The Promise of Hope
I was sick for many years. I desperately prayed for healing and for the necessary clarity to understand what God was teaching me through my suffering.
My wife and I went from one doctor to another searching for the correct diagnosis. We would silently sit in the waiting room for the newest ‘great’ doctor, neither of us speaking of our hopes or of our terrifying fear of another disappointment.
We would fill out numerous forms and would schlep heavy loads of x-rays, MRIs, Cat scans, surgical reports, together with letters from all the doctors we had seen. We were exhausted, frightened, hopeful and expectant. The most important question on our minds was whether the new doctor would commit himself to my case and help us find the proper diagnosis.
Most of the doctors we saw were quite kind and compassionate. We would tell our rather long and complicated story and then ask whether he would stick with us until we found some answers. “I think I can help you,” was the usual response, followed by, “I will stick with you until we can find an answer.”
We had already heard those words tens of times, and yet, each time, they worked. They gave us hope, a priceless gift in such a situation. Hope was what we needed. We had been disappointed so many times by doctors who angrily gave up, or who caused more damage with the wrong medication, a misdiagnosis and even a botched surgery. No matter how many times we had been disappointed, the words still gave us hope. We didn’t laugh. We weren’t cynical. We were so desperate that we clung onto each reassuring word and promise.
Sarah’s reaction to the prediction by one of the three Bedouin visitors was constantly in my mind during the long years of illness. My Uncle Noach zt”l would say that Sarah’s laughter reflected a lack of Bitachon – trust – that God can do absolutely anything. A Boteiach – one who trusts in God – lives with a different reality; that absolutely everything is possible and nothing is impossible. (He would also say to me: “God is articulate. If you do not understand what He is teaching you, it is because your are deaf!)
My father zt”l explained that Sarah experienced her rejuvenation. She had her period for the first time in years. She knew that God was preparing her for a miracle, but God did not perform the same miracle for Abraham, “My master is old!” Sarah wondered why God transformed her into a young woman, but left Abraham an old man. The process confused her and caused her to laugh and experience doubt. My father warned me not to get lost in the natural process of modern medicine, nor to become confused over some Divine cocktail of natural and miraculous steps.
So, Sarah’s laughter was constantly on my mind. I still wonder why she laughed. I grabbed any hint of hope. Why did Sarah not rejoice in the hope offered, even if she suspected the promises to be empty?
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