This essay is a follow up to the Extraordinary Women of the Bible study. We recommend first completing your lesson and discussing it with your group before reading this post.
Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?
By: Erin Bishop
The Lord said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my Lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Genesis 18:10-12)
Most of us have come up against impossible odds at some point in our lifetime. Some of us would say our lives have been riddled with challenges, while others may feel more fortunate. Either way, the longer your Christian walk gets, the more likely you have encountered the impossible. However, it’s more important how we respond to these impossibilities, than the quantity of them.
God graciously stands between us and our impossible circumstances, arming us with His promises and His power, so that we can choose to respond in faith. Ask yourself: when faced with impossible odds, do I typically respond with doubt or with faith?
When we look at Sarah’s story, we see a woman who faced one impossible situation after another. She was unable to have children (Genesis 11:30), was exposed by her husband to dangerous situations with powerful men (Gen. 12:10-16, 20:1-2), and she made desperate choices that carried painful and lasting consequences (Gen.16:1-6). Sarah had been undervalued, mistreated, and unprotected. Her experiences had led her to believe she couldn’t trust those around her, not even her own body! She’d also waited decades for the Lord to grant her a son, a promise He’d given Abraham over 20 years before the scene in Genesis 18. So when the Lord promised, again, to give Sarah a son the ripe old age of 90, it’s easy for us to sympathize with her doubts.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Sarah’s story isn’t that she did, in fact, bear a son in her advanced, menopausal state. Perhaps the hardest thing the Lord did in Sarah’s life was to take her rock hard doubt and turn it into life-producing faith.
In Hebrews 11:11 we read, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” God’s power enabled Sarah to conceive when her body otherwise wouldn’t have allowed it, but it was her trust in God’s faithfulness that opened the door for God’s power to work within her.
The text says “by faith” Sarah conceived. Does that confuse you, since Genesis 18:10-12 so obviously records Sarah’s doubt? You’re not alone! Stick with me as we unpack that conversation and I think you’ll see how the Lord, who brings forth life from death, also brings forth faith from doubt.
In Genesis 18:13 we read, “The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’” It’s here that Sarah begins to understand that the Lord is in her midst. Only Yahweh could know her innermost thoughts. Nothing goes unseen or unheard by the Lord.
The Lord continues in v. 14 saying “‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” The word “hard” is translated from the Hebrew word “pala” and is defined as “to be surpassing or extraordinary”. Some translations say, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Once Sarah realizes the Lord is with her, we can imagine the sense of both awe and guilt that she felt. Confronted with the reality of the Lord’s power and His omniscience, she may have begun to wonder how she ever doubted the Lord’s faithfulness or the ability to keep His promises. It’s becoming clear to Sarah that God is not like any other person she’s ever met.
When asked about her silent laughter, Sarah responds as any of us would: by denying it. The mix of guilt and awe led her to do what seemed most self-preserving in the moment. But even her denial is revealed as false, and Sarah is silent in the rest of this story. Based on the Hebrews 11:11 account of the conception, we can reasonably assume that during Sarah’s encounter with the living Lord, she was grieved by her sin of unbelief and her doubt of the Lord’s ability to keep His promises. With the revelation of the Lord’s ability to know her innermost thoughts, Sarah determined she could trust the Lord. Then she repented of her sin and received the Lord’s forgiveness, which was credited to her as faith.
When we remember who God is, we will not see Him as we see those around us. Having a right view of God allows us to respond to all situations and circumstances with faith rather than with doubt. Have you ever doubted what God could do in your life because of what others had failed to do? What attributes of God do you need to remind yourself of? His steadfast love? His omniscience? His longsuffering? His mercy? His sovereignty?
When confronted with Sarah’s doubt, God did not dole out judgment but instead revealed Himself and repeated His promise. God is not surprised by our need for encouragement or reminders either. God gently confronts us and reveals Himself through His Word. What promises from God do you need to receive again? Will you take time to find them in your Bible and write them out for yourself? Will you determine to trust those promises, repent of your doubt and walk with Him “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)?
Just like Sarah, doubt in our hearts often becomes calcified, due to years of disappointment and pain. The next time you are faced with impossible odds, will you respond with doubt? Or will you ask yourself: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)