Hope Deferred

I asked my daughter Libby what she hoped to get for Christmas this year. She’s banking on a computer, but sadly for her, mom and dad are not. So, unless Santa has a surprise up his sleeve, I’m afraid this is going to be one Christmas hopes that is dashed. Has that ever happened to you? You wanted a certain toy as a child or maybe you were hoping for a certain gift, and it didn’t happen? I’m still waiting for that remote-controlled airplane I wanted at age 10.

We hope for a lot of things, don’t we? Kids hope for a snow day. Parents hope for an easy day at work. Hunters this week in Ohio are hoping for a chance to get that massive buck deer. Others are right now hoping for more time, with a loved one, time to study, time to just slow down. I know a friend right now who is hoping for his wife’s cancer to go into remission. Another friend is hoping to stay sober.

Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” When something is deferred, it is withheld for a long period of time, postponed, or delayed. The word “heart” in this verse means a person’s whole being. So, we might paraphrase the verse this way: “Waiting too long on something you’ve hoped for leads to despair.”

I think sometimes non-Christians view Christ’s followers as people with their heads stuck in the clouds or the sand, and that we aren’t grounded in reality. That, and false teachers paint a false view of God and living for Him. They portray God as some divine genie, granting wishes if you just say the right words and have enough faith. But a deeply rooted walk with Christ is one where we grapple with reality and the promise of God for a universe of eternal perfection.

As we enter the first week of Advent, our overall theme is of hope. But our hope is not just rainbows and unicorns. Oh no, our hope is more than that. As we consider the story of God and His people in the Bible, we see a people who had received promises from God and trusted Him. Some of them saw God do amazing miracles, and some didn’t witness the fulfillment in their lifetime. But almost all of them had to endure waiting.

For example, God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation took not just a while. It took centuries. It took Abraham and Sarah having a child in old age. It meant Isaac being deceived by Jacob. It meant Jacob and his family dealt with near-constant conflict both from within their family and without. In fact, it took over 400 years of slavery in Egypt before God had formed a great nation, and then they still didn’t have a land to dwell in. But in Joshua 21:43, we see where they finally took possession of “all the land [God] swore to give to their fathers.”

Yet, even once God gave them the fulfillment of their hope, they were not satisfied. They were not faithful to God. Many times, they would turn their back on Him. But even then, there was still hope. In Jeremiah 14:8, the Lord is called the “Hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble”. And we see that time and time again, God would rescue His people. His faithfulness would continually give them hope. As it should us today.

Yet what about the people of God today? Even though Jesus has come, died, and risen, do we not still need hope? As we look out at this world of brokenness, we long for God to put to a final end all distress and heartache. We hope and we wait. This is the message of Advent. And we long for the day when with all the people of God throughout all time, we can recite the words of Isaiah 25:9, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Oh, come, Emmanuel, into our worlds today!

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