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Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. –Proverbs 13:12

I have a good friend who shared this verse with me recently. If you know me, then you know that the past eleven months have been the most difficult of my life. As I continue to seek employment, I live this cycle: interview invite–anticipation–excitement–“this could be the one”–interview–waiting to hear–silence–”This one will probably turn out the same way”–“we’ve hired someone else”–dejection/depression… then it starts all over again.

Through the use of this verse my friend has renewed my spirit. My friend wrote:

I experienced the pain of Proverbs 13:12 first-hand: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

I believe the first part of that verse—with the entire verse laid out in antithetical parallelism—expresses what you experience with every interview on every trip: hope. Start with that first word: hope. Why do you have it? Lots of really good reasons! You know you are qualified. You know you could do the job. You like the people. They like you. All of those factors fuel the fire of hope in you, a completely natural process. Then you experience the second word. You get word that you weren’t chosen and your hope is deferred. The fulfillment of your hope is delayed. Why? Who knows? If you knew, it would be fulfilled by now because you would have changed the causes of your hope’s deferral. You have even taken steps toward that outcome already. You’ve asked for help. You’ve studied the institutions. You’ve conducted mock interviews. All good things and yet hope has still been deferred. Therefore…

…you experience the consequence: you are heartsick over it. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Yea, you got that one. Confirmed. Amen. Uh-huh. I know. Got it. Because you are bright and not stupid, when the pattern is repeated over and over, you anticipate a similar outcome. At first, early on in the process, all you anticipated was hope’s fulfillment. After months of numerous interviews that fanned the flames of your hope and generated great anticipation, all your hopes have been deferred: every single one so far. So how will this one be any different? Well, it may not, but you’ve made the emotional investment, you know (or hope) this can’t go on forever, and you need the energy for the interview that hope supplies. So you hope, but on the way home or in the days that follow, the delays of the present and deferrals of the past whisper in your ear, “This one will probably turn out the same way.” And so far it has, but you keep going because you know that hope deferred is not hope denied. “One of these will work out. I’m sure.”

So you press on, fueled by the antithesis found in part two of the verse: A longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Now that’s what you’re looking for! Hope delivered and longing fulfilled is what will restore your life! “Yes, bring it on Lord. I’m ready!” Yet, for some unknown reason, delays continue…and continue to suck the life out of you.

I don’t know what you should do, but maybe you need to redirect your hope toward God and place it in him and not the job-at-present…I’m pretty sure a word of “Hang in there, Hippie” is not needed, but maybe a firm exhortation to “Press on, Dennis” is. God is focused on the rest of your life and not just the current moment. So press on. Care and don’t care. Keep sowing. And remember, no one reaps with joy until they have sown in tears:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
(Psalm 126:5-6)

So, yes the cycle continues. I’m in the waiting-to-hear-silence portion of the cycle right now. For me, it’s the most difficult as I play and re-play the interview and combat the whisper that says “This one will probably turn out the same way”—I combat it, not in the sense of ‘it’s not true,’ but in the sense of whatever the outcome, God’s plan is not thwarted. He is still in control and so I grab onto these verses in Philippians, chapter 3:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I have remembered these verses because of a way they explained in a sermon, years ago (see the flags):

– Focus
– Forget
⚐ – Forge

In these circumstances, I try to remember to FOCUS on the future, though it’s a “mirror dimly,” FORGET what has happened in the past and FORGE toward what lies ahead—as my friend wrote, “God is focused on the rest of your life and not just the current moment.”

All of this does not mean that I don’t still want resolution TODAY, but it does remind me that He has it all in control—not the people making the decision to hire me or not, no, not them, but the Lord God has it in control and He will not fail.