Gilland: Onward and upward

There is a certain malaise that many are feeling right now. Just when hopes were high that 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of the year’s concerns were over and gone, the emergence of the delta variant has come onto the stage of our lives—and seemingly with vengeance.

We hadn’t even gotten to our “new normal,” and now that too may be delayed for some time.

This feeling of sadness is not new, as its presence is actually described very clearly in the Bible. In Proverbs 13:12, we read:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

It is as natural as the good green earth to be deeply disappointed when something we’ve longed for doesn’t happen. Sometimes, that deep desire is merely late in arriving, while other times it simply never happens.

And we feel this way down deep within, in our very hearts, at the core of our lives. Its absence leaves us with a certain pain of sickness.

But just as this passage accurately describes our malady, the same verse goes on to tell what happens when we get what our hearts ached for, and the resulting joy and satisfaction that fills our hearts and minds to overflowing. Our tomorrow feels bright and wonderful.

While these contrasting themes in verse 12 seem miles apart, in truth they are not mutually exclusive. Many times, that which we were waiting for is coming. God heard our prayers, and His answer is on the way…it just isn’t coming when we wanted, and thus our heart is sick.

A wise man once told me: “God is never late. But He is never early either. He is always right on time.”

That saying was uttered to me over 40 years ago, and it has proven to be spot-on in my life. No doubt, I will again long for things or situations to appear, only to realize that they are not coming just yet. I will have to suffer through, patiently waiting for what God wants for me, and embracing that certain heart sickness that accompanies such times.

I have learned to not focus on that first half of this verse, but to continue to push toward the promise held in the latter part, when my longing is fulfilled.

I so enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis, especially his wonderful series of books called “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The last book ends with the characters of Narnia, all having endured severe trials and suffering, declaring with great joy, “Onward and Upward!” Their past was not going to define their future. “Onward…and upward…”

If you are pushing through a difficult time right now, agree with the first half of verse 12, and don’t deny those heartsick feelings. But don’t dwell on them either. Read on, waiting for that tree of life.

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