In counselling training, students are told they should try to mirror the person’s body language as far as possible to show empathy.
However, there are important exceptions. Sometimes a person can laugh with ‘gallows laughter’.
They laugh, but what they’re saying is sad or horrifying, and there’s no joy in their eyes. They’re laughing from a place of deep sadness, and it would be callous to laugh in response.
If ever there were a “gallows laugh” in Scripture, it would be Sarah’s laugh here. God’s messengers bring good news – finally, after decades of waiting, she will have a son by this time next year.
If it were a fairy tale, she would be rejoicing. But she’s waited for so long that she laughs bitterly at the unlikelihood of it all because she can no longer trust in it.
She laughs, and then lies to God and says she didn’t. She is hiding, because she is hurting.
Prolonged waiting without hope can be excruciating, and the Bible is honest about this. Sometimes cynicism and bitterness feel like they’re our only protection against the constant, crushing disappointment.
Though cynicism and sarcasm help with the pain, the numbness and hardness they bring cause destruction.
If you are experiencing a long period of waiting right now, be honest before God, rather than hiding from God.
And if you know someone who has been waiting for a long time, be gentle with them. Watch their eyes when they laugh and see if you can spot pain there. Be a messenger of mercy.
A Prayer To Make:
‘Dear Lord, come to me in my pain and bitterness, and help me to look to You. And may I be someone who is gentle with others’ bitterness. Amen.’
An Action To Take:
Ask yourself today – am I being honest with God about my disappointments, or am I hiding?
Scripture To Consider:
Ruth 1:1–22; Job 23:1–4; Matt. 19:23–26; Mark 9:20–27