Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. How true! While each month I harbour some hope that this time will be different, there have been some months when I’ve really really hoped. Take our second attempt at IUI and both rounds of IVF for example, as we were maximizing our chances. We had sacrificed so much and although the chances were still slim, they were the best we could get at our age. Then there was the month when I’d seen the rainbow – I was convinced that this was God’s sign of fulfilling his promise to me, and this time would be different.
Each time ended with sobbing. It was actually this latest time – the month of the rainbow – that made my heart sick. This time I was angry with God. I felt betrayed and let down. Why had he encouraged me to hope when he knew the outcome? If I had misread this sign, had I misheard from God all the other times? Was I wrong to keep clinging to the hope that we would have children? One thing I knew for sure was the truth of this proverb: hope deferred certainly does make the heart sick, or as it says in The Message version, unrelenting disappointment leaves you heart sick.
I didn’t want to hope any more; I couldn’t stand the constant heartbreak. But I couldn’t bring myself to stop hoping either – because where would that leave me?
I’m sure this is true for any type of hope: hope for healing for yourself or a loved one, hope for someone’s salvation, or for a child to come back to faith. Hope for a struggling marriage to be restored or a broken friendship to be mended. Hope for financial security or for a purposeful career. So how do we hold on to hope for good things like this, without becoming heartbroken? How do we keep trusting God despite evidence to the contrary?
When we hope, when we pray, we first need to take an honest look into our hearts – what is my motivation for this? Yet when I’ve done this (and I’ll be honest, not all my motivations for wanting children could be described as godly!) I am left with the conviction that God put this strong desire in me to be a mum, and desiring children is a godly dream.
Nowhere in the Bible, in all the stories of couples struggling with infertility, were they rebuked for their desire for children. The same is true for the other hopes I mentioned earlier. A desire for relationships to be transformed, for people to be healed, for salvation, for release from financial hardship are not ungodly dreams.
So, after we have checked our hearts and motivation, what then?
In Whom Do We Trust?
Lisa goes onto say, “The enemy turns us away from hope by making it about our inability. Unknowingly, we echo his refrain by agreeing with these lies. We submit to their boundaries and resign ourselves to their limitations.”
If my hope were in me and my ability to have children, it would be a forlorn hope. I am almost 41, we have been trying without success for almost five years, and even IVF didn’t work. If I’m relying on my own level of faith, or my persistence in prayer, I might as well give up now. Because this isn’t about me.
It is about the God who created the universe (which includes my womb and me), the God who walked on water and who encouraged Peter to do the same, the God who stilled the storm, tore the temple curtain in two and rose from the dead. It’s the same God who gave children to Abraham and Sarah (who were much older than me), to Hannah, Rebekah, Rachel and Elisabeth. If, or when, God wants to give me children, I know he can.
So I can put my trust, my hope in him, knowing that he is capable and that he is loving.
Knowing that God is loving is so important in this journey of hope.
If I didn’t believe that, I would believe the enemy’s lies that my infertility is some kind of punishment, that God doesn’t love me enough to give me my heart’s desire, that I wouldn’t make a good mum.
No, these are lies. God is loving and good.
God is loving and kind. The same is true if you are hoping for healing, or restoration, or whatever. God’s silence isn’t because of your lack of faith, or your lack of anything. As Lisa says somewhere else in her book: “What we perceive to be unanswered prayers are really prayers answered in a different way.”
What does that mean for me and my situation? I don’t know, but here are some ideas!
- This waiting period has strengthened my faith in God and it’s deepened and strengthened my marriage.
- I’ve learned to listen to God, to really lament to him, and to treasure his word. Without kids I’ve had time to do just that – and I have been really blessed by it.
- Maybe we will have children of our own in God’s timing, or maybe I’ll find that my heart’s desire to be a mum is fulfilled in a different way; through investing in my nieces’ lives and in the lives of other women or other children? Maybe it won’t be until I meet my unborn children in heaven that this dream and desire of mine will come to pass.
Who knows? But I do know that God is mighty, that God is good, and that God loves me.
But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Proverbs 13:12 continues: “But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I’ve always thought this to mean when my longing for children is fulfilled, but maybe it’s God’s longing to be in a deep relationship with me, and mine to be in fellowship with him. If this is the case when that is fulfilled, it truly is a tree of life.
My hope, my prayer, for you, is that you find a deeper closeness to God through your desires and your dreams. He is with you, and he hears your cries and your sobs, just as he hears mine.