The wise counselor is, in a sense, a realist. He knows from Scripture that we live between the ages. And so, he helps the counselee to see how his desires and expectations point to a deeper longing for eternal pleasures that are only found in God (Ps. 16:11). Not only that, the faithful counselor points to Christ—crucified, raised, ascended, seated in heaven, and given to and in us by the Spirit. He is our hope of glory.
We live and suffer according to the hopes and expectations we hold. I mean this in a general sense. The things we long for drive how we behave. And that longing makes the wait to be experienced as a type of suffering. To not have what is deeply desired is painful. It makes the heart sick.
The author of Proverbs noticed this reality: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). Like my initial statement, this verse seems to depict a general reality about human psychology. When the object of our longings—of our hopes—is delayed, our hearts grow tired and discouraged. The continuous lacking that is perceived becomes a burden in prolonged waiting.
In contrast, the desire that is met and fulfilled is compared to the tree of life. There is joy and delight in having that which has been anticipated and wanted. When that baby girl is finally held in her mom’s arms, everything in life takes new colors. When the doctor declares dad to be cancer-free, the tastes of grace in life are accented in new ways. When that promotion finally comes after years of hard work, the scents of life grow more fragrant. The fulfilled desire is like a source of new energy and motivation, a tree that produces life.
What Kind of Longing?
It may seem that the solution for our anxieties and angsts is straightforward. All we need is to get what we long for most deeply, and then all pain will fade away. I would say that is true, depending on how we look at these longings. Created with desires, we were meant to long for something. The problem is that our wants are based on longings that shoot too low. We expect ultimate fulfillment from things that cannot deliver the delight for which we were made. And so, our hearts find no peace until they rest in God.
Now, the fact that we do have desires is revealing. The reality that we find delight when desires are met points to a greater reality of ultimate delight. The temporary quality of the delight we experience from inferior desires exposes the reality that our hearts yearn for final peace and permanent blessedness. Our souls are thirsty for God, the only source of living water (Ps. 42:1-2).