Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick… [Proverbs 3:12a]

Have you ever had something that you really, really wanted to have happen?  Have you ever had something that you felt like “If I could only have this one thing…”  Whatever it might be, it seems like our life will finally be complete when that one thing happens – when our deepest longing is fulfilled.  For some of us it’s finding that one relationship.  For others, it’s having children.  Maybe it’s a new job, or moving to a new house, or a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bermuda.  Whatever it is, we find ourselves thinking about it a lot.  Don’t we?  Maybe we see our friends enjoying what we desire.  Or the family down the street.  TV keeps it before our eyes constantly.  The longer we wait, it seems like the more we think about it, the more we ache for it to happen.  The Psalmist reminds us that hope deferred makes the heart sick.

And then, it happens.

At first it’s so totally awesome.  Like the Psalmist goes on to say, “…a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  We’re so happy, we can’t imagine how we existed without it.  We can’t wait to tell everyone, to show everyone, to talk to everyone.  But then, the excitement wears out.  The girl slurps her soup.  The house has a leaky roof.  The kids cry all the time, our new coworker whistles while he works, and the trip to Bermuda surrounds us with people who whistle while they slurp their soup, which makes their kids cry.  So, we start thinking about the next thing, and the cycle continues.

Why is that?  And, does it have to be that way?

It all depends on where we’re placing our hope.  Each of us has a longing, aching part of us deep inside.  It almost feels like a hole that we need to fill.  Every time we come up against one of those things (the relationship, the job, the kids, or whatever,) we’re able to temporarily mask over that aching by the excitement and happiness that’s caused by that thing.  And while the thing can be very good, worthwhile, and beneficial, if it is our focus – if we place our hope in its fulfillment, its acquisition will only leave us wanting more.  We realize that, while it did kind of fill the hole, it wasn’t the right thing.  So we continue looking, thinking that maybe it’s this next thing.

Think about it for a minute.  Has there ever been something in your life that’s been so fulfilling that it hasn’t ever left you wanting more?  Or do you feel the need to keep looking?  That just maybe you’ll be able to find it this time?

The band Plumb talks about this very concisely by saying, “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us, and a restless soul is searching.  There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us, and it’s a void only He can fill.”  In other words, all the relationships and cars and houses and TV”s and jobs and vacations in the world will never be able to satisfy the longing that our soul has to be restored to a relationship with its Creator.  When our hope is placed in anything other than Jesus Christ, we are left wanting more.