Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12) is a proverb I knew by memory. But, it wasn’t until I began to endure my hopes being deferred that those words leapt off the pages of God's word and into the reality of my circumstance. We were fresh off the heels of a miscarriage and had made it to the 8 week milestone. It was time to hear a heartbeat for the first time, to see evidence of life, to finally breathe and believe that all would be well.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I said to my husband as we walked into the doctor’s office. The grin on his face could not be erased as I plopped myself upon the examining room table. The nurse came in and began the search. I watched her as she watched the screen. First, her face showed promise, hope, as she intently searched the shadows of an ultrasound picture. After minutes, her brow began to furrow and the doctor was called into the room.
“I’m sorry,” are words you never want to hear from medical professionals, especially twice within months. Hope deferred again. And that Proverb I knew by memory, I now knew by experience. My heart was sick.
The waves of heart sickness that followed were consuming at times. I didn’t understand it. Each time I thought I had processed and healed from a broken heart, something would serve as a reminder of my hope deferred. Another friend announcing a pregnancy. A crossed out countdown on my calendar of the weeks of what would have been my pregnancy. A television show about the miracle of life. I found myself on a neverending rollercoaster of emotions.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in a church service one Sunday, listening to a sermon on Hannah, that I started to feel my wounds closing. Her story was not new to me. I had even placed her words on my refrigerator after my daughter’s birth three years ago, “I prayed for this child and the Lord granted me what I asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 1:27) But, Hannah became a friend to me that day. She understood Proverbs 13:12 just as deeply as I did.
Hannah’s story begins in the hill country of Ephraim. She had a husband who loved her named Elkanah. As was custom of the day, Elkanah had more than one wife. His other wife, Peninnah, was the epitome of a mean girl, constantly taunting her barren counterpart Hannah. Peninnah had children. Her longing for family had been fulfilled, but Hannah had a desire that could not even be understood by her loving, earthly partner Elkanah. Hannah’s heart was sick.
In 1 Samuel 1:8, we meet Hannah, completely crushed after years of her hopes being deferred and years of torment from Peninnah. Her husband didn’t understand it, asking her, “Why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Elkanah had never experienced an ache inside that makes a person’s soul throb.
Hannah took the only remedy she knew for her sorrow. And so, “in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:10) Weeping and praying, that is all Hannah knew to do. After pouring her heart out before the Lord, He answered her and let her experience the rest of that Proverb: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. The birth of one of the godliest men recorded in the pages of scripture, Samuel, fulfilled the longing of a heartsick woman. And the story of it all, gave this woman salve to my own wounds.
After a year of waiting, God has still not fulfilled my longing for a second child. But, He has restored my hope and healed my broken heart. I pray He will do the same for you as you experience the heartsickness of dreams deferred. Consider these things as you face your own “barrenness,” whether it be in your womb or another area of your life:
1. God has not left you. One of the greatest things God said to me through that sermon I listened to with fresh ears about Hannah was this: Barrenness does not mean God forsakenness. Just because God has allowed for your desire, whatever it is, to be delayed, either indefinitely or for a season, don’t think that He has left you. His word is clear about this: “[The Lord] will never leave or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) In fact, God is always close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
2. Others may not understand, but He does. I think of sweet Hannah, weeping beside her bridegroom. He couldn’t understand her grief. But, God did. And Hannah knew her heavenly Father was the only one who could comprehend the depths of her sorrow and so she went to Him with her tears, pouring out her soul to the one who would understand. God wants us to bring our “ugly cry” to Him and share with Him all the sadness in our heart. Hannah knew this and was unabashed to go before Him. We should too, especially in the midst of our despair.
3. There is always hope in the One. So often it is the suspended aspirations of our spirit that can make us lose hope. Learning to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) is a spiritual practice we are all called to do as we face seasons of barrenness. Standing on the promises of His word while we navigate the muddy waters of our longings unfulfilled is usually the process He is encouraging us to go through in our times of postponed yearnings. Getting into His word and knowing those promises is the only the remedy for our hearts.
Hope deferred indeed makes the heart sick, but God is always there, willing and able to “heal the brokenhearted and [bind] up [your] wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) May you feel His presence in the barren times of your own life and may you learn to cry out to Him as you continue to wait for His timing of fulfilling the longings of your heart. ____________________________________________
A longing of my heart is to attend an incredible conference for writers, speakers and ministry leaders called the She Speaks Conference July 22-24 in Concord, NC. This blog was an attempt to fulfill that longing through an awesome scholarship opportunity from Ann Voskamp's Blog.
If you share a similar passion for ministry, writing and/or speaking, be sure to check out the conference and scholarship!
Here's to a longing (potentially) being fulfilled!
Until next time-