Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
We learn that -
I. HOPE IS PLANTED AS AN INSTINCT IN THE HUMAN HEART, "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts," says the psalmist (Psalm 22:9). We start on our course with a precious store of hopefulness in our soul; and it takes much to kill or to exhaust it. It lasts most men through life, though the troublous experiences we pass through weaken it, if they do not wound it unto death.
II. IT IS A SOURCE OF GREAT STRENGTH AND JOY TO US.
1. It is a source of strength to us. It leads us to entertain and to enter upon new ventures. It carries us on during many toils and through many difficulties. It sustains us to the end, when we are weary, and when we are opposed and baffled. "We are saved by hope."
2. It is also a perennial source of joy. Rob life of its anticipations, and you deprive it of a very large proportion of its sweetness and satisfaction.
III. SIN HAS INTRODUCED DISAPPOINTMENT. We must regard this as one part, and one very serious part, of the penalty of sin. Not, of course, that each case of disappointment is the consequence of some particular antecedent wrong doing; but that it forms a part of that whole burden and trial of life which is the mark and the penalty of human sin. There are lighter disappointments which may not count for much, though these put together would make up no small aggregate of evil. But there are heavier disappointments which constitute a very large and serious part of our life sorrow. "Hope deferred" does indeed make the heart sick. The long and weary waiting for the return of the absent; for the manifestation of love ungratefully, and perhaps cruelly, withheld; for the health and strength which no treatment will restore; for the opening which would prove a great opportunity; for the signs of reformation in a beloved relative or friend; for the relenting and reconciliation of one who has been long estranged; - this does fill the soul with an aching such as no other trouble brings. It is one of life's very heaviest burdens. It is sometimes the burden and even the blight of a human life.
IV. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM TO AVERT IT. Not that it can be wholly averted - that is quite beyond our power. Not that there is any real blessing in the absence or the littleness of expectation. But that:
1. We should discourage and renounce the perilous and injurious habit of idle day dreams.
2. We should moderate our hopes according to our circumstances, and be contented only to look for that which, in the providence of God, we may reasonably and rightly expect to partake of.
V. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN SUBMISSION TO ACCEPT IT. We must suffer when our hopes are unfulfilled; but we may find great relief in the though; that it is the will of God that we are submitting to. The feeling that it is our Divine Friend who is letting us pass through the dark shadow of disappointment, and that it is the holy Lord seeking our highest good who is sending us through the refining fires, - this will give balm to our wounded spirit; this will lighten the heavy load we bear.
VI. GOD WILL GIVE HIS PEOPLE SOME GOOD MEASURE OF FULFILMENT. We shall prove by our experience in many ways and in many spheres - particularly in those of
(1) our inner life and
(2) our work for our Lord - that "the light of the righteous rejoiceth," that "when desire cometh, it is a tree of life," that "desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." If we rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, he will give us our heart's desires (Psalm 37:4, 7).
VII. THERE IS ONE SUPREME HOPE which may well sustain us in the darkest trials (1 Peter 1:3, 4). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.