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22nd September: Sickness of Heart

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

The central part of the book of Proverbs (10:1 to 22:16) is a collection of 'two-limbed' sentences, each consisting of a gem of wisdom. (The scholars call such sentences 'gnomes'). They contain Solomon's observations of human nature, and as that does not change from age to age, most of them are as relevant to life today as when they were written nearly 3,000 years ago.

A number of psychosomatic illnesses are related to expectations being delayed or never realised. Fulfilment is vital for total well-being. As doctors, we must avoid giving our patients unrealistic hopes, and of entertaining them ourselves. Convalescence after major illness and major surgery can often be a long process, and we need to warn patients not to expect to be active too soon. If we give them unrealistic hopes, and these hopes are not realised, a reactive depression can be added to all the other ills they are suffering from. Our prognosis needs to be as accurate and realistic as possible.

Unfounded expectations regarding the Christian life can also cause depressive illness. Unbalanced teaching about holiness, and especially the unbiblical idea that indwelling sin can be completely eradicated from a Christian's life, can do untold harm to people who realise from experience, as the apostle Paul did, that sin in still dwelling in them. Practical holiness is experienced only as we live in a moment by moment attitude of trusting obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, you are our hope. Keep us from entertaining
false hopes of any kind about ourselves,
but hoping only in yourself and your word.
We know that those who trust in you will never be disappointed.

Further reading: Rom 8:23-25.


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