“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
Crushed. When I asked my daughters how they would feel if camp was cancelled due to COVID-19, that was their unanimous word of choice – crushed. I had to agree and for many of you, crushed is exactly how you feel since Greystone had to make the painful, yet necessary choice to cancel the Junior and June sessions this summer.
As I considered the overwhelming disappointment that I was certain so many girls and parents were experiencing, I couldn’t help but think of this Proverb - “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The translation for ‘makes the heart-sick’ literally means ‘the heart is crushed.’ Seems fitting right?
What I appreciate is that the Bible affirms the ‘hard’ of our disappointment in life. God gets it. When we are excited - so hopeful - about something in the future and then it doesn’t happen, He knows we feel sad, frustrated and even angry. It seems unfair. Furthermore, the disappointment so many people are facing now is not only related to the loss of spending time at Greystone. Because of Covid-19, nearly everyone is experiencing normal life disappointments such as not seeing friends, cancelled spring break plans, missing out on playing spring sports or enjoying long-anticipated end of year celebrations like prom or graduation. More seriously, some families are facing job losses, illness or even the death of a loved one. Heaps of awful disappointment. We ask: does God care? If so, how do we know and what can we do about it? I believe the key is in the second half of this verse which provides us with deep hope.
Think about a past Christmas that you received a gift for which you were really longing. I’ll never forget the faces of our young daughters one Christmas morning years ago when they ran downstairs to find a Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse, a gift they had wanted for years. Literally a dream come true for three little girls who never got out of their pajamas that day as they played with the three-story dollhouse for hours.
Everyone has experienced this kind of joy in life at some point when a particular longing or desire was fulfilled. For example, getting a long-awaited family pet, receiving an academic or athletic achievement, receiving entrance to the college of your choice or being hired for a job you really wanted and so on.
The Bible calls this joyous feeling a ‘tree of life’ which is a symbol for spiritual and physical ultimate fulfillment. The tree of life in the garden of Eden at Creation represented the opportunity for intimate, eternal fellowship with God. If Adam and Eve obeyed God and did not eat from that one tree then they would live forever in sweet, closeness with the Lord. But, instead of trusting and depending on God, Adam and Eve disobeyed, brought sin into their lives and eventually had to leave the garden, losing that fellowship with the Lord. Talk about disappointment.
Wait, couldn’t they just say sorry? The story of this “Fall” in Genesis 3 doesn’t tell us if they apologized, but even if they had, sin was and is so serious that they could never ‘do’ anything that would restore them back into that closeness with God. They could not fulfill God’s requirement of perfection or ever be ‘good enough.’ They would continue to struggle, like all of us, with their own sinful hearts and choices. That’s the bad news – sin separates us from God. Here’s the good news - God did it for them, for us. Because of His great love for us, God sent Jesus, to be ‘good’ for us. Jesus was perfect where Adam and Eve were not. So, when we put our faith in His life, death and resurrection, we are brought back into that intimate fellowship with God – back into an Eden of sorts – into a relationship that is a “tree of life.”
You see friends, the message of the Bible is that God made us for Himself and only in Him will we find true fulfillment. Every good longing ever realized for us this side of heaven actually points us to a better fulfillment in store for us one day in Christ.
Like many of you, I have always called Greystone a slice of heaven – my Eden on earth. At camp we are given the gift of deep friendships, a loving community, FUN and rest from the chaos of life – all reflections of our life to come with Christ in eternity. It only makes sense that losing a chance to be there really would make us ‘heart-sick’.
So, what do we do? What is the medicine for our disappointment about camp and other losses in life that will inevitably come? Hope in Jesus. We must take our sadness, disappointment, anger and grief to Him. He understands. The Bible tells us He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deep grief. He knows what it means to not only feel crushed but to actually BE crushed – not on a tree of life, but on a shameful, Roman cross of death.
In your sadness and disappointment, remember the essence of the gospel: on the cross Jesus was crushed by God, taking the penalty of our sin FOR US so that any and every loss we face in this life, however deeply disappointing, will never truly crush us. We do not know why God allowed this pandemic, but we DO know that He has proven Himself trustworthy so that we can rest in His hidden purposes. And though we WILL be very sad to miss camp, we can allow God to use this time to change us more into the people He wants us to become as we learn to wait.
And finally, we must learn to hope in Him alone – this is a hope that is NEVER deferred and will NEVER disappoint. Though we wait, we know He is coming again and one day, for those who trust in Christ, every longing will be ultimately fulfilled and we will eat of the Tree of Life forever more.