“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” -Proverbs 13:12
The word deferred means, “withheld for or until a stated time; delayed handling.” (Webster’s)
In the story in John 5:1-7, a disabled man had been sitting by the healing pool of Bethesda for many, many years (38 years, to be exact), waiting for someone to help him get in. He seems kind of desperate and pathetic, just sitting there, inactive, waiting to be helped. Was his healing deferred?
A man named Jesus walks up to him and says, "Do you want to be healed?" At first, the man's response is kind of whiny: "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." He is blaming his lack of success or hopefulness on other people's actions. And then Jesus says, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man is healed. Why couldn't that have happened to him earlier? Why couldn't he have simply "gotten up and walked" earlier? Why was his success contingent on other people's actions for so long, and now, suddenly, it becomes within his power to grasp?
His hope was deferred. His hope was delayed. His perspective was one of sitting in the middle of suffering and waiting. He sat in that place of darkness and inability to move for so long, he couldn’t see another way but doing the same things he had always done. He couldn’t see past where he was to even consider his situation as hopeful. I imagine with each day that “nothing happened”, he felt more and more hopeless.
But this man named Jesus just walked up to him one day, and said, "Get up", and he did. Why was he suddenly ready to take action and get himself up, unassisted, and simply, "walk"? For some reason, he could suddenly see hope. He could suddenly see that there was potential and promise in his dire circumstances. He now felt empowered to take his action instead of waiting for someone else to change the situation for him.
Why do we get stuck and not recognize that we have what it takes to “get up and walk” toward healing, toward seeing our situation differently, toward using our hardships to propel us, strengthen us, and make us see that we are far more than any challenge that we face?
To lean into hope is to believe beyond what your circumstances may reveal to be discouraging or limiting. Hoping is an active and strong verb. To hope is to cherish a desire, a want, a need, with anticipation, with excitement and confidence that change is possible. To hope is to expect fulfillment of our desires.
Sometimes I go over and over in my head hurtful words people have said to me, hard things that have happened to me. I decide it's up to them to change my situation. I can't see beyond that hurt that festers to allow my desires to grow and have real potential in my life. Where has my hope been deferred? I was just doing my morning quiet time, and the devotional I am reading asked me to imagine that God is reaching toward me, asking me to open up, to let Him see what I am holding. I just suddenly felt, like the man at the pool, that it's time to let go of my past hurts, hindrances and patterns. It's time to stop blaming others and depending on them to do something that will change my situation. It's time, today, to be forward-thinking and allow God to show me what is new and coming down the path ahead of me, versus holding on to what has held me back for so long. It's time for me to step out of the cocoon that has kept me stagnant and hopeless in different ways, and to trust that God's healing is available to me too.
Do you have a “hope deferred story”? Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t see it now, but I believe the breaking free from the cocoon is available to you, if you think about what God is asking you to let go of.