“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
The verse above hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, I GET it. So many years I have heard this verse preached as a form of medicine to treat depression or hard times. Even more often I have thought with pride that I do have hope because, after all, it is a fruit of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is within me. Am I not the most positive person that any of my friends have ever met? If anyone was living in hope I most certainly thought that it was me.
Then my husband and I signed up to partake in a bible study course at church. The title of this course was “There’s More” and was taught by fellow members of the congregation. I have been through several courses that were supposed to change my entire outlook on life and flip my perspective upside down and right side out so when this one started to poke and pinch me in places I wasn’t comfortable my knee-jerk reaction was “Hey! What’s going on here??!! Why is this coming up NOW?”
Homework for the course consisted of working on a timeline of my life. “Piece of cake,” I thought, “I’m only 30 this will be a breeze…” (As I secretly felt pity for the sweet 75 yr old sitting next to me having to make her own “ginormous” life-line.) We were encouraged to mark our timelines in color so that our pain points may be one color, happy memories another, vital lessons, influential people, etc. As I began my line I could see it slowly molding into one long RED line of pain, and it hurt. Why in 30 years was there so much pain for a child of God? There was pain starting at 4 years old, way too young to blame consequential choices. I started to realize that this was a question I have held deep down my entire life.
When we gathered for our next session we were encouraged to look over our timeline and look back over our life to see the way that God was the common thread and had woven our lives together with purpose. We were encouraged to look at the pain points and see how they worked out for the greater good. Meanwhile I was sitting there thinking, “Ok, should I call them over to see my line because truly there is simply one bad thing after the next on here…surely they can’t mean God had a hand in ANY of that?!”
So of course my journey began of allowing this small bit of unbelief surface in the pond of my heart so the great Fisher of Men could skim off the algae that had been toxically growing, unbeknownst to me, my whole life. Did I really believe there was no hope for me? Did I really believe that God wasn’t bigger than all the pain points in my life?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1a
As the days and weeks and months progressed after this I realized that when I was most frustrated it was usually because I was relying on myself and my own ability rather than remembering that Christ’s righteousness replaces the condemning, hopeless, and depressing attitudes. Because of Him there is now hope for my situation. The battle is the Lord’s yet thirty years had taught me that the Lord “helps those that help themselves” and I had taken that way out of context to the point of battling for the Lord and sometimes even with the Lord for my own control.
With this new attitude in my heart of slowly recognizing (Repent = go back, change your mindset, go forward) the different ways in which my heart had been void of hope I worked up enough courage to revisit my timeline. There was just no way that I could imagine God had been at work through the pain. Fighting Cancer, losing a leg, losing my childhood, untreated post traumatic stress disorder, destructive behaviors (symptoms of PTSD), diagnosis of diabetes, thyroid issues, second surgery on what was left of my leg forcing me to drop education, apartment fire, and currently a cracked rib and sitting in a wheelchair….the list goes on. Was God really in the middle of this?
As I obediently took one last look at my timeline before giving up I noticed something. All of the red (pain points) started to change to green (good memories) about eight years ago. Rather than being a solid red line I started to see a dramatic change and there was suddenly more green than red. The red moments still were there because in the past eight years I have experienced pain along with the rest of humanity, but something was different. In my spirit I heard the Lord give me the answer to what changed: Hope of Redemption. Three simple words that helped me to know that somewhere I started believing there is hope because of Him who is faithful. I thought back to a sermon once preached where we were told, “How much faith do you need to have? Just enough to keep praying…Have faith not for the answer of your prayer but that God is faithful and desires good for us.”
Hope of Redemption
Variations of the word “Redeem” (on a quick BibleGateway search) occurs 107 times in the bible and variations of “redemption” anther 24 times. Redemption is no strange topic to God’s people!
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7
Looking over the past six months God had been working this truth into my heart. He had been massaging it in gently with His word, His voice, and surrounding me with the message of hope and grace. I came to realize the truth is that He is the same God today that ruled over the blessings of the Old Testament people thousands of years ago. Jesus came to fulfill the law, becoming the consequences Theron, so that those blessings could be attained by you and me. Now if that does not bring hope, what will?
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.
What were these blessings in the Old Testament that Jesus died to let us partake in?
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.” Deuteronomy 7:12-15
Jesus came to fulfill the law since we are unable to keep all the commands and we are unable to make ourselves holy. Jesus fulfilled all the commands of the law as the Holy One because He was perfectly righteous. He then declared that it was finished and passed that righteousness on to us. We can live in the blessings of God according to the things God promised! It is the basis of what we believe as Christians and yet a message that seems foreign to so many of us when the rubber meets the road. (Matthew 5:17-18) (Romans 4:5) (Romans 8:10,17) (Romans 10:4)
Learning about redemption and God’s heart to see each of us restored in His goodness and by His grace gave me a conscience thought of hope in each situation and pain point encountered. While it may not be true to say bad things never will happen to me again (I’ve experienced bad things since originally writing this article!), I now look at them knowing that if I go through something I view as a negative experience then God’s promises will meet me on the other side of it.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
According to Dictionary.com the word “deferred” means: “Postponed or delayed. Suspended or withheld for or until a certain time or event.”
When I look at the definition of deferred in the context of Proverbs 13:12 I can see how my hope was postponed until the past eight years. Rather than relying, trusting, and adhering to God and believing in the grace provided to me through Jesus I believed I was condemned to a life of pain. I pushed off and delayed hope because I was afraid of future disappointment. My heart became hardened towards the light of hope as I experienced pain and I can see clearly the moment on my life’s timeline that I began to have hope. Hope that God loved me, hope that He really did want the best for me, hope that He would fight for me if I would simply be still. It wasn’t just positive thinking, I have always had that. It was a small spark in my heart that dared me to believe that God was in control of my life and He wanted the best for me. Through the eight years since there have been more causes for celebration as I cling to this hope than the 24 years prior. As my character deepens and it is revealed to me each day how Jesus died for me to live today, I am living in hope; not condemned. I am receiving His righteousness and grace while passing on His love because in doing that it just may light a spark of hope in another.
Hope has been redeemed in my life. I have spent the majority of the summer in a wheelchair and struggled through some very difficult and humbling times unable to do some basic chores like cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. (Not to mention my passion of walking/gardening/canning!) But hope was redeemed prior to this and every moment of my time spent in a chair was an opportunity for me. I read, I prayed, I crocheted gifts, and I allowed God to speak to me in new ways. He set up a vacation/reprieve for my husband and I at the ocean that was a gift from and with friends. He provided a way for me to get back to New York City to the best doctor in the nation for my amputation. He provided a mobile scooter that would fit in our small home and allow me to have independence both in and out of the house that I didn’t have before that. Each time something happened my hope soared and my heart was healed a little more as I saw the goodness and grace provided rather than the condemnation/depression/hopelessness I would have felt otherwise.
In your life, I wonder, what areas do you feel condemned or hopeless? Is hope deferred (postponed, delayed, withheld) in any area of your life? Sometimes visiting the most basic of messages can pull our roots deeper in Christ and allow us to reach a new level of freedom and reliance in our lives. I encourage each of my readers today to think about this in an open mind and with an open heart: How are my actions evidence of hope deferred rather than of longings fulfilled by what Jesus did in grace?