Transformed Laughter

by Pastor Dan Miller

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
Praying BabyThere is a delightful little book compiled by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall entitled Children’s Letters to God. As you might anticipate from the title, this work brims with unwitting humor and profound theological insights.

By “profound theological insights” I speak in the spirit of Psalm 8:1-2: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise …”

Praise was certainly ordained for the pen of a little boy named Eugene who bore witness to the glory of God in the heavens when he wrote this letter to God: “Dear God: I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool” (Eugene).

When is the last time you saw a sunset that way? Whatever Eugene did or did not know about the science of planetary rotation and the refraction of light, he must be credited for realizing that God is alive and active in his creation. Such a vision of reality is not easily won in a world teeming with adults who scoff at the notion that orange and purple constitute acceptably complementary hues—more difficult yet in a world in which God’s influence is widely viewed as mythical, and perhaps even laughable if the truth were told.

There are times when we simply cannot see how the orange and purple circumstances of life could ever combine to create anything of beauty. We may even laugh in our hearts at the proposal that God would (or perhaps even could) choose to do so.

Yet the joy of the matter is that God specializes in ordaining praise on the lips of the mature, as well as from the mouths of children. Indeed, God is in the business of securing glory for his name by transforming disbelieving laughter which loves to scoff at God’s influence into believing laughter which revels in his power and grace.

Such a transformation is afoot in the narrative found in Genesis 18. God reveals to Abraham that he and his infertile wife Sarah will have a son. Eavesdropping from the cover of her tent, Sarah quietly laughs in disbelief at the promise of God. The thought of God intervening in her world strikes her as absurd. She dismisses the notion as we might laugh at a child’s suggestion that orange and purple are complimentary colors. When confronted by the Lord for her disbelieving laughter, Sarah denied her deficiency, but God had her dead to rights.

Then, approximately one year later, just as God had promised, a son was born to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:1ff). In dramatic fashion God intervened in Sarah’s life, combining the orange and purple of her circumstances into a beautiful experience. Once again, Sarah laughed; but this time her laughter was not that of incredulity but of faith. “God has made me laugh,” she exclaimed in Genesis 21:6. In other words, God had won her heart. Sarah’s perspective on God’s influence was transformed from a snicker of disbelief to the joyful laughter of living faith. God commemorated the experience by commanding Abraham to name his son “Isaac,” a name related to the Hebrew word for laughter.

Genesis 18 reveals that God is in the business of transforming disbelieving laughter into believing joy. I have personally witnessed this transformation in my own life and in the lives of many others who have come to know the God who forgives sins, who spiritually enlivens the soul, and who rewards faith with gladness of heart. I have seen God take mockers who laughed with skeptical, scoffing disbelief, and transform them into believers who now sing for joy to the Lord. Such divine interventions are a wonder to behold.

Perhaps it is time for you, like Sarah, to exchange your disbelieving laughter for believing joy. Do you scoff at such a notion? So have many others. But I write with courage because I know that God specializes in such transformations, and I pray with hope that he will perform just such a work in your heart. If he does, you will never see another sunset quite the same way again. The symphony in your soul will provide a new sense of beauty to your eyes. Orange and purple may even look good together. And you will laugh!

Dan MillerDan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.
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