathsheba saw from a distance, through tears and shame, her future as an influential queen — no longer pinned to her adulterous identity.
And Mary. Mary honored God’s will for her life, faithfully raising Jesus up from newborn to radical rabbi, all the while a faithful follower. She honored the Son of Man after His resurrection as part of the early church and carried out his request by caring for the apostle John like a son. Mary’s faith made her a crucial part of the gospel going forth; she saw from a distance how worthwhile it was to pour her whole life out before the Lord, an offering fragrant and pure. I can just see her, surrounded by grandbabies and disciples and liberated women, laughing and remembering the days when the real, living Son of Man ate at her table, under her roof. Her faith was a driving force behind the joy with which she lived out her remaining days, anticipating reunion with her beloved firstborn.
All three women trusted God with impossible lives, unable to see how it would turn out in the end but giving their everything with open arms.
The beautiful thing about every one of these stories is that it was all Jesus! The promises, the pulling through, the blessing, the miraculous. All Him. And it’s still all Him today. He is the one doing amazing things, giving without limit, yet we are the ones who receive, who benefit.
I have every reason to laugh without fear of the future; I have every reason to enjoy beauty, to dance and sing and surf and ride horses and eat delicious food. Like my biblical sisterhood, I can choose not to stay in the place of idle sadness. I can choose to lift my head, receive the gift of God’s renewing love, and move forward, pressing into His generosity.
Because the grace of God is without limit, shall I not reach for all I can get of it, even when it’s difficult to see?
Even though things in my life are far from perfect, and they never will be, I have learned to lean into the goodness of God as I wait in faith for His ultimate redemption. I have come to the conclusion that it does not glorify God to wallow in despondency like a pig in mud. If I actually, really believe that this life is not all there is, if I truly believe the Word of God, the laws and prophets and books of history, the love poetry, the letters from missionaries to the early church, if I truly believe the visions of future goings-on, the comforting healing words of love written in an extraordinary compilation of sixty-six books authored by the Holy Spirit through forty different writers over the course of fifteen hundred years,
I have every reason to rejoice.
All these yeses, all this hope, all this fixing of our eyes on the Beautiful One has proven to be worth it. That is the simplicity and loveliness of faith. Sarah and Bathsheba and Mary were merely foreigners here on earth, and so am I, and so are you. We are just passing through, not planning on settling in, not planning on staying forever. Why would we? This is not our country! Like the heroes of the faith, we choose. We get to decide where we want to “live” and then live accordingly. In the passage above from Hebrews, it says the faithful could have chosen to go back to where they came from, but they didn’t. And neither will I.
My country is heaven. My country is where my Redeemer has prepared an imperishable and marvelous place for me. My country is where I will be welcomed by loved ones with doors flung wide, hands in the air, and big kisses right on the lips. It’s where I will confidently climb into Jesus’ lap and lift my face to feel His soft beard that had once been plucked out for me. It’s where I will put my fingers in His nail-scarred hands and marvel at being so treasured, so heroically rescued. It’s where He will look me fiercely in the eyes and say, “It’s okay now. You’re safe here.” It’s where He will gently dry the tears. Pain and dying will be done away with, and my best little girlfriend, whom I have missed all these years, will run into my arms and I will kiss her freckles once again. It’s where I will brush her hair and hold her tight and swim and play and fly with her.
It’s where I will be full-hearted, mended completely. It’s where love will be consummated in the most real way we will ever know, and we will be swallowed up by life. It’s where I will tip my brand-new, splendid, heavenly head back and, while showing every tooth, laugh my loudest, my freest. The laughter won’t end, the light won’t be vanquished. In God’s mercy I will receive imperishable crowns of life and rejoicing and glory and righteousness.
My country is a place where a river flows, clear as crystal, watering twelve trees that give fruit every month. It’s where there are gates of pearl and streets of gold. My country is lit up by the light of Jesus, free from all evil, a strong fortress of grandeur held together by the Author of Life, the Originator of Beauty. And it’s a place where I will belong. I will gloriously, fully, shamelessly, and completely belong.
This, dear ones, is something to laugh about in anticipation! There is one gorgeous wedding feast of the Lamb to come, and we will dance.
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Excerpted with permission from And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick, copyright Kate Merrick.
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You and I have every reason to rejoice! If you’re anything like me the the beauty and rejoicing we’ve got ahead of us in Heaven makes your heart swell to nearly bursting with anticipation. Even if you’ve waited decades for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Even if you’ve strayed far far far from His best plan for your life and had to crawl your way back with Jesus’ grace. Even if His plan has brought you through seasons of agony along with times of bliss… there is beauty to come. There is dancing to come! Share your thoughts with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full