“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
Though they live on the earth, Christians have their hope elsewhere. Children of God oftentimes delight to sing the sweet words, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” The Christian is not at home while dwelling upon earth, because his heart is where his treasures are being laid (Matt. 6:20-21). But it is the fact that his hope lies somewhere else, deferred until after death unless the Lord comes first, that sometimes makes him homesick—and heartsick.
Hope is essential to the Christian: Inspiration states, “We are saved by hope”(Rom. 8:24, KJV) or “In hope were we saved” (ASV). This does not mean that anyone is saved by hope alone—the hope a believer has in the promises of God cause him to strive toward the distant, yet nearer approaching, heavenly goal. Skeptics take a very cynical view of hope. Author Henry Miller said, “Hope is a bad thing. It means that you are not what you want to be. It means that part of you is dead, if not all of you. It means that you entertain illusions.” Such a view is based on a misunderstanding of what hope is. Hope is correctly defined as “desire plus expectation”; it is not simply “wishful thinking.” The Oxford American College Dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen…grounds for believing that something good may happen.” The one who has hope has grounds, or a basis, for expecting that he will receive good things. When Miller said that hope “means you entertain illusions,” he was correctly expressing a view on wishful thinking, not hope. Journalist and critic H.L. Mencken said, “Hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible,” ignoring the fact that if there is a true basis to believe something, it cannot be impossible.
The Christian has hope—assurance based on fact—because of the resurrection of Christ. There is evidence recorded by credible witnesses (apostles) who gained nothing earthly by providing accounts of His resurrection except persecution, torture, and death. The evidence given is substantial and irrefutable; therefore, the Christian legitimately expects that there will be a resurrection, and desires and expects that he will take part. In the meanwhile, he is upon earth, wistfully anticipating the time when he will be with his Lord in heaven. The only hope that exists is hope deferred; because “hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” (Rom. 8:24). Yet why would one want to depart
this world without hope? (Jer. 18:12; Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:13). “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24). The Christian can enjoy the abundant life especially given him on earth; yet how much more will his joy be when that desire comes, and is truly a tree of eternal life? Brother Terry Hightower speaks of a missionary to Burma who wrote, “I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of this world; yet when Christ calls me home I shall go with the gladness of a schoolboy bounding away from school.”