Formations 08.30.2020: The Gift of Laughter

Genesis 17:15-17; 18:9-15; 21:1-8

Infertility is no laughing matter. One of my friends suffered through years of pain, expensive infertility treatments, marital stress, and pregnancy loss before she and her husband finally agreed to take a break from trying to have a child. They were weary from a life of tracking her menstrual cycle, scheduling their intimacy, and assuring that she took her pills or shots—only to be heartbroken when the pregnancy test was negative…or devastated when a pregnancy occurred but then failed a couple of months later when their baby died in the womb.

Many women and couples understand the toll of infertility. It is hard to laugh during this experience. Instead, you feel exhausted, grieved, and defeated.

Our time and our culture differ greatly from those of Abraham and Sarah. We marry more for love than for practicality. We have children because of our desire for them rather than our need for heirs or household workers. We know that women are worth much more than their childbearing potential. Still, I imagine that Abraham and Sarah went through some of the same emotions and struggles that infertile couples face today. Scripture tells us of the long years of disappointment they spent waiting for a biological child.

And then, way past the time when they knew all hope was lost, God sent word that Sarah would have a baby boy by Abraham. Think of the people you know who are ninety years old or more. While the biblical characters might have aged a bit differently than we do, ninety years on earth take a toll on the body and spirit. That’s why the idea of a baby was so funny to them. It was absurd enough, ridiculous enough, to make them laugh!

My friend and her husband were fortunate enough to get their own moment of absurdity. A few months after they stopped fertility treatments, they learned that she was pregnant. The news seemed impossible enough to be ridiculous, and I imagine that they laughed a bit together. It was tentative laughter, though, because the fear of loss was still present. Not until their baby girl was born did they breathe a sigh of relief. Their daughter is starting fourth grade this year, and I know they are eternally grateful for the gift of her life.

Maybe Abraham and Sarah laughed tentatively too. They felt the surprise, the joy, and the gratitude of fulfilled hopes. But perhaps they still felt cautious, not ready to let their guard down until they held their baby boy in their arms.

Many infertile couples never get to the point of this kind of laughter. Some do. There is much in this world that will disappoint us, even as there is also much that will bring us joy. May we put our highest hopes in the God who always keeps promises, no matter what we face in life.


  • Have you or someone you know experienced infertility? What was this like, and how did you or the other person cope?
  • How does your faith community minister to those experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss? What could you do better?
  • Have you ever laughed at something because it seemed too absurd to be true? What did you do about this surprise?
  • How can we cling to the hope of God’s promises even when life disappoints us?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.


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