Hope Deferred but Not Denied

by Joni Eareckson Tada October 30, 2023
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

How many times have you had your hopes raised only to see them dashed? One minute you are flying high; the next, everything’s ambushed. 

That’s how I felt after the accident that paralyzed me when I was a teenager. At first, I had hopes that I might recover, so I prayed for miraculous healing. But after hundreds of prayers, being anointed with oil, confessing sin, and going to scores of healing services at church, I felt it was clear that I would never walk away from my wheelchair. My hopes were crushed; I was heartbroken.

But Proverbs 13:12 does not say that hope denied makes the heart sick — it says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (emphasis added).

God is not about to deny my good hope of walking again. He has only postponed it.

One day, my hopes will find fulfillment in heaven. In the meantime, God has a far more glorious plan than giving me legs that walk. As a blood-bought disciple of Jesus, I have confidence that His will for me in my quadriplegia is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

However, if you cannot see your hard afflictions as part of God’s good and perfect will for you, I understand. I know what it’s like to feel God is far away.

In those early days after my accident, everything I read in the Bible sounded like a platitude. Then I stumbled upon Isaiah 50:10b: “If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God” (NLT). It described me perfectly: in the dark with not a single ray of light. That verse gave me no joy, but it gave me hope.

It felt so good to have the fluttering of hope in my heart that I had to act on it. I followed this hopeful trail to Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope …” (NIV).

I thought, OK, let me get this straight. If I trust in Him, God will fill me with all — not some but all — joy and peace? And then hope will overflow?

It sounded almost too good to be true. But again, I had to act on it. So as best as I could, I began to base my life on God’s Word. I went back to Isaiah 50:10 a thousand times. My trust in God’s name grew. My hope in God’s purposes grew. And my faith in God’s goodness grew.

And that’s the bottom line. That’s what it’s all about. “Faith” is just a word — a fancy, religious word — until it is put to work and scuffed up. Until it emerges from the work of life with a little holy grit on it. Far from ethereal, faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV).

Faith in Christ has substance; in other words, my faith is rock-solid proof of the appeal and power of Jesus Christ. My faith is also evidence of things I cannot see yet stake my very life on.

God knows that my wheelchair, for now, is the optimal situation for my supreme happiness in Jesus Christ. And I agree. My ultimate healing may be deferred for a time, but I am happy to wait for God’s impeccable timing. I’m not only glad to wait, but I am thankful that I get to know Jesus better through my hardships. He’s worth the wait.

So if life seems unbearably hard right now, remember that some of God’s best gifts must be unwrapped in the darkness. Trust God when all seems hopeless, and He will make your soul brave and steadfast. Believe that He is up to something good — the kind of good that will last for all of eternity.

Lord, sometimes I struggle to hope that You will one day fulfill my deepest longings. I want to desire You above all things. Help me to set my heart on what You want for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Experiencing God every day turns the mundane into the holy. The painful into the peaceful. The uncertain into the most beautiful hope of all. To learn more about Joni Eareckson Tada, along with her book The Practice of the Presence of Jesus, visit the website here!



Enter to WIN your very own copy of The Practice of the Presence of Jesus by Joni Eareckson Tada. To celebrate this book, Joni’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, November 6, 2023.}


Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (NKJV).

What competes in your heart today with your affection for Jesus?

What would having hope in God’s promises look like for you today?

© 2023 by Joni Eareckson Tada. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks WaterBrook & Multnomah for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Click here to view our policy on third-party links.

What We Believe

If your life feels too overwhelming, click here for our care and counseling resources.

Join the Conversation