Proverbs 13:12 Meaning of Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

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

Explanation and Commentary of Proverbs 13:12

It is nearly self-evident that this verse is true for anyone who has experienced deferred hope. This is when the thing one deeply desires is slow in coming and makes the person desirous of it begin to despair of ever getting it. On the other hand, when one finally does receive that for which one has yearned and hoped for, the immediate pleasure evokes strong emotion.

To apply this, it is wise to imagine our great hope, Jesu Christ. We remember how long the Jews waited in eager expectation for the first Advent of their Messiah from the time their prophets began to preach the good news of his coming. Now, we wait again, this time even longer from the time he promised to return until today. Our great hope is that he will not tarry much longer. There is a sense in which our hope is deferred, and it is right for there to be a certain sickness of the heart, especially as we stop to contemplate the pain and suffering in the world corrupted by sin and darkness. How wonderful it will be when he returns and with them our access to the literal tree of life (Rev 22:1-9). As sick as our hearts may be as we wait, the sweetness of the longing fulfilled will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced in terms of joy and happiness. Come, Lord Jesus!

Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 13:12

#1 “Hope…”
Hope is a powerful thing. To maintain hope is sometimes what is needed to survive a trial.

#2 “…deferred makes the heart sick,”
It has been said of those in World War 2 concentration camps that those who hoped the most, survived the least. That is because the heart sickness brought on by deferred hope was too great, and the sickness led to death. Those who searched for meaning instead of hope were the ones most likely to survive.

#3 “but a longing fulfilled…”
Hope that is endlessly deferred is deadly, but hope that is eventually fulfilled is one of life’s greatest treasures.

#4 “…is a tree of life.”
The source of eternal life, it was to prevent Adam from partaking of this tree, so living forever in his fallen state, that caused God to cast him out of Garden of Eden (Gen 3:23). The tree of life will be firmly planted on the New Earth and its leaves will be for the healing of the nations. Those who are allowed to enter because of their faith in Christ will be given the right to partake of it, and so live forever. It is a powerful metaphor to say that a longing fulfilled is a tree of life, even if not the tree of life.

Expert Overview of Proverbs

Biblical Translations of Proverbs 13:12

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

NLT
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

ESV
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

KJV
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

NKJV
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12 Meaning and Commentary

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.