"Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)
The other day, something I'd been expecting and looking forward to for quite a while was inexplicably delayed.
This event, this deferred hope, coupled with the weight of several other issues in my life caused no small amount of dismay and frustration in me. At one point, all I could say to God was I don't understand. I don't understand. That was the best way, not only to describe the situation but also to deal with the most important aspect of my understanding—the lack thereof.
I came home that night and opened my Bible. I don't always do this mind you and I wasn't really expecting an answer to my predicament, but, lo and behold, the pages fell open to Luke, chapter 24. The road to Emmaus. The story tells of two of Jesus' followers walking (presumably) from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about 7 1/2 miles away. They were commiserating between themselves the utter shock at the recent turn of events. The Messiah had come (they knew that much) and He'd done a bunch of outrageous stuff but now, instead of victory and celebration, they were stymied and flabbergasted that Jesus hadn't done what they had expected. Which was to restore Israel to statehood (Luke 24:21), wresting it from the hands of the conquering Romans. Couple this with their disbelief at the confusing report of the women who'd been to the—now empty—tomb, and you can understand how they'd be despondent and dejected. But read between the lines. The wide-angle, God's-eye view encompassed more than their country, more than their region. It affected the whole world for all time. Jesus had just made it possible for the human race to go to Heaven. So then a third man shows up and begins to question their knowledge of the facts. Who, what, why. And the third man (who is really Jesus, unbeknownst to them) gives them the full story, from beginning to then and shows them that everything's alright. When they get to Emmaus, after sharing a meal with the stranger, it's revealed to them who He is and then He disappears. "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32). They knew who He was but didn't realize it.
I suppose the overarching moral of this small story is that Jesus is with us whether we realize it or not. It says that He "began at Moses and the prophets and expounded all things in the scriptures regarding Himself" (Luke 24:27). Jesus was with them and willing to teach them everything they needed to know. This applies as a broad-stroke over all of our lives. But the thing that stood out to me the night I read this was that, these men had every reason to be ecstatic. Their focus however was only on the temporal and to a great extent, superficial circumstances. And this isn't to downplay my life and what I'm going through, but if I'm only concerned about my problems and my perplexities, then I may end up missing Jesus, who is walking right beside me wherever I'm going.
What about my life? How are the circumstances that I'm facing indirectly affecting others? (for one, I'm writing about it, I hope it helps) What are the far reaching ramifications of these events? I don't know—I don't understand.
Habakkuk 2:3 says that the vision (the thing that I hoped for) "will not tarry". In other words, "timing is everything" and as Jesus says in Acts 1:7 (sometimes, not always; see John 16:13), "it's not for me to know the times and seasons that God has put in his own power." Rest.
With reference to the desire, the thing I want to achieve or receive from God, Psalms (37:4-5) says "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart…He shall bring it to pass". The desires of my heart might be something different and better than I thought I'd want (our hearts burn within us), we'll see: Ephesians (3:20) says God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
In closing, I think the next verse of that passage from Psalm 37 is relevant. Verse 6 says that God will "bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgment as the noonday." These two things—righteousness and judgement—are, honestly, more important than the desire because they're what enable me to enjoy it to the fullest. A tree of life. What do you think?