Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
When I moved to England, the American holiday of Thanksgiving became just another Thursday in November. Although I created a feast the weekend after, I longed to be with family and friends on the day. Yet I understood that my longings weren’t unique to me. We all yearn to be with people dear to us on special occasions and holidays. And even when we’re celebrating, we may miss someone who’s not with us or we may pray for our fractured family to be at peace.
During these times, praying and pondering the wisdom of the Bible has helped me, including one of King Solomon’s proverbs: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). In this proverb, one of the pithy sayings through which Solomon shared his wisdom, he notes the effect that “hope deferred” can have: the delay of something much longed for can result in angst and pain. But when the desire is fulfilled, it’s like a tree of life—something that allows us to feel refreshed and renewed.
Some of our hopes and desires might not be fulfilled right away, and some might only be met through God after we die. Whatever our longing, we can trust in Him, knowing He loves us unceasingly. And, one day, we’ll be reunited with loved ones as we feast with Him and give thanks to Him (see Revelation 19:6–9).
When have you felt sick because of an unfulfilled longing? How did God meet you in your time of need?
God our Creator, You fulfill my deepest longings. I give You my hopes and my desires, asking You to grant them according to Your wisdom and love.
Proverbs 13:12–19 includes two metaphors that concern life: “a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (v. 12) and “the teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (v. 14). The first mention of the “tree of life” in Scripture is in Genesis 2:9, a reference to a God-given resource for immortality. After the disobedience of our first parents, access to this life-source was denied (3:23–24). Revelation speaks of a time when access will be restored (22:2, 14). Proverbs uses the “tree of life” language metaphorically as a symbol of health and long life, success, and happiness (see Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4). Similarly, the “fountain of life” (10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 16:22) refers to a resource from which something healthy and life-sustaining springs forth. Reverence for God is one of the blessed fountains from which we may drink (14:27).