There was a season in my life not too long ago when hope seemed to be my enemy. There was a series of hopes in my life, both large and small, that were born, grew, and then died. Sometimes it was a gentle death, filled with respect and kindness, but it was death nonetheless. Other times it was a violent death and I wished that I could hope no longer. If I could avoid hope altogether then I would not be disappointed. It seemed the easiest option. I wouldn’t gain anything, but as the losses appeared greater, I thought I would ultimately be better off.
It seemed to me that my life-verse had become the first half of Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I was so tired of being heartsick. I even found myself quoting that passage offhand without reference to its source in hopes that no one would recall the rest. It was a way of describing my present emotional state and it was easy to stay there. The numbing of self and the deflecting of hope when it seemed to reemerge seemed to be the safer, even healthier route.
But I could not stay there. God would not allow me to. My casual references were always gently corrected with the second half, which reads, “but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” God also began continuously reminding me of Romans 5:3-5:
Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Here I was introduced to the idea that hope is a product of character. Having hope is a sign of maturity. What exactly it meant to have a hope that “does not disappoint” was lost to me at the time, but God began to journey with me to help me discover what that means.
As I write this, I am reminded of another “first half” being remembered in absence of the second. In C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, the main character finds himself in a contest between himself and Satan in a context meant to mirror the garden of Eden. Allow me to quote a section of that engagement:
…”But this is very foolish,” said the Un-man. “Do you not know who I am?”
“I know what you are,” said Ransom. “Which of them doesn’t matter.”
“And you think, little one,” it answered, “that you can fight with me? You think He will help you, perhaps? Many thought that. I’ve known Him longer than you, little one. They all think He’s going to help them–till they come to their senses screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad-houses, or nailed on crosses. Could He help Himself?”–and the creature suddenly threw back its head and cried in a voice so loud that it seemed the golden sky-roof must break, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.”
And the moment it had done so, Ransom felt certain that the sounds it had made were perfect Aramaic of the First Century. The Un-man was not quoting; it was remembering. These were the very words spoken from the Cross, treasured through all those years in the burning memory of the outcast creature which had heard them, and now brought forward in hideous parody; the horror made him momentarily sick…
I suspect Lewis was remarkably accurate with this portrayal of the enemy. Recalling his attempt to keep me in the first half of that verse, it makes sense that he too is stuck in the first half of the narrative of the cross. How cruel it must be for him to be reminded of the empty tomb.
It is this same tomb and its emptiness that gives me hope. It is not an empty hope like the tomb. It is one placed in the former resident of that tomb. He was raised to life so that I could have life and so that my hopes could also have life and not disappoint. I’m not sure that I’ve experienced a “tree of life” yet, but I know that it is coming. I don’t even know what it will look like, but I believe I will know when I find it.
I do not know what your story is or what disappointments you have faced. But in remembering Good Friday, we are looking forward to the second half that comes on Easter Sunday. His “second half” brings hope for your “second half”, and this hope will not disappoint.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.