Sunday, April 25, 2021

Hope deferred makes the Heart Sick

“I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family's sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain't dead!"

That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain't dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world. In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world. “
-James DeLoach, associate pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston

How many of you struggled with hopelessness during the last year? How many of you felt burnt out over the last year? How many of you struggled with anxiety or depression in the last year?

A lot of us struggle with these things.

Hope is so incredibly important to our lives. To simply have hope that things can be better is a game-changer. There have been times in my own life where I’ve lost hope. And you just start to give up inside. Have you ever given up inside?

Have you been totally overwhelmed by what’s going on around you? Maybe family drama? Maybe your neighbors are a problem? Drugs, or alcohol, or some addiction? A family member dies? Chronic pain that won’t go away?

Over years those burdens unchanged, we lose hope that things can be better.

But in the turmoil, in the shaky hands, in the tears, crying yourself to sleep, there is one who loves us and speaks to us some simple words:

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” -Proverb 23:18

Again in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

An unseen God, sees us in our turmoil and pain. And he cares enough to call us out of that darkness.

Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

And again it says in Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.”

God is faithful. The promises that God has made to us in his word remain true. They don’t change. They don’t shift or disappear. They are permanent, fixed, and eternal. They await us. Trust in God, as a child trusts a parent. Unconditional, total trust. Cling to the Father God of heavenly lights.

There’s a simple yet profound scripture and it says this, Proverb 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” In other words, hope delayed, hope in waiting, makes the heart sick.

Many of us here I’m sure have been praying for solutions to problems and healing and salvation for people and ourselves for many years, and many of us I’m sure have become sick in the heart because of “hope deferred.” As our answer is delayed and delayed, our hope begins to fade and our hearts become sick with something called bitterness. Bitterness is when we succumb to discouragement and sorrow, over the decline of hope inside us.

Last week, I was away at a conference in White Cloud, Michigan. I was studying about hope deferred. And I made a list of all the hopes in my life, all the desires of my heart and prayer requests that the Lord has not fulfilled in many years. I made a list about 10 items long. 

They were things that I struggle with every day. Things like losing weight, anxiety, sleep problems, family members getting saved, depression, a friend getting saved, getting married, having a family, and so on and so forth. And I became very angry with the Lord when I looked at the list. I thought to myself, no wonder I sometimes face discouragement in life, the list of hopes deferred is long. And it’s hard to keep waiting on the Lord and hoping in the Lord, when you face the daily grind of life. It’s not easy.

But then the Lord, in his still small voice, quietly guided me to write down the hopes that he had fulfilled in my life so far.

And I began writing… I wrote, I got saved in 2013. Got free from alcohol and drugs in 2012. Free from cigarettes in 2013. Called into the ministry in 2014. Graduated from college in 2016, Got out of consumer debt in 2016, Graduated seminary in 2019. Ordained as an officer and assigned my first church in 2019. Every one of those things I had prayed and prayed for, and God answered those prayers. And I know he will answer my future hopes as well.

God is trustworthy my friends. We can really, really trust God with all our hopes and dreams. But if you’re struggling with discouragement, with regret, with broken dreams, with hopes deferred, with hopes that have been crushed, I want to challenge you, put that stuff down on paper. I got a notebook, over the last week and wrote down page after page of my resentments, regrets, past hurts, and traumas. I wrote it down and shared it all with someone I trust. And it helped to bring a lot of healing forward.

When we lock the pain inside, it manifests as discouragement, hopelessness, pain, anxiety, and depression. But when we write it down, and think about it, and share it with someone else, it’s brought into the light. It’s cleared out. And this makes way for fresh hope, fresh encouragement, and fresh strength from God to take over within us.

Write down some of those hopes deferred in your past. Then write down some of the hopes God has already fulfilled. You’ll be amazed by what god shows you. Then remind yourselves some of the promises from God's word, such as: 

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 119:114 ESV "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word."

Proverbs 13:12 ESV "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Take some fresh hope in the Lord today. I know the struggle is real. But if you have Jesus as your savior, then God is with you in the struggle. And He is saying to you today that He loves you, and He’s always available to speak to in prayer. He calls you to dig into his word the Bible. He’s calling you to take great hope and strength in Jesus today. And keep fighting the good fight. Process the pain and you’ll find healing and growth.

I pray today, Lord, that you would bless each person reading these words with a fresh anointing of hope in the struggles of life. May they find a new inspiration in life: New goals, new dreams, and new plans to be led by you Lord into a bright future. In Jesus name, amen.