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Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 


I caught myself the other day toying with keeping my mouth shut in a certain situation because I didn’t want to give the person false hope. Then it struck me. As fleeting as that thought was, why would I, as a follower of Christ, entertain something so lethal? Is that why the Lord brought this hope deferred verse to mind?

Sure, with things the way they are in this negative world where the cup is always half empty, it can be a far reach at times to find a suitable word of encouragement to speak about it. A preacher once said in reference to the end times, “Cheer up, it’s going to get worse.” And it has. Is it any surprise that there’s a heap of anxious, depressed, and sickly hearts sprouting up everywhere because of false hopes, dashed hopes, deferred hopes, lost hopes, and no hope at all for those outside of Christ?[i]

But what does hope deferred have to do with those of us who have an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ?[ii] Ours is a sure and steadfast hope that anchors the soul by entering into that most Holy Place, where the very presence of God dwells, and where our forerunner Jesus already entered on our behalf.[iii] We also possess the first fruits of the Spirit. But we still must live in what often feels like a state of limbo where we’re in situations we can’t control, and where, by all appearances, no progress is being made. We are waiting in faith for God to fulfill His promises that will bring us into our full inheritance as His sons. That’s where hope comes into play. Because we hope for what is yet unseen, we patiently wait for it, and wait for it. And wait for it.[iv] 

Thus, the term hope deferred. Defer means to put off to a later time, to postpone—in other words, let’s wait some more. But is this waiting (deferring/postponing) such a bad thing if we understand that while we wait, patience is doing her best work of perfecting us to receive that for which we hope?[v]

Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds an additional, positive twist to the word defer. Defer also means; to allow (someone else) to decide or choose something; to agree to follow (someone else’s decision . . .) Wouldn’t you agree that making Jesus Lord of our lives grants Him the right to make the decisions, and to defer to Him means we agree to follow whatever and however He decides is best?

I can see where hope deferred could start to go south if I lose sight of God’s perspective on those things that don’t pan out as I expected, or if I misinterpret postponement to mean God is saying it’s not happening at all. Perhaps that’s why He gave me this scripture as a heads up. How easy it is to jump to the wrong conclusion and judge God as a harsh man who expects us to invest our all into something He’s not vested in Himself.[vi] Hope that waits, then turns to hope deferred (the negative kind), and the heart becomes sick because we’ve lost confidence in the goodness of God.

Jesus said God is good. No one is good but One, that is, God. His plans for us are for peace and not calamity; they are to give us a future and a hope. And if things don’t pan out like we pictured, we know that He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose for them.[vii] We must believe that, or we will lose heart for sure. I would have lost heart (probably because hope was deferred) unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.[viii]  

As burden bearer for his people, the prophet Jeremiah understood hope deferred only too well. When reading Lamentations, there is no mistaking his discouragement and heartsickness over their backslidden condition. But things shift to the right perspective in chapter three when he says, This I call to mind; therefore I have hope. Jeremiah goes on to describe God as merciful. His tender compassions fail not; they are new every morning. God is faithful. He is our portion. Therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.[ix]

The Lord is good to those who wait for him. Hope deferred may make the heart sick at times, but thankfully there’s a second half to this verse—but when it comes it is a tree of life.[x] Not if it comes, but when it comes. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.[xi]

I’d say it’s time for me (and you if it applies) to realign ourselves with our God of Hope. Our only other option is to lose hope. Lose hope, and faith loses its window to give substance to that very thing we are hoping for. We need to learn to drink deeper from faith’s cup and defer to Him in this matter of when and how and where—not if! —our hopes are fulfilled.[xii]  


Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)

The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good . . . (Psalm 34:8)

Now the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may about in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Hope does not disappoint because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Roman 5:5; 1 Peter 2:6)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


[i] Ephesians 2:12

[ii] 1 Peter 1:3

[iii] Hebrews 6:19–20 AMP

[iv] Romans 8:22–25; Limbo definition (Cambridge Dictionary)

[v] James 1:2–4

[vi] Matthew 25:24

[vii] Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28

[viii] Mark 10:18; Psalm 27:13

[ix] Lamentations 3:21–25

[x] Proverbs 13:12

[xi] Psalm 107:8–9

[xii] Romans 15:13; Hebrews 1:1

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1 Comment

Mar 05

I love this so much, just the words when not if are so impactful. I've had so many frustrations that I've found myself anxious over the last couple of years. As we know that's the perfect time for the enemy to creep in but then I see things like this or talk to my sister Marie and I'm reminded it's not if it's when. Thank you for following what the Holy Spirit leads you to share.

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