Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life (Prov. 13:12 Amp).
Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul: desire when it cometh is a tree of life (Prov. 13:12
This verse explains a lot about life. A great deal of what we expect to happen is delayed, perhaps for hours, days, years or even decades. And let’s face it, some things for some people are never realized in this life. In understanding a good bit about what makes people tick or not tick so well, it’s occurred to me through my own experiences that this one verse holds the key to a great deal of happiness or much sorrow, and consequently, psychosomatic sickness.
In the Douay-Rheims translation the phrase, “afflicteth the soul,” is used. If you study the Hebrew translation of this entire verse, afflicted is dead on the money. How so?
Kingdom of God or The Magic Kingdom?
Many years ago I was riding my lawnmower (I liked to refer to it as a tractor), and the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “My people think my kingdom is the Magic Kingdom!” I understood the Lord to say that people have great expectations and dreams, some of which may come from the Lord (spiritual) while others merely come out of their souls – an expression of their own minds and emotions, and, quite frankly, willfulness to obtain.
Some people–Christians included–will disobey God to make their dreams come true! We can use the word stubborn here because some people are very stubborn when it comes to what they’ve decided is due them in life. We’re often told as Christians “not to let go of our dreams,” as if the one delivering the message assumes all our dreams come from the Lord! This can be very dangerous because… what if this thing we’ve decided is our destiny isn’t from the Lord?! We need to know this isn’t the Magic Kingdom!
In one sense our ticket to the Magic Kingdom has more to do with human dreams to attain rather than the 21 God-given dreams, as they appear in the Bible, which were directional, prophetic and destiny changing. If our dreams are humanly derived, they may be delayed indefinitely, again with much sorrow. But let’s proceed with the idea that some of your dreams are God-given. What happens, however, when dreams, or more correctly, expectations, are deferred?
The answer is “afflictions of the soul” that come in many shapes because of the stress that’s involved. (We all know that anywhere from 75-90 percent of illnesses are stress-related.) Here’s a list of mental possibilities: depression, despair, discouragement, dejection, rage, anger and anger that leads to murder (James 4:2-3), sleeplessness, bitterness, jealousy, indifference, apathy, and suicide, to name a few. On the physical side we could have migraines, all kinds of gastrointestinal difficulties including ulcers, arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, bipolar disorder, adrenal fatigue, skin diseases, heart disease and even cancer.
How do you recognize hope deferred? It’s relatively simple. Whatever or whomever you’ve wanted in life, and it/they have always eluded you, no matter what you did or how many times you pursued it/them, you’re looking at hope deferred. It could be a sickness that just won’t go away, no matter how much prayer, confessing Scripture or fasting you’ve done. It could be the pursuit of a degree of some kind, financial solvency, a marriage without contention and strife, or that ever-evasive sweetheart you’ve always desired. This hope or desire could have been life-long or simply existed for a few years, which could seem like hundreds of years! Hope deferred is a type of “prison” for which seemingly no amount of counseling, psychiatrists seen or prophecies received is the answer; the result could be you’re still waiting and hoping.
Consider also, some people have such small dreams and visions that hope deferred can’t even be recognized, or in the case of some fortunate and very happy people (very small percentage of these), hope deferred is just a small bump in the road, but this is highly unlikely. Usually, well-meaning people (are these Job’s buddies?) can present you with knee-jerk often ill-thought out responses to your dilemma. Here are a few, and they are indeed possibilities: “You’ve got a blocking demon.” “You don’t have enough faith.” “You have a victim spirit.” “Remember: Moses was 80 when he got the call” (don’t you just love that one?). “You’re obviously harboring a terrible sin in your life.” You get the picture.
Hard as Nails but Not Quite!
Hope deferred is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most difficult, troubling, dismaying strongholds to overcome. And, yes, I’d classify this as a stronghold indeed! For one thing if we believe God has something good for us, and it seems out of reach after much trial and tribulation, we may simply discard it as not God’s will, or as I wrote earlier, we may become indifferent in between bouts of anger and depression that this simply isn’t going to happen! I’m a Rocky fan. Yeah, I know these movies were sometimes hokey at best, but I loved the fact that Rocky got clobbered over and over again, only to get his butt off the canvas and say to the baddest dude he was now facing in his dumb-sounding Philadelphia accent, “You ain’t so bad!”
I love the biblical phrase used concerning Abraham’s faith – “hope beyond hope.” This is the kind of hope (expectation) that is needed when hopelessness replaces our God-given dreams:
And without hope he believed in hope that he would be the father to the multitude of the nations according to what is written: “Thus shall your seed be (Romans 4:18 Aramaic Bible in Plain English).
This verse is an oxymoron at face value, but that’s the way of the kingdom of God. In this equation you have human hope, with its flag-waving for a while that if we just try a little harder, things will work out. But that’s not what this verse is saying at all! Abraham knew his body was as good as dead so it was IMPOSSIBLE for him (his virility was gone) to have a child and thus fulfill the promise of God that he (Abraham) would become “the father of many nations.”
It’s important here to note that faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:9), whether it’s found in the Old Testament or the New. In effect, Abraham received the gift of faith to trust God (hope beyond human hope) that God would deliver. For us, we need faith in our spirit to believe that hope deferred no longer will be!
…But Joy (or Desire) Realized is a Tree of Life!
Christians have a lot of “refrigerator verses,” some of which are not found on refrigerators! One I’ve heard repeatedly in the last few years is Jeremiah 29:11, which to me, has become almost “shopworn”:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
This one just rolls off people’s tongues so easily in modern day America, but the promise was actually given to those Jews exiled to Babylon, who had to carry out a 70-year sentence of captivity decreed by God. In verses 8-9 false prophets kept telling the Jews, “You’ll be going home soon,” and the people, who were so anxious for good news, believed them. To the contrary, God told them to “settle in, build homes, and raise kids, etc., because you’re going to be here until time’s up!” This reminds me of hope deferred. We are often not wiling to walk out the cost of receiving the promise, which may require a great deal of us as our faith is stretched to the max:
Do not, therefore, fling away your [fearless] confidence, for it has a glorious and great reward. 36 For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised (Heb. 10:35-36 Amp).
I like quick answers from the Lord, but often they are not forthcoming. A preacher-friend once told me, “Soon to God is at least five years!” Was he being cynical after walking with the Lord for 50 years? No, just realistic. I heard of a very well known prophet who schooled hundreds, maybe thousands in the prophetic gift, who had a prophetic word fulfilled exactly 50 years from the time it was given – on the day of his ordination!
When all is said and done in this life, becoming like Christ is more important than anything we ever do. Gifts aren’t going to heaven; works will be judged there, but how much we look like Jesus when we stand before the Son of God one day will be the most important thing on God’s agenda (Rom. 8:29). Hope deferred, like it or not (and frankly, I’ve hated it!), builds character. But how is “the tree of life fulfilled” or joy realized? I think there are several important considerations:
- Consider it may take a long time as God builds His character in you.
- Understand that your own stubbornness concerning His will may be holding you up.
- A lack of repentance of the negativity I wrote about earlier – bitterness, anger, resentment, etc., are wall-builders against realizing your dream from the Lord.
- Is your dream of human origin, or is it divine? (I often think of people who, say, have a “dream” of winning the 100-meter dash in the Olympics. They kill themselves for years, pushing past every obstacle, to overcome and finally their “dream” comes true. This is all well and good, and I admire this kind of courage and determination, but who got glory in the end? Themselves, their country or God? Do you remember who won the men’s 100-meter dash in the last summer Olympics? (I don’t but I guess I could Google it.) My point is some “dreams” are for this life only.
- What does it take to satisfy your heart? the right job? marriage partner? early retirement? all the sex you can stand? Are we like Paul who was after “the high calling in Christ Jesus,” or have we accepted something much lower on the shelf, which is much less than what God desires for us?
- It may be your dream–even if it’s divine–may need to go to the cross to remove the selfishness that’s wrapped itself so neatly and carefully around it. Believe me, if it’s divine, you’ll receive it – the cross won’t kill it!
The Tree of Life
In our text verse, the tree of life could be any number of things, but we have to first recall the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. It stood opposed to and diametrically opposite the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life was a spiritual tree that was the essence of Jesus Christ and what he offers us – To seek Him first and the kingdom of God, and all the other stuff will be added (Matt. 6:33 Beckham Translation). The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a tree that was the essence of the flesh – pride, vanity, ego, “Me, myself and Irene.” The choice was made there, and it was horrendous!
The other possibility is the Tree of Life found in Revelation. Note here the qualities of this remarkable tree – it monthly bears fruit, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations:
Then he showed me a river of the water of life, [a]clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of [b]the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [c]kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).
I believe in overcoming hope deferred, we become like one of these trees of life, bearing fruit for the kingdom of God and offering our “leaves” as healing to those around us.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire realized is a Tree of Life.” I don’t know about you, but I’m after that Tree because there was One who hung on another tree, who has already paid for this Godly realization. Are you wiling to pursue it no matter what?
Joseph Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls http://amzn.com/1493781286