When Even the Best Medicine Can't Cure You

"Every human heart carries the feeling of disquiet and of separation from its true home."1


THIS WORLD OFFERS a taste of some of the most beautiful, exhilarating, and heartwarming phenomena. God's creation—intrinsically good—can leave one filled with awe at the sight of something as mundane as a sunset. The earth spins away from the sun once per day, yet still we marvel at its magnificence.

If you ask me, one of the best things about life is comedy. I love to laugh.

Most people do, of course, but why do we laugh? Why do we enjoy it?

We often laugh when presented with something so incongruous with reality that it subverts our expectations. Perhaps we enjoy laughing because doing so helps us mentally to escape the harsh realities of life.

Solomon commented on mirth and the sorrow it often belies. He wrote, "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief" (Proverbs 14:13).

I can't say Solomon intended this reference, but I think of Sarah when I read this verse. You probably know the story. Upon overhearing news that she would become pregnant at the age of 90, she laughed. Wouldn't you? As the Scripture reads:

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 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.” 
Genesis 18:12-14

Why did Sarah laugh? Because the idea of a senior citizen bearing a child seemed incongruous with what she knew to be possible. It was outlandish, farcical even.

But at the same time, Sarah's laugh was probably part defense-mechanism. She had hoped her whole life for a child, but had been disappointed for decades. Her chuckle, then, was a way to mask her heartache and guard her heart from more.

When Sarah conceived and bore a child, Abraham called him Isaac, which means laughter. Isaac was the embodiment of the type of incongruity possible with God. That Sarah, with whom the Scripture tells us the "way of women had ceased" (Gen. 18:11), could conceive and bear a child is a miracle. Such is outside the bounds of reality. We would all laugh if the story weren't true. As Sarah herself said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me" (Gen. 21:6).

The birth of a child under any circumstance, but especially in Sarah's case, is cause for great joy. And yet, recall the second part of the Proverb, "The end of joy may be grief."

What does Solomon mean?

What begins as joyous, the life of a child, will eventually result in death.

Of course, the Proverb speaks to more than just childbirth, but the event is a good representation of the sentiment Solomon is expressing.

The world is full of myriad pleasures. But the joys of this world, when not rooted in the person or purposes of God bring heartache and grief.

If we back up one verse, I think we can see the connection. Proverbs 14:12 reads, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."

These things seem right to us because laughter is pleasant and fun. Joy is, well, joyous. But gaiety only masks an underlying truth we all intuit at some point in our lives.

We are finite.

And ever since the fall of humanity, the pleasures of this world have served as mere distractions from recognizing that winter is coming. 

Therefore we must seek out God, who promises eternal joy. We think we know the right path, but he alone is the source of life.

Reading the Bible and prayer are critical activities for those who wish to seek out God. If you've struggled to establish good devotional habits, you might find my guide useful.

This guide lays out a step-by-step process you can follow to establish healthy quiet time habits. When you do, you'll grow closer to God, and I can promise you'll consider the time well spent.

How to Establish a Habit of Daily Quiet Time with God is free if you want it. It will only cost you your email address, but you can unsubscribe from the list at any time with one click. Just enter your email address below, and I'll send the reading guide your way.


1. Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/proverbs/14.htm.

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