The Laugh of Unbelief









Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”

But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”

(Genesis 18:10-15, NLT)




In order to understand the context of this incident one must understand that this is part of a continuum of story that involves God with Abraham and the covenant He the Lord has entered into with Him which also involves a promise that his wife Sarah who is very old would have a son. There would be many who would read this story and in an aloof almost arrogant fashion would want to scold Sarah for her unbelief. Here is the danger of the modern day reader not understanding the “Life Situation” or what the German Theologians would call the “Setz em Leben” of a passage of a particular passage of Scripture. This incident was a real historical event and Sarah is learning on her journey what it means to trust God. If I the reader do not attempt to place myself in that context having the benefit of being able to look back at history and knowing what the outcome was going to be I detach myself from the reality that these are real people who are attempting to do life with all the frailty of their own humanity as they deal with their own belief in God. In a sense, I am the one who has it easy because I can learn from their faith journey that God is faithful to fulfilling His promises. Thus, connecting with Sarah’s inability to believe that God could give her the ability to give birth to her own biological son at her age allows the Holy Spirit to make me more fully aware of “How much Unbelief is still in ME!”

Scientists in Germany have studied the way we laugh. They distinguish between social laughs and tickling laughs. Social laughs send out various messages like humor, joy, or satisfaction, but also messages that taunt or mock. Some laughs are audible; some are silent. Dr. Melvin Banks in referring to this study applied it to this particular story with Sarah when he writes, “Sarah, the wife of Abraham saw her laugh of unbelief turn to joy. We read in Genesis Chapter 18:12 that when God told Abraham Sarah would give birth to a son at age 90, she laughed silently in unbelief. Her unbelief prompted God to ask, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? God wanted her to know that when He makes a promise, nothing in heaven or hell can prevent Him from doing what He promises. God caused her dead womb to give birth to a son. After she gave birth to Isaac a year later, she laughed differently. In Genesis 21:6, we find her saying this: “God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me. For who would have dreamed that I would ever have a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”[1] You could say be thinking to yourself, “Great insight but what’s your point?” This leads me to my application ….


I have to count myself with Sarah because there are plenty of times that I struggle with God’s promises in my own life. In other words … It is possible for me to default to the “Laugh of Unbelief!”  Furthermore, when I am struggling with my unbelief it is easy to avoid people who could encourage me in my faith but instead I want to throw a party and have other people “Laugh with Me!”  We call these gathering’s elder meetings or simply church pot-luck’s (Please Laugh with Me). I forget that the maturity of my faith is to be able to surrender myself over to God and enjoy my relationship with Him knowing His will is always good for me. The truth is known “I hate waiting for my answers” but in the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” [2] The laugh of unbelief is a result of me not thinking God is capable of fulfilling His promise to me. It is in my waiting that he develops the character that I must have to steward well the promise He desires to give to me.


“Lord, please forgive me for the times I have had the laughter of unbelief. I desire to focus my attention on pressing into you and being able to surrender even further in my conscious trust of you. Forgive me for any arrogance and pride that would resist not recognizing that you always have my best interest in mind. I choose to trust and I choose to wait for your promises to be fulfilled in me. In my waiting which is the land in between I will choose to enjoy the journey with yo

About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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  1. PastorAl says:

    This is a test of my new comments sight.

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