Several years ago I had a chance to spend a morning with my Grandfather and I learned something about him that I had not known before. I don’t remember how it came up, but while we were sitting in the hospital with Grandma while she was getting a dialysis treatment, he mentioned that he had always hoped to get a 36 Pontiac with an eight cylinder engine. He would have liked to restore one – it was the car his father had owned when Grandpa was young. That was a wistful moment. At 87, my Grandfather was not going to restore a 36 Pontiac. But clearly it was a desire that he had harbored at least on and off throughout his life – and never gotten around to. It was an unfilled longing.
We all have unfilled longings – whether they are great or small. Maybe we always wanted a career, a relationship, a car, a home, some travel experience, or maybe a Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone… But we don’t get those things. Somehow the years accumulate and the opportunities pass. And then we have wistful moments, or even worse, lingering regret.
I have often wondered why God allows us to desire good things in our life – and then we never get them. We all know the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But I think we don’t ponder its corollary often enough: “Why don’t some good things happen to good people?” Why didn’t a good friend ever get married? Why couldn’t my sister have children? Why don’t I have a job yet? We all have questions like this, and to some extent they all affect our hearts: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12.
We know that sometimes God says “No” to some of our requests for good and godly things. But is there any good purpose to the ongoing wish that we might yet receive those good things? Is there any redeemable value to the wistfulness of reflecting on unfulfilled longings? I think there is. In our verse from Proverbs 13, it is “hope deferred.” “Deferred” is very different from denied. And as a child of God I am quite sure that I could not possibly have a good or godly hope or a desire that I will not find, in some way, completely and eternally fulfilled in heaven. And yes, my heart may be sick – mildly or severely – but in a way this is really home-sickness for heaven. Heaven! Where the tree of life is planted in all of its glory and where all of our desires and longings, great and small alike, will finally be resolved to our eternal joy in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Five days after I was sitting with Grandpa in the hospital dialysis ward, Grandma passed away. She was at home and sat down in her rocking chair for her afternoon nap. And her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ quietly and gently took her to her true home. I don’t know what her deferred hopes were. But wouldn’t it be something if when my Grandpa goes home Grandma Judy pulls up to the golden curbstones to greet him in an eight cylinder 1936 Pontiac? And that, I am quite sure, would be one of the least of many great and inexpressible joys that await the child of God when their longings are fulfilled; when the Lord returns; or when they arrive safely at their eternal home.