Proverbs 13:12 KJV
12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
The Word of God for the Children of God. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Hope is a very precious and wonderful thing. Today’s text is a helpful and important proverb, if you will consider it carefully. Without hope, men get desperate and will do most anything to escape their hopelessness. With hope, men can endure most anything, no matter how desperate their conditions become. Wise, prudent, diligent men will appreciate the great value of hope.
As my father would say; “Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today!”
Here are several questions we ought to ask about hope.
Do we know where to look for it?
Do we know where to find it?
Do we know what it looks like or smells like or taste or feels like?
Do we how to keep it?
Do we know how painful it is when others lose it?
Do we know how to give it to others?
Will we receive it for ourselves and freely give it to others?
Wisdom is the power of making well considered, right decisions and exercising right judgment. – knowing what tough choices to make in any given situation. Wisdom includes these making meaningful decisions, learning crucial lessons from what went right and what went wrong and learning about faith and hope.
Hope is expectation of something desired. If the thing we desire is not obtained in the time expected, our hearts and souls are grieved and pained by the delay. But when the desired thing finally arrives, it is for us as a tree of life sprouting from the soils (Matthew 13:18-23): from our working each of the difficult soils and achieving success at each level our hearts and souls are encouraged and revived. These two aspects of hope are true in all matters, spiritual and natural.
Hope can be a pleasant thought, if we are confident of our desires being fulfilled on our timing. But it can also be a painful reminder, if you are disappointed with delays or difficulties in obtaining our desires. Hunger and thirst are example. It makes food and water delightful, when we eat and drink on time. But it can be quite torturous, if we are somehow kept from our eating and drinking on time.
Diabetics know this very well. Their bodies are disciplined to a certain schedule of eating and glucose testing. Fast-acting, and Intermediate-acting and Long-acting insulins each act on different timing on the body and are each given at different times of the day based on an individual’s eating and drinking habits. Over time, the individual will train and discipline their bodies and their bodies will learn how to respond in kind and be ready to maintain a necessary balance. Moving outside those times represents a risk to the diabetic for hypoglycemia.
Hopelessness is one of the most destructive and painful feelings in the human experience. It must be avoided at all costs, because it will destroy a man’s outlook and performance. A wise and prudent man sets his hope on sure things, and he avoids any desires or expectations for the vain things of this world that risk leading to them despair or frustration. He well understands human frailty, avoids setting expectations too high, learns contentment. (Philippians 4:10-14)
Proverbs 13:12 The Message
12 Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
but a sudden good break can turn life around.
Today’s proverb is placing before us a truly timeless truth – that when we hope for something and that hope is indefinitely put off – we can become heart-sick for that thing. When we want something very badly, we begin to set our sights upon it and long for it. If that thing does not come to us – the longing increases to the point where we cannot get it out of our minds. From that point there is an increasing burden being placed upon our hearts for the thing we long for in life.
But if what we long for is not so easily within our grasp – and we ourselves cannot hope to bring it within our grasp – our hearts will grow sick over it. Soon, we find ourselves in a morose and depressed state over this thing – where it slowly dominates our lives. If there is not a relieving of that situation – we will lose hope altogether – which is a sad state to be in as we walk through life.
I am sure we have all met someone who has utterly lost hope – embittered against someone, something, even against God – they live a life defined not by what they have – but by the one “hope” thing they did not get. They are a bitter, resentful, horrid lot – and very difficult for any someone to be around.
We begin our thoughts by taking a look at the general application of our verse.
Proverbs are general statements which teach us wisdom by making pointed observations about life. Because they are short, they come at us fast, but we need to slow down and take the time to reflect on them if we are going to absorb their wisdom. And this proverb makes the accurate observation that: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
The first part of the verse Proverbs 13:12 has to do with waiting. (deferred)
None of us like waiting! Whether we are waiting for a phone call, waiting for a package to arrive, or just waiting for the light to change, none of us like to wait.
Now those are all pretty simple examples of waiting, but sometimes waiting involves more serious circumstances. What if you are unemployed and waiting for a job to come through? What if you are ill and waiting for the doctors to find a solution? What if you are single and waiting to find that special person? I am sure you can think of many examples where waiting is not merely inconvenient but downright difficult and discouraging and potentially worse, depressing.
