“Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” Prov 13:12
What do you think of when you hear the word hope? Does it speak of promises yet to be fulfilled, of a long wait, of a seemingly impossible dream? Does the word hope fill you with dread or with expectation? For me, the word hope is often accompanied by a slight feeling of anxiety; I hope this will work out, I hope my colleague isn’t angry with me, I hope I make the flight, I hope he will get in touch. Hope relates to what is not or at least not yet and as such it is a word that is both potentially full of promise and yet can be also full of fear.
The Bible speaks about hope a lot. In fact there are over 120 references to hope throughout the Old and New Testaments. In church we hear many sermons about remaining hopeful and the importance of hope for staying the course and keeping the faith. Hope as we see from the verse in Proverbs above is extremely important for life and health with delayed hope being the cause of sickness, both physical and emotional, while hopes fulfilled result in life and good health. Many of us, myself included, can relate to this feeling. I started this blog for people who have been waiting on answer to prayer for over a decade or more, mainly for single people but also for anyone who has been waiting on the Lord for a significant breakthrough that has still not materialized yet. For those of us who are waiting decades for a spouse, a child, a financial breakthrough, maybe a job or restoration of a significant relationship hope starts to feel very hard. We can indeed start to feel heartsick and we read this verse and cry out to God, why if you say hope deferred makes the heart sick, have you deferred my hope? Don’t you care, don’t you know how awful, lonely and frankly heartbroken I feel? And often it seems that there is no answer to this question, at least in the short term.
Sometimes we feel like our hope is actually more like wishful thinking. But the Greek word for hope that is found in the New Testament, elpis, means a confident expectation of good. Whom are we to confidently expect this good from? As Christians we look to our Heavenly Father, to Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit. It is the eternal God, Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Provider) in whom we put our trust and our confidence and our hope. In contrast to the hope of people who do not know the Lord we are not reduced to the wishful thinking that indeed characterizes much of what people think of when they say hope in a secular world. But even so as time passes we can start to wonder. Am I hoping for the right thing? Maybe God is saying no, maybe this is not for me. We start to question the very thing we are hoping for as if the length of time spent waiting and hoping is an indication of whether what we hoped for is right or not. People around us, often well meaning friends or even those in ministry, can also equate our waiting with our hopes not being aligned with God’s plans for us.
When I was 25 I went to a conference on missions in the Blue Mountains in Australia. For some reason I was feeling anxious about being single, having recently returned to faith and the church. I went for some counseling after a morning session and was put with an middle aged Christian couple. When I voiced my fears about being single to these people about not finding a husband instead of telling me I was only 25 and that I could be sure to trust God with the desires of my heart, they told me that maybe I was called to be single. It was at this point that any icy sliver of fear entered my heart. I thought but I don’t want to be single, you are not single, what if God does want me to be single, but I don’t want to be single, if God wants me to be single and I don’t want to be single well what does that say about God and who He is and what does it mean for me as a Christian and my relationship with Him? Unfortunately it has taken me nearly 20 years to really reflect on these questions and in the years that passed I made a great many bad decisions based on the fear that had become lodged in me. A fear that drove out hope and as time passed grew and manifested in my own search for love apart from God. I don’t know how many of you have received such hope killing words over your dreams, all meant with the best of intentions and often given by people who themselves possess the very thing you are hoping but with the end result of fear entering your heart and hope starting to die.
Our Heavenly Father however gives freely to all who ask and has no favorites. Jesus himself says ” Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matt 7:9-11. In the verse just before this one Jesus says ‘For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.’ He does not say maybe this isn’t for you.
Now of course I am not speaking about hoping for a Ferrari or a massive house or a designer handbag or watch but about those things which the Bible speaks of as good things. When it comes to marriage the Bible is very clear that ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing’ Prov 18:22, when it comes to provision Jesus, again in the Sermon on the Mount, says that ‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which here today and gone tomorrow, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?’ Matt 6:30. When it comes to children the Bible also has many stories about women who pressed into God and after years and sometimes decades of waiting received their children. Nowhere does it say a woman prayed for a child and God said no you are not meant to have children. Nowhere does it say that someone searched for a wife (or a husband) and it was not given to them. Nowhere does it say that Jesus refused to heal a person who came to him, in fact it says He healed all who came to Him (Matt 15:30).
Our God is a good Father who loves us and cares for us and He will come through for us one way or another. But He does not want us to live without hope, because he knows that without hope we cannot go on and we will give up. The lie is that a long wait means this is not for you, but story after story after story in the Bible tells us something quite different. Nearly all the heroes of the faith waited a long time to see the promises of God, Abraham and Sarah were nearly 100 years old when Isaac came along, Jacob waited 14 years for Rachel, Joseph waited nearly 14 years, some of which was spent in jail, before he became the right hand of Pharaoh, Moses waited 40 years in the desert before being called to lead the Israelites out of captivity, David waited around 15 years between being anointed by Samuel as King and becoming King of Israel and the list goes on. In the Bible waiting is not a sign that God is saying no or that the thing you are hoping for is wrong, it is a sign that God is up to something big, something important. So for those of you who have waited decades, like myself, I want to encourage you and encourage myself that God must be up to something amazing. The Bible says that those who wait on the Lord will find their strength renewed, it says that they will not be put to shame, but we need to keep waiting hopefully, expectantly, having a confident expectation of good. Knowing that in the end it will all be ok, or actually so much more than ok!
Your thoughts and comments are very welcome and if you need prayer for any area please let me know and I will be praying for you. Know that God has not forgotten you, His plans are good and the best is yet to come!
“Blessed is the man (or woman) who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” Jeremiah 17:7