‘Hope delayed makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is the tree of life.’
Who hasn’t been disappointed? You miss out on the position or promotion. The invitation you expected never arrives. Every day of the tropical holiday you saved for is raining. The pain of relationship breakdown is too much. The doctor says ‘the cancer is back.’ You can’t shake the depression.
I love writing and speaking about God’s goodness. I love sharing his grace and the hope I have in him. But sometimes things get in the way. A situation will rise that will shake feelings and force me to question the words I write. Do I really believe God wants good for me? Is he really on my side?
These aren’t faith killing questions. They are questions of disappointment from someone who has lost hope, or as the proverb say, ‘the heart sick.’ This would be bad if the verse ended here. Maybe it would be bad even if there was a fullstop, but there is a comma. In other words, your questions, and disappoints are not the final words.
The second part of the proverb says that ‘desire fulfilled is the tree of life.’ Let’s be honest, reading this doesn’t give me much hope initially. Obviously the proverb is saying that getting our desire met is a great thing, but isn’t this why the waiting is so hard. Talk about amplifying it.
Imagery and its Implications
But look at the imagery the proverbs uses – ‘the tree of life.’ Ring any bells? It takes us to the book ends of the Bible – creation and restoration. The tree of life is a picture of God’s provision in Eden and reintroduced in the grander vision of the garden city of Revelation. The image of trees is in the Psalms and prophets (especially Jeremiah 17) as an intimacy with God.
As a whole this image is a reminder that God has ‘written eternity’ on our hearts. Nothing will ever satisfy our deepest longings aside from Jesus. Only Jesus can wipe away every tear in the beauty of his redemptive plan. Only Jesus has what it takes to heal sick heart. The waiting makes the reality of Jesus’ return and our eternal life with him sweeter because, although we long for it now, we do so with absolute certainty. It’s a bit like Christmas as a child, the waiting was agony, but you knew it would come.
What About Today’s Hopes? And Tomorrow’s hurts
Does all this mean we shouldn’t hope for things today? I mean, is it ok to hope for that new job, healing, or opportunity? Or do we abandon ourselves, fight all temptation, and only hope for the heavenly?
I have to believe it’s ok to hope for earthly things. It’s impossible not to. For sure, there will be times when our hopes will be dashed. We will face disappointment. And this will hurt. But I also trust that God is able to pick up the bits of disappointments, broken dreams and heartaches and still make something worthwhile.
So, I’m telling myself to hope; trust that God brings good things. And if it seems like everything has come crashing down, try to believe it is an opportunity. God won’t waste this. Maybe he will draw you closer to him as he gently offers a healing touch. Maybe your journey will be words of strength for someone on another day. Perhaps God is using the experience to make more like Jesus.
The point is simple, God won’t waste your pain. God has a purpose in your disappointments – making you see his presence. He will be with you. It is through his presence that our heartaches, even though painful, come to have purpose. If you have been knocked down over and over again by disappointment and heartache know this, God is still with you.
Depression: My Personal Loss of Hope
I wish I never had to deal with disappoints, heartache, or losing hope, but I know these feelings all to well. For several years I’ve been struggling with depression. Living with depression can be hard to describe but Mark Meynell does a good in the video clip. At times I’ve felt lost, abandoned by God, and like all hope is gone. Ashamed. Alone.
I can’t write about hope without including depression. The two are strangely co-existing realities. I hate depression. It not only robs joy, but also strangles hope. But it’s in my darkest moments where I’ve come to understand the depths of hope I have.
I am not alone in my darkest moments. I am joined in my despair. The Exodus story is powerful. Early on, God’s people cry for rescue. God doesn’t magically transport them away. Exodus 3:7-8 shows his reply:
‘Then the LORD said, “I observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them.”’
God’s sees and hears. He cares about suffering. He steps down into the situation. And he leads them through it. Isn’t this what Jesus does? In Jesus, God takes on human flesh and steps into our world to rescue us. If God did it in Exodus, if he did in Jesus, then surely he steps into my darkest moments.
Realising that Jesus is with me is what gives me hope. Not simply present, but leading, because when I’ve lost all equilibrium and can’t tell left from right, up from down, I need someone to lead. Jesus doesn’t just ‘get me through’, but is taking me toward a day when there will be no more tears or sorrow (Rev 21:3-4). It may not be today or tomorrow, but each day is one day closer.
Other Posts on Depression and Following Jesus:
- Why Failure shouldn’t Define You
- 5 Things NOT to Say to a Depressed Christian
- 5 Things the Church Needs to Know About Depression