Laughing with joy

It doesn’t often snow in London. When it does we make the most of it. So when the little flurries turned into a good, thick snowfall with nice, fat flakes the other day, we made the most of it as a family – snowball fights, snow forts, sledding. We had lots of fun and we laughed a whole lot. It was really good for us.

Laughter. Not as common these days as it was a year or two ago, perhaps. I don’t mean derisive laughter, bitter laughter or skeptical laughter. I mean the good type. You know the one: when the goodness and wonder of a moment overflow in an experience of unconstrained joy. The kind of laughter you see at weddings or at a family gathering celebrating the birth of a child … or a family having fun in the snow. Genuine joy.

In Genesis, Sarah finally gives birth to a baby. She’s in her 90’s. She’s been waiting almost her entire life for this moment and it is a moment overflowing with joy and laughter. She even names the baby Isaac, which means ‘he laughs.’ She is filled with joy at the birth of her son and declares “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.” It’s a beautiful moment of hope and longing fulfilled. But this account isn’t the first one in which we’ve heard Sarah or Abraham laughing.

A little earlier on in the story, in Chapter 17, Abraham (Sarah’s husband) laughs for joy when God promises him that he will have a son. It is the delight that comes from the confidence in good things to come. It’s the laughter of new hope. Like the light shining in the eyes of a child that knows that the next day is their birthday. These moments are glorious. The Scriptures are filled with truths that hold overwhelmingly positive implications for us and they are a delight when we discover them. We need to cherish these sparks of light, celebrate them and remember them: dwell on them, meditate on them, write them down and refer to them often.

We see some more laughter in Genesis chapter 18, still a little while before Sarah falls pregnant. This time, however, it is the wrong sort. It’s the kind of laughter that comes when we allow our circumstances and our mood to get on top of us, obscuring the greatness of God. Sarah laughs in her skepticism when she hears the promise spoken again: she has waited so long, her body is so old, there is too long a history of disappointment and hurt. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the darkness of the present and the duration of the wait. This is when we have to choose joy. Paul repeatedly encouraged the Philippians to rejoice, even though he was in prison himself at the time. Sometimes joy is found through deliberate action rather than it being thrust upon us. The Psalmists exhorting their souls to rejoice. When we have waded through an age of hardship, when the night is the darkest and our sorrow most bitter: this is when we force our gaze on to the Lord – clinging to him to prevent doubt and misery from overtaking us.

But, as we persist through the shadows and the haze, we will (and it is an emphatic and an absolute ‘will’) see the fulfillment of His promises. And then we will laugh with a joy that is pure and rich and invaluable. We will laugh like Sarah laughed when her son was born at last. We will laugh with joy at the goodness and love of God.

Let us remember the promises that God has made. Let us hold fast to them (and to Him) when life is difficult and they seem to be fading away. He will not disappoint us or let us down. He will bring every promise to fulfillment (even if we have to endure more than we had expected). In this we can be sure and in this we can rejoice.

We can and we should look forward to the laughter.