The Bible doesn’t reveal how Sarah (Sarai) reached when she learned that Abram wanted her to be his wife (see Gen 11:29). We’re also not told how she handled the fact that she was barren (see 11:30), though we could probably imagine how devastating this realization was.
We don’t know Sarah’s response the day her husband came home and told her they’d be moving south and west to Canaan (see Gen 12:1-5). Did she ask questions about his far-fetched story? A supernatural call from a God named Yahweh? A wagonload of grandiose promises? An old childless couple producing a great nation? Worldwide fame? Blessed so much the blessing would sill out onto the entire world? Really, Abram?
What does a sixty-five-year-old infertile woman do with all that? How confused and depressed must Sarah have felt? To her credit, if she thought her seventy-five-year-old hubby had been drinking or stricken with sudden dementia, she kept such thoughts to herself. She gathered up her belongings, and hand in hand they set out (see Gen 12:6-9).
How about Abram’s boneheaded attempt in Egypt to pass her off as his sister (see Gen 12:10-20)? How did Sarah respond to that? Was she more wounded or angry? When he had to arm his servants and embark on a dangerous mission to rescue their nephew Lot, who had gotten caught up in a tribal war (see Gen 14:1-24), did Sarah worry, cyr, panic, or pray?
There’s so much we don’t know: how Sarah felt each time her husband gave her another wild-eyed report of a strange, divine vision (see Gen 15:1-21); what she thought when Abram came home one day and told her Yahweh had abruptly changed their names to Abraham and Sarah (see Gen 17:5, 15).
Only in a couple of instances do we get a glimpse into Sarah’s heart. One of these came after more than a decade of Abraham’s “God-will-give-us-a-baby” talk. The long-suffering Sarah suggested a plan-maybe just to shut her husband up. “Since the LORD has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family” (Gen 16:2). Abraham signed off on the idea. He slept with Hagar, and the result was a boy, Ishmael.
Immediately Sarah was the polar opposite of happy. Though the whole thing had been her own idea, just the sight of that gloating Hagar holding that cooing baby ripped her soul in two. Sarah lashed out at her husband. She turned bitter and mean (see Gen 16:5-16).
After another thirteen long years passed, we once again see the raw reaction of Sarah when three visitors showed up with shocking news (see Gen 18:1-15). Abraham asked her if she wouldn’t mind whipping up a meal for their surprise company. She did so and then retreated to her tent. Only when she heard one of the visitors speak her name did she begin to listen in ono their hushed conversation.
That’s when the eighty-nine-year-old Sarah heard the speaker say that she would become a mother within the year. The thought was too crazy, too unthinkable, too outlandish. Sarah started to laugh and then caught herself.
To be fair, it was more a quiet chuckle than a loud guffaw. And it was driven more by amused disbelief than derisive scorn. Still, the Lord heard it. And, when he asked Abraham why Sarah would dare doubt the word of Almighty God, she got flustered and scared. She tried to deny her reaction. The Lord wasn’t buying it.
At long last, when the child of the promise finally arrived a year later, Sarah’s response was genuine, unapologetic laughter (see Gen 21:6). It was the unparalleled joy of a first-time mom, the unedited glee of someone who’d finally received a long-anticipated gift. In fact, when these two wrinkled, old, new parents discovered they couldn’t stop smiling and giggling, they decided to just go ahead and name the boy Isaac, which means “laughter.”
Maybe the old saying is true after all: “The person who laughs last, laughs best.”