Hope is one of the strongest of human capabilities. There are a lot of things we place our hope in. Sometimes we hope in circumstances – a raise, a relationship, a good grade, or a big win in the big game. Sometimes we hope in the affirmation of others, popularity, the status of our ego. And sometimes we hope in God. We trust Him, acknowledge He is God and we are not, and live in peace as best we can.

This proverb speaks to the impact of hope.

When we choose to place our hope in things that are not real, true, or good, it makes us sick. The word for “deferred” here is “masach” and it literally means “pulled away”. So imagine we are a real person in this very real world and we place our hope in something that is false. When we do so, falsity pulls us away from reality. It causes a gap. A distance. And that dislocation from reality is like an illness for our soul.

A deferred hope is like a cat toy that is constantly being pulled further and further from the cat, so that it chases the toy but never reaches it. This is the strategy of sin in our lives, to promise us things it will never deliver. To keep us chasing until we have lost a sense of ourselves.

But when hope is true and attainable, it is a tree of life. A source of alignment. It is not that circumstances are magically better or we don’t have to suffer anymore, but at least we are being real. At least we are tethered to reality and not divided within ourselves.

Where we place our hope is critical for how we will live our lives. 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
– Proverbs 13:12