Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life
It seemed harmless to open the invitation until I read the job description. It could have had my name engraved on it. After years of working a job that left me feeling empty, this new prospect beckoned me with a longing I hadn’t expected. It felt like a perfect fit for me.
I accepted Desire’s invitation. Whoever says, “It never hurts to try,” is a liar. No one can accept such an invitation cautiously, or at a distance. You must rearrange your calendar, carefully choose the perfect outfit and be all-in, fully present, heart on the line. Whether it’s a career change or a possible romantic interest, desire calls to something planted deep within us—a small, four-lettered word called hope.
Desire and hope dance within us all the time, inviting us to play despite the outcome. We are told to not delay hope but to embrace it, to run to it, even though it may feel like running into a burning building. As Proverbs 13:12 teaches, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
Words like desire and hope have always been slippery to me, like the time I broke the glass thermometer in the bathroom sink as a kid. Not knowing what mercury was, I tried to clean it up. It seeped from my moving fingers and escaped my grasp. I had no idea it was poison. In the same way, we reach for hope, fearful and desperate, with an odd awareness that we are tampering with something dangerous.
A picture of desire and hope is seen in the story of the prodigal son. We know the day will come when the father, full of longing, will turn his gaze to the window and spot the familiar gait of his son. The story propels us to reach for the second half of Proverbs 13:12: “…but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We want to run down the road to greet desire, to celebrate the son, knowing it was not in vain.
But what about the days the father searched the distant horizon and saw nothing? What about the nights he went to sleep, tormented in grief, wondering if he would ever see his son again? Did he delay hope that next day? Did friends encourage him to let go? Isn’t it foolish for a grown man to wait at his window for a son who rejected him?
No! We are told to not defer Hope, because the Father at the window is our Father too. He, above all others, embodies desire and hope. He waits for us at the window. His pursuit, though done in the most gentleman-like way, is relentless and never-ending. We are His beloved children worth longing for, no matter where we have been or what we have done.
I applied for the job. Desire toyed with me. It reminded me of better days when working with an authentic team was normal. I missed those days of community. Two interviews in, however, desire turned on me and I heard God whisper, “No, Natalie. The time is not now. Lay it down.” I had not deferred hope. I’d danced and dreamed and still my desire went unfulfilled.
Embracing hope is not a guarantee.
It is always risky and we know this. Yet, we have a God who beckons us to cling to desire with persistence. He encourages us to dance with desire because it moves us into places of unwavering trust with a God who wants us to believe in His goodness. Regardless of the outcome, we must remain open to the invitation, knowing desire and hope are the essence of God, who stops at nothing to redeem us.
Natalie Sum is a lover of stories and thrives when she knows someone has an “Ah-hah” moment, whether in a classroom, through an online class she’s created or talking with a friend. Natalie has a master’s degree in Education and bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is excited to begin the Lay Certificate Program at the Allender Center Seattle School of Psychology, this coming September. She feels most alive cruising on her road bike and relishing in God’s creation. Natalie lives in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago and occasionally contributes to the blog of sowthat.com.