Proverbs chapters 13 & 14 both begin describing wise people: “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke,” and “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down,” respectively. Chapter 15 begins with a famous one – “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Each chapter is packed with wisdom and guidance, however I wanted to focus on chapter 13:12 for today, as it has special significance. It reads “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Let me start with a question: if you lost all you had except for Jesus Christ, would He be enough?
Hope deferred. We’ve all been through a lot of that in the last year. Plans, people, and possibilities pushed back and pushed back and lost in the uncertainty of the past year and a half. This proverb accurately captures the feeling – it makes the heart feel sick. My wife and I have personally felt this in the area of house hunting; a major milestone in any couple’s life and, apparently, an impossibility. We have felt the anguish of isolation, of loved ones only visited on screens, of massive shifts in our jobs. This takes a toll on anyone, and it has made our hearts feel sick, especially as hope for a summer of normality seems to be deferred yet again.
This has been a real struggle for virtually everyone, though it may look different person to person. We are not meant to bear these burdens without flinching, nor are we to cover our feelings up and keep them separate from our time with the Lord. The Psalms continually remind us to pour out our hearts before the Lord, and that is going to be an ever-changing mix of thanksgiving, complaint, joy, tears, and everything else under the sun. We are not robots - our emotions are an important part of our lives, and we all yearn for a desire fulfilled which is called a tree of life in verse 12.
Be warned, however, for we are also not meant to found our hope in worldly things or give in to complaining and self-pity. My plans to buy a house and travel are not a tree of life – they can never satisfy me the way the human soul is supposed to be satisfied. My dreams and desires and their fulfillment are not a foundation for hope either, for I cannot control anything in this life. In fact, my real hope is not supposed to be in anything I can see our touch or make or do. Rather, my hope is to be found in the goodness, love, and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the One and only thing we can truly rely upon!
He is to be our greatest desire and hope, who was hung on a tree for your life.
Romans 12:12 tells us “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 5:5 says “And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Psalm 39:7 sums it up perfectly: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Again and again we are reminded to hope only in God Almighty, who knows all things and is sovereign in all ways. The beauty of living with our hope being in Him and Him alone is that our hope is never deferred, never put off for another day. We can and must carry around the hope of Jesus at all times, in all places, and through any storm.
Yes, we will continue to face upset and hurt, especially this year, however let our hopes not rest on what we can or can’t do, but on what He has already done for us!
Now is a time to take stock of our priorities. If this past year and a half during the pandemic were winter, let us treat this time of vaccinations and cautious reopening like spring, where we till the land and decide what we want to grow this coming season. In my last blog, I summarized the Psalms, referring especially to chapter 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
Consider the ways in which the Lord has challenged you over this past year and reflect on the ways in which He may have been calling you to shift your focus from yourself or the world to Him. We are meant to be planted in the presence of the shining Son, so with prayer and consideration, let us all commit our hope to be in Christ alone.
Application question –
What have you been hoping in lately that may have let you down? How can you train your heart and mind to establish Christ as first in your heart?
Lord God, we thank you that we can always come to you as our loving Father and steadfast hope. Thank you for leading us in these weary days, and for giving us hope at all times and in all places. Please teach us to live in your hope and grace, that we might commit all our actions and plans to you, and give you glory in everything we do. Amen!
Song – In Christ Alone: Shane & Shane
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.