When you are waiting and hoping for something to come through, and it doesn’t come through, that is what Proverbs 13:12 means by “hope deferred.” The word translated “deferred” in this verse is a word that means something that is indeterminately drawn out or postponed. And when you are hoping for something important, waiting for it, longing for it, and it keeps on getting postponed or pushed further down the road, it makes your heart utterly sick.
There are a whole lot of unfulfilled wishes in this life, and so there are a lot of heartsick people in this world. Perhaps you are one of them. If so, my heart goes out to you, because there is no sickness quite so disheartening as heartsickness. But, we must see there is a second half to this proverb we must look at as well.
Proverbs often work in pairs, and the second part usually balances out the first part. So yes, hope deferred makes the heart sick, “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” When you’ve been waiting for something for so long, and then it finally comes true, Proverbs 13:12 says it is like a tree of life.
It’s an interesting metaphor, because in the Bible the tree of life first shows up in the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden. We read in Genesis 2: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:8-9)
Recall from Genesis 2, Adam was told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and when he and Eve did they were banished from the Garden so that they would not take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. The wages of sin is death, and in sinning against God, Adam and Eve forfeited their right to eternal life in God’s presence.
So the tree of life shows up at the beginning of the Bible. And guess where it shows up again? In the book of Revelation at the very end of the Bible! In Revelation chapter 22, the very last chapter of the Bible we read: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-12)
Here we see that the tree of life is not only a symbol of eternal life but also a symbol of healing. And I believe that’s the image we are supposed to get from Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, when something is sick it also needs healing. So a longing fulfilled brings healing for the heartsick soul.
Almost immediately I think of Naomi in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Naomi was heartsick after losing her husband and two sons, but then God provided for her desperate needs through her relationship with her daughter-in-law, Ruth.
And when Ruth married Boaz and gave birth to a son, and they brought that son to Naomi, Naomi’s bitterness lifted and she experienced healing as she held and cradled that baby in her lap. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” and healing for the soul.
So we have examined and briefly studied the general application of this proverb. But what is the personal application? Where does this proverb fit or place in our decision to follow God or not to follow God? What relevance in the 21st century?
The personal application I believe is this: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all our deferred longings. Everything you have ever desired is found in him. He is the Savior. He is the Messiah. He is the answer to our questions. He is the one we have been looking for all your life. (John 14:1-6)
There is, with little doubt, so much heartsickness in our world today. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. But the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is good news of great joy that is for all people, and that includes us! When we come to Christ, our whole outlook on life changes. We read these words of David in Psalm 39: “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (39:7) And when your and mine steadfast hope is in Christ you, I, will not be disappointed.
Referring ourselves back to the text from Jeremiah 29:11-14 God tells those who trust in Christ: “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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” He works it all out!
The book of Lamentations says: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:19-26)
The Apostle Paul writes in the New Testament book of Romans: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
Every person born into this world is heartsick apart from Christ. Our hearts are literally sick with sin, and we need the healing that only Jesus can bring. He is the tree of life that brings forgiveness and cleanses our hearts from sin. He is the ONLY one who brings eternal salvation and fulfills our deepest longings.
It was St. Augustine of Hippo who prayed these famous words unto God: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you.” (Confessions, Book 1)
Was your heart restless yesterday?
Is your heart restless exactly right now? Here today?
Will it also be restless tomorrow?
Is your heart sick from disappointment after disappointment in life? Is your heart sick with sin and guilt and in need of cleansing? Then why wait any longer? Come to Christ. He is the Savior. He is the Healer. He is the Giver of Life.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Jesus died on the cross to pay the ultimate penalty for our sin and to give us life. The cross was a tree of death for Jesus, but a tree of eternal life for you and me.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Let us now Pray;
Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ is the Light of the world and in Him is life, and health, and wholeness. Thank You that in Him we find peace with God when we trust Him for our salvation. Thank You that as Your children, we have Your heavenly peace – the peace that passes understanding, which guards the heart and enlivens the soul. Thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption, for the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting, and thank You that the day is coming when we will see Jesus face to face and have full and free access to the living Tree of Life, in the paradise of God. Praise His holy name, AMEN.