Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
A friend prayed this proverb for me when major life plans were dashed. I had thought the Lord was guiding me to move to another city to work with a Christian organization there. Conveniently, in that city lived a man whom I was sure the Lord had told me I would marry. But in the space of a week, I knew that neither would happen – neither would I work there nor marry that wonderful man.
My friend realized that I had seriously misheard the Lord, but she didn’t pass judgment on me. Rather she ministered to me through this proverb, for she saw that what my heart hoped for – marriage and being involved in an organization I loved – was now not coming true. And if I let my deferred hope fester within, my heart could become sick with sadness and disappointment.
She prayed with me, and helped me to release some of the pain and disbelief to God. I started to understand that I needed to mature in my listening; to test what I was hearing not only against the Bible but with trusted prayer partners.
It’s interesting that Solomon in this proverb simply observes the effects of hope deferred and longing fulfilled. He’s not pointing fingers at causes or behaviors that may have brought about the hope deferred. Sometimes merely stating the situation can bring healing and clarity – as with my friend who saw what was happening in my heart but didn’t tear me down for the mess I’d made.
Through my painful experience, I learned to give the Lord my dreams and plans. I became more rooted in his word and more mature in discerning his voice. And eventually my longings fulfilled became a tree of life.
Prayer: Root us in your word, Lord, that we might drink of your nourishment and feed on your good food.