From Tears to Laughter

By Mark D. Roberts

October 17, 2015

Now Sarah said, ‘God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ And she said, ‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’”

Genesis 21:6-7

Photo of child's hand grasping an adult's hand

This is one of my favorite passages in Genesis for several reasons.

First, Sarah bears joyful witness to the miraculous power of God, who can help an elderly, childless woman give birth and nurse her child. I’m glad for this reminder of God’s gracious power.

Second, I enjoy the irony of this passage. As you may recall, in Genesis 18, when Sarah heard the Lord say she was going to bear a son, she laughed in unbelief. But in Genesis 21, Sarah’s laughter sounds delightfully different. It is filled with surprise and gratitude. It is shared with others who join in. As Sarah exclaims, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me” (21:6).

The third reason I love this passage from Genesis is personal. Though my wife and I did not remain childless until old age, we did experience a long season of infertility during the early years of our marriage. It took seven years for us to get pregnant for the first time and we needed quite a bit of medical help along the way. I remember years of desperate prayers and discouraging results. I also remember the joy of learning that Linda was pregnant and the unimaginable wonder of the birth of our son, Nathan, whose name, by the way, is from the Hebrew word for “gift.” He was God’s gift to us (and, indeed, he still is, along with his sister). Through the gift of Nathan, God indeed brought laughter to Linda and me, as well as to those who share life with us.

When I tell this story, as I have sometimes when preaching, I want to laugh all over again. But then I’m reminded of dear friends who find themselves in the infertile place where Linda and I once languished. Or I think of friends who would love to have children but aren’t married and can’t see marriage on the horizon. I don’t pretend to know why and how God works out his will in our lives, why some get to laugh in this life while others get plenty of tears. Yet, this I know. In his time, the Lord will “comfort all who mourn.” He will “give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa 61:2-3). The time will come when all of God’s people will experience the redemptive, joyful laughter of Sarah.


As you read this story from Genesis 21, what in it connects with your life experience?

Have you ever laughed because of the expression of God’s amazing grace in your life?

How can we laugh over God’s blessings while still being sensitive to the suffering of others?


Gracious God, thank you for Sarah’s joy in this passage. Thank you for turning her doubtful laughter into celebrative, grateful laughter. Thank you for doing this not just for Sarah but for your people throughout history, including me.

Help me, Lord, to delight in your goodness, to enjoy your grace, to laugh when I am blessed. May I be free to share my joy with others.

At the same time, help me to be tenderhearted with others, to suffer with those who suffer, to weep with those who weep.

Yet, today, I pause to remember and to celebrate your good gifts to me. Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Amen.

Photo Credit: The Touch of a Child’s Hand by AthenA-gRace via and CC BY-SA 3.0.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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