How do understand God in the face of crushing disappointment?

The Bible says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The first part of the verse causes great uneasiness in me. If our hope is in the Lord, He renews our strength and He gives us hope that doesnt disappoint… Yet, I went through a long season of feeling like God hurt my feelings. Divorce, loss of home, inpossible job, almost lost a kid, empty nester, poverty. All within a few short years. I had been following hard after the Lord for many years. I was disappointed, hurt and I was at a point where I felt I dare not hope. Although I am out of the wrecking season and into the healing season, I wonder why this verse says that and what it means, exactly. I had a sick heart for a long time. I continued to breath despite the fact that every breath bbreathed was against my own will. I figured I at least knew that God was pleased with my every breath. But this verse seems to go against the others. I know well enough that it doesnt and Im missing something but it sure did feel feel that way. What am I missing?

Dear Shari,

Thank you so much for being with us at RZIM Connect. I am so sorry to hear of thus long season of suffering. Thank you for being so open with us about that.

Thank you for this question about Proverbs 13:12. It has an important insight for us about hope.

When the verse talks about hope deferred, it is talking about a hope for something that keeps being dashed. An example would be the date for something you had been really looking forward to keeps being pushed back –– maybe the delivery of something vital, or an event that is crucial to you. This sort of ongoing delay will take its toll on us. It is worth noting that “heart” in the Bible more often than not means our whole interiority, not just our feelings, so the toll is more than emotional.

This kind of deferred hope is in contrast to the hope God gives us. Paul writes that hope in Christ “does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:5). We’re not going to end up being taken advantage of, or having egg on our faces (to use an expression that I hope works on both sides of the Atlantic!). Our hope is in what we do not presently see, but the hope itself is not being deferred: its object is fixed and certain; God is not moving the goalposts around.

So the hope Proverbs 13 is speaking of is the sort of hope that we often experience in this life –– where there is so little certainty, as we are especially seeing in these days. It is not talking about the hope God gives us.

In fact, it is the living hope of the risen Christ that can keep us and maintain us in a world where all other hope is deferred. God won’t let us down. He won’t make our hearts sick. The healing he has for us (and which I am so glad you are experiencing) is his hope working inside of us.

I hope (!) that answer helps. Thank you again for your openness and searching on this, both of which honour the Lord.
Sam

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Thank you, Sam. Your insight is good as well as your examples. It was helpful to know about the heart here-- definitely validating. I understand that you are saying the hope deferred is in contrast to our hope in Christ… which is maybe what I am mixing up in my head. Perhaps I thought I was waiting (hoping) on the Lord and expecting strength renewal when I may have really been just hoping the terrible things would just go away and/or wouldnt happen as they did. Perhaps I am over thinking this verse as well and causing my on confusion. :slight_smile: