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Dreamers’ Deferred Hope

April 2nd, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 13: 12 (NLT)

 12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
      but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

I suppose that the greatest example of hope deferred that I’ve ever faced was engagement.  I know, I know . . . guys like me are supposed to tell you to be patient and to relish whatever season you’re in.  Hey, I actually believe that stuff!  However, I can tell you that there will come times in life that despite everything you know to be true in your head, your heart is simply sick over the wait.

For me, engagement lasted almost two years!  It’s something I don’t recommend.  The extreme amount of time was a result of two things.  First of all, Laura and I went to two different universities on two different sides of the state of Tennessee.  Before we could get married, at least one of us would have to graduate or we would be eating ramen noodles every night.

Secondly, five months before we were scheduled to get married, Laura had a brain aneurysm . . . something I’m sure you’ve read about before.  The roller coaster ride of near-death experiences and surgeries and radiation and hair loss and headaches would push our wedding back another two months.  It was a small price to pay for the miracle God gave us of Laura’s complete recovery against all odds.

But “hope deferred” is still quite the challenge.  Sometimes the writers of Proverbs are trying to teach us lessons about patience and endurance . . . wisdom of what to do when you face certain circumstances or issues.  Other times, they simply make observations about the nature of life and humanity.  This is one of those times.  We are offered nothing but a reminder of how we are when we know something wonderful is ahead of us, yet we have to wait.

As much as I hate to admit it, that “heart sickness” over the wait is an indicator of something good.  It proves the heartfelt desire for the thing that one waits for.  The more it hurts, the more you love it.

However, I do believe that wisdom’s payoff comes in the second part of this verse: “but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Without the wait, the dream means so much less.  Without the challenging journey, the arrival doesn’t sparkle the same.  But when one has sojourned through the sickness of heart found in a difficult climb and a long period of waiting, the sweetness found at the top is nothing less than euphorically fulfilling.

That’s what eternity is for us . . . we traipse along with this homesickness to finally reach our everlasting destination . . . but we must wait.  The wait is what will make it sweet.

If I were to add anything else to this concept about managing the pain of the wait, I would say that the key to surviving the heart sickness of hope deferment is find some level of contentment in hope pursued.  By that, I mean put your all into the process that leads you to what you hope for.  Getting it is not the only part of the journey; in fact, it’s the smallest part.  Reaching and working and striving and climbing are all crucial components of getting there and they cannot be skipped.  We might as well embrace them and find perspective along the long, winding trail.

Furthermore, we can always find fulfillment and contentment in the present . . . no matter where we are on the trail to our dream.  Nothing that we will ever reach for can satisfy us like knowing the Dream Giver in every seasons.  We sojourning dreamers must put our ultimate hope in our relationship with the One who exists in all fullness right now.

Thomas Edison knew something about hope deferred.  He was engaged to the dream of the light bulb for a long time before the marriage and success of his work was realized.  How long?  Well, history tells us that he had over ten thousand unsuccessful attempts before he finally made it work.  Wow!  Now that’s some wait!

He was asked by a young reporter if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now.  He replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over nine thousand ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” And shortly after that, and over ten thousand attempts, Edison invented the light bulb and you have the light to read this thread.

Don’t despise your heart sickness in the season of hope deferred . . . it’s supposed to hurt.  Keep reaching for your dreams and make sure that they are also the dreams of the One who created your dreaming heart.  He is our Dream-Come-True in the present and when we share His dreams, it’s only a matter of time before that “tree of life” will be growing in our backyards.


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