“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick…” ~ Proverbs 13:12a
In The Bible, the word heart is often used interchangeably with mind and refers to the “inner man”. The heart is also considered to be the seat of the emotions, appetites and passions. Hence, the phrase “heart sick”, in our text, refers to unhealthiness of the mind and in our modern terminology it describes depression.
Conversely, the word the verb defer simply means ‘put off’ or ‘delay’.
Our text, therefore, succinctly reveals one key cause of depression in humans: “hope deferred”. When we hope for something and it does come in what we think is a reasonable time: when our hopes are put off or delayed, we get depressed. For example:
- In 1 Kings 21:4 King Ahab got depressed when Naboth refused to give/sell Ahab his garden. Eventually to relieve his depression, Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, had Naboth murdered so that Ahab could finally get the garden he didn’t need.
- Jonah was depressed (and angry) because he had hoped Nineveh, the capital city of one of Israel’s fiercest enemies would have perished (Jonah 3:10-4:3). When Nineveh repented because of Jonah’s preaching, Jonah wished his own life would end: he lost his will to live.
Similarly, when things in our lives don’t go the way we hoped they would, when our hopes are not realized when we expect they should, we too often get depressed.
Many people struggle with depression when their search for a job fails over and over again. Some get depressed when their search for a suitable wife/husband fails. Parents get depressed about their rebellious children, the children they hoped would have become great successes. Sometimes, poor health makes us depressed (we had hoped and even striven to be healthy). Sometimes failing finances, or maybe the loss of a home brings depression (“it was our dream house”).
Whatever the circumstance may be, the cause for depression is often the same: “hope deferred”.
The prescription for depression, therefore, is not to have hope deferred.
How is that possible? We can’t control life’s events!!!???
The Bible, unsurprisingly, has the answer:
“Blessed [Happy] is the man… whose hope the LORD is.” ~ Jeremiah 17:7
The key to having fulfilled hope instead of deferred hope is to hope in The LORD. We will have our hope realized when we center our happiness and fulfillment on God, alone, instead of things, instead of people, instead of circumstances.
Ahab would not have been depressed if he had his heart set on serving in God’s vineyard (i.e., The Kingdom of God) instead of owning Naboth’s vineyard.
Jonah would not have been depressed if he was filled with God’s love rather than his own hate for the Ninevites.
Financial troubles won’t depress us, if we recognize that God is the One who supplies (now and forever) ALL our needs.
Our children’s ‘failings’ won’t depress us, if we are focused instead on their salvation. That is, when we are concerned with what God is doing in their lives to Glorify Himself, rather than what they are doing with their lives to glorify us.
Our (failing) health won’t depress us when we believe “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
In The Scripture, Paul triumphs over his own physical struggles when he realized the ‘thorn in his flesh’ was part of God’s plan for him: the infirmity kept Paul humble and Paul’s commitment to God despite his physical challenge brought even more glory to God (2 Corinthians 12:6-10). Eventually, Paul declared:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities… for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:10
Paul’s hope focused on fulfilling God’ will for his life rather than his own comfort. Therefore, Paul’s hope was NOT deferred!!! Paul found triumph instead.
God’s plans will be fulfilled in our lives when we walk in His will, according to His plans. Therefore, if our hope rests in God, our hope will come true. When we hope for things, persons or situations that are not part of God’s plan, we shouldn’t expect to receive them from His hand.
To be clear, The Scriptures do not suggest that we will never experience sadness, loneliness, anguish or pain.
However, if our hope is in the Lord, our hopes will never be deferred and our hearts will never get sick… when we submit completely to God’s plan we will be free from depression.