Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)
What happens when hopes and prayers for good things are deferred for weeks, months, or even years?
The Bible says when a hope is deferred our hearts are sick, yet a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. The latter part is encouraging! It’s a quandary though when that hope is deferred. It can feel like repeatedly falling out of a tree, hitting every branch of disappointment on the way down.
We search our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24) and are commanded to make petitions (Philippians 4:6). We ask in faith and perhaps in darker moments, a shaking fist accompanies our anguish. We can think that good thing is so good for us, we must have it. Maybe we ask amiss (James 4:2-3) or wonder if it’s “punishment” for some besetting or unconfessed sin. Wrong motives and unconfessed sin are surely hindrances to answered prayer and must be dealt with (1 John 1:9).
When we have done all that is right, however, we lament like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-20). We hope our desperate tears move God in the same powerful way, by giving us what is asked for. Psalm 84:11 which reads, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” isn’t always waving its hand high and hard as a comforting possibility. We are sometimes averse to seeing good things being withheld as, well, a good thing. It’s even possible to be so heartsick, we acquiesce and ask God to remove the good desire or stop praying for it altogether.
What kind of hope do we have then when hope is deferred? Or, what if we never get the good thing?
One night, I got so sick of feeling sick. I cried out in a different way than before and couldn’t have predicted how God would respond. “LORD...PLEASE HELP ME! I don’t want to be an unhappy single! If I can’t be happy in You alone, I never want to get married!” I meant it. What began to unfold was a radical healing, undoing, and fusion that leveled me with great power. God richly blessed me with more of Himself and a happiness and joy that astounded my heart; it still does, and I am so grateful.
I realized, God wasn’t most glorified by granting my requests for marriage, nor was He most glorified by my pleas to take the desire for it away. God was pleased to bring the polarity of longing and contentment into divine balance that joyfully declares: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”- Psalm. 16:5-6.
Brothers and sisters, the lines of our lot are pleasant because the Lord is our choicest portion among all we could ever desire. Indeed, He will be our portion forever! There is no denying the pain of unfulfilled desires, yet He sovereignly borders them with great love and care.
Are you heartsick today?
Cry out to Jesus Christ who is your hope assured when hope is deferred. Don’t be afraid to lay aside the good thing, because you already have the best portion. If God does have marriage planned for me one day I will be thrilled, but dear future husband, Jesus is better!