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Delayed Hope Makes the Heart Sick
Proverbs 13:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick: Hope (תּוֹחֶלֶת tocheleth) is rendered by a Hebrew verb that means to wait with expectation faithfully that God will deliver. It is the grounds for feeling hopeful about the future. Deferred is rendered from a passive form of a verb (מָשַׁךְ mashak), which basically means to be held back until a later time, dragging time out longer, taking longer than expected, that is what seems like a long-drawn-out waiting period. Here, this means that something hoped for seems or appears to be delayed or postponed. Being deferred is the sense of waiting in expectation. Heart (לֵב leb) In biblical Hebrew has twenty-four different meanings. As in many cases, the heart here refers to the mind in Hebrew. The sense is the place of the person’s thoughts (mind), volition, and emotions. However, here it is the whole package: the mind, emotion, and really the entire person. Makes the heart sick is a figurative expression that means the person is experiencing emotional trauma in that they feel despair, stress, disappointment, frustration, anxiety, and so on.
It is difficult to wait on anything. This is especially true when one has to wait for a long time or is perceived as a long time. King Solomon was well aware that waiting can be frustrating. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus fell into despair because the events that they had expected had not taken place. Their expectations had made them heartsick. Similarly, many Christians have been waiting for Jesus’ return for some 2,000 years. When we look at the wicked world that we live in, it is understandable that we have a sense of unfulfilled expectation that may sometimes cause us some despair.
Any unfulfilled expectations in life are bound to cause us to feel some measure of disappointment or frustration for having to wait longer than expected. This happens in everyone’s life. However, this should not be the case with the expectations that we find within God’s Word. They always come true, and God’s time is not based on our schedule. Moreover, the coming events in God’s Word are happy events that will bring eternal joy and happiness; therefore, we should instead be filled with anticipatory joy long before the day of Jesus’ return or the events leading up to that return. Our joy can be even greater if we use our time wisely, ‘always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain.’ (1 Cor. 15:58) We can use this time to make disciples and grow spiritually, to draw closer to God, and help Christians who may have begun to doubt. Thus, waiting for Jesus’ return will never make us heartsick. Instead, we will wait with joy.
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life: In the case of the righteous one, desires (תַּאֲוָה taavah) is a good thing, something positive that the righteous one is looking forward to and is similar to hope from line one. He wishes for, wants, and longs for something based on the good life that he has been living. The present and the future of the righteous one are filled with happiness and joy because he knows he has been on the path of righteousness, taking in the knowledge of God. He knows that, ultimately, his hope will be fulfilled, and his desires will be granted (10:24), even if this life has some difficult times along the way. Fulfilled (בּוֹא bo) here means that the desired thing comes to pass, arrives, or is realized. The tree of life is likely taken from the tree of life in Eden. (Gen. 2:9; 3:22; see Rev 2:7 and 22:2) The phrase “tree of life” occurs numerous additional times in the Scriptures, always in a figurative or symbolic sense. The righteous person will win souls through his speech and his living example. In other words, those who listen to the righteous one will grow spiritually, being led to serve God, and draw closer to Him, receiving the life that God has made possible.
Life is the most precious possession that man has. However, his life has little value and meaning if he has no hope. The fulfillment of a long-awaited desire will strengthen and refresh, giving renewed vitality. “According to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13) With hopeful expectations, we joyfully wait for the fulfillment of the promises from the Word of God. While we are awaiting this fulfillment, we must stay busy “in the work of the Lord” to make disciples, strengthen fellow believers, and grow spiritually as we draw closer to God. Unlike the world of fallen humanity who are devasted, sick at heart, by their hopelessness, we are filled with joy because of our hope. (1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 10:24, 25; Jam. 4:8) When we receive the fulfillment of a long-awaited desire, upon its arrival, it becomes a tree of life, truly refreshing and exhilarating.