How many of you remember ABC's Wide World of Sports? It aired on Saturday afternoons from 1961-1998 and was listed by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 television shows. Their tag line was "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." This is the sports world unknowingly quoting Proverbs 13:12: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
I was actually sitting on the back deck of a cruise ship early one morning when the revelation of this verse hit me like a ton of bricks. One could argue that all of life is lived through the lens of this single verse. So much so that a sports show captured the essence of sports in one tagline without even realizing they were quoting scripture. The truths of this verse are one of my key check points in living a life of worship.
Hope is an expectation or desire (longing). Deferred means to be put off, delayed, unfulfilled. Heart is the word we use to describe the essence or center of who we are. Sick means disappointed, discouraged, angry, hurt, etc. So to paraphrase the first part of the verse, a desire that is unfulfilled causes pain.
The second part of the verse describes the inverse effect. A tree of life is describing the mysterious welling up within us when a desire is fulfilled. The greater the desire the higher the high. This reality happens all throughout our day on a variety of levels. By 1:30 today I already have three identifiable examples. For the sake of your time I'll just mention two.
My daily breakfast routine is a bowl of instant oatmeal and half a banana. But today my desire was for eggs. Last night I was already planning on having eggs this morning. On Fridays our son leaves extra early for work. When I came down to the kitchen I discovered an empty egg carton on the counter! Was I bummed? Yes, for a moment. However, I've learned to recognize the cycle and I quickly let it go. But it's not as easy when the hope/desire is stronger.
For example, last night we had a cell phone drop in the water...ok, toilet. It was immediately pulled out and turned off. We followed the typical advice and put it in a bag of rice overnight and 'hoped' for the best. This hope runs quite a bit deeper because it has a potential large dollar figure attached to it and money (security) plays a huge part in the dynamic of Proverbs 13:12. As of this moment most of the phone is working except the internal speaker so it's useless for calls and we are still waiting to see what Verizon has to say. With more at stake here it is more challenging to stay grounded and content in all circumstances which should translate into being loving and kind with all those involved. Now, if we discover that the phone is going to be perfectly fine then the second part of the verse comes into play. The longing fulfilled will result in a happy dance! But just because the result may be a happy dance, does that justify me putting my hope in the phone being ok? The sneakiest part is that the tree of life 'high' is the same whether the longing is an earthly one or a kingdom one. We haven't even begun to talk about relationships, jobs, education, health, and on and on it goes. Proverbs 13:12 truly touches every part of life.
That is why this verse has become an integral part of my 'Worship is Life' journey. It helps me refrain from longing for the things of this world that seem to satisfy, and keep my focus on the One who has established the true meaning of life; right relationship with God and right relationship with others. I double dare you to look for Proverbs 13:12 in your life today.