Encouragement for Today 31 January 2022

Healing the Emotional Wounds of Your Unmet Hopes

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

I once heard someone say, “You are fully healed when you have no desire to look back on what didn’t happen.”

Recently, I remembered this quote as I was going through an old journal, looking at several goals, dreams and hopes I had written down over the last five years.

One by one, several things were crossed off the list; they didn’t happen and weren’t going to happen.

Why? Because of death, broken relationships, unmet career goals, circumstances and in some cases just the way things played out.

The problem was, I kept replaying these disappointing events like a reel in my mind.

Wondering things like, If I had taken this certain step, would the outcome have changed?
Or, If I had made that specific move, would it have prevented this unwanted reality?
And, If I had spoken up about this or that, would anything be different today? 

Maybe some people would say this is living in a place of regret. But to me, when I recalled the quote about looking back on what didn’t happen, I realized what this thought process really was.

Unmet hope for the past. And I couldn’t stop looking at it.

If I’m honest, I’d been viewing the pain of my unmet hopes through the wrong spiritual lens. My soul felt sick from past disappointments, and I thought if I accepted the disappointments, I was losing hope.

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I didn’t know what to do with my many feelings about my unmet hopes until I began to study today’s key verse, Proverbs 13:12“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs is a book of wisdom. Chapter 13 is full of practical steps for living a godly life.

Some Bible scholars believe verse 12 refers to the longing we have for heaven, where all our unmet hopes will be no more. And the Hebrew word for “hope” here in this verse means “expectation.”

God cares deeply about the hopes or the longings we have. Even the smallest ones. (1 Peter 5:7Luke 12:7) But God doesn’t promise us every expectation we have here on this earth will be fulfilled the way we see fit. Things will happen in our lifetime that will lead to disappointment.

Maybe you are thinking of something today that feels unfair, wrong, hurtful, or like an unmet hope or expectation to you.

Though our disappointments may be different, I bet we would find a common ground in that we tend to put emotional Band-Aids on those unmet hopes. And the peeling off of those Band-Aids is painful to even think about.

Yet the emotional wounds remain. And they often begin to show in the most unlikely ways.

The tears that seem to appear out of nowhere, the lack of desire to pray, the eye-rolls when someone else complains about something they have that we have hoped for.

I’ve learned the first step to healing the emotional wound of unmet hopes is to accept what is. The second step is to ask God to help us stop looking back and instead look ahead with a holy expectation. And we may need to repeat that process again and again.

God probably isn’t going to rewrite our past, but He promises He already has an amazing future written for us that will be fulfilled. (Jeremiah 29:11Philippians 1:6Romans 15:13)

May our unmet hopes of yesterday stop holding captive our thoughts … so we can confidently look forward to the hopes that are still to come.

God, thank You for Your grace that is still to be found in unmet hopes. Help us to accept what we need to accept, and to live in anticipation of all You still have planned for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.