What would you say is the most hopeless verse in Genesis? There are so many to choose from, so it’s not like it’s an easy decision. But no matter which you choose, I think one that should be among them comes in Genesis 18, when Abraham received three visitors who once again swore that he and Sarah would have a child. Hearing this, “she laughed to herself: ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I have delight?’” (v.12).
Whenever I read this, there is so much anguish that comes through. She’s too old, too “worn out” to have a child. Pure, perfect hopelessness (if it isn’t contradictory to say). But what is at the root of this hopelessness? She wanted a child, wanted this promise to be true. But Sarah was a realist. She looked at the situation from her perspective. She was almost 100 years old; far too old to have a child. She and Abraham had missed out. It was too late. So, the realist became the hopeless.
And if God’s promises depended on ordinary means, she would have been right.
But God said to her, and to us, “Is anything impossible for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). Could the one who made everything, who spoke all of creation into existence with a word, really be incapable of allowing a child to be born to parents “too old” to have children? Could the all-powerful God of the universe really be unable to do the impossible?
Are we like Sarah in this regard? How often do we assume God is incapable of doing what He says He will do—not what we think He should do, but what He actually says in Scripture—and become hopeless when we don’t see it happening? How often do we take God’s promises and turn them into commands for ourselves, so that we put ourselves under the constraints of the Law with its old way of thinking instead of pursuing freedom in Christ? If it’s true that “for freedom, Christ set us free,” why do we submit to “a yoke of slavery”? (Galatians 5:1).
Because we’ve been taught that what seems too good to be true usually is. We’ve been trained from birth to be realists, to be hopeless. Somewhere in the depths of our hearts, we don’t really believe that all things are possible for God, so we go a step further and assume nothing is possible for God. But God wants us to see that the opposite is true. Nothing is impossible for Him. All things are possible for Him and with Him. And if we had any doubt, all we need to do is look a year down the road in Abraham and Sarah’s story, to the birth of Isaac, where Sarah laughs once more, but with joy instead of despair (Genesis 21:1–6), and her realism is replaced with rejoicing.
Written by Aaron Armstrong