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

As any couple trying for a child knows, every twenty-eight days you are looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception happens. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years and become destructive. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick…’ (13:12a).

That was our experience. After a decade spent trying almost every avenue to start a family—special diets, healing prayer, IVF treatment, an agonizing two-year wait on the Australian adoption list—my wife Merryn and I brought our dream of having a child to an end after a cruel last-minute false-positive. By that stage Merryn’s heart was sick: her life marked by tears and her relationship with God in tatters. 

Some weeks before that final decision, Merryn and I sat talking about the future. 

‘If we don’t have a family,’ she said, ‘the thought of life going on as usual is too depressing for me.’

‘What would be a nice consolation prize for you,’ I asked her, ‘if we don’t have a child?’

‘I’d like to start again,’ she said, ‘overseas.’ 

Merryn’s dream of becoming a mother would soon be denied, but here was a dream that could be fulfilled. Would I help make it a reality? I didn’t like the cost. Fulfilling this dream would bring an abrupt interruption to my own career. But as Proverbs 13 continues, ‘a fulfilled desire is a tree of life’ (13:12b), and Merryn needed that new life.

We didn’t know it then but just four months later Merryn and I would be strapping ourselves into a plane and flying to England, where Merryn would get a dream job at Oxford University, a role that would ultimately lead to her becoming Lead Statistician on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, and I would get an unexpected opportunity to write about our experience, helping others to start again too. It now feels like we are where we’re supposed to be, ‘for such a time as this.’

No job can replace a child. Neither can a book. But the fulfillment of a secondary dream indeed brought new life and helped Merryn heal—and then helped others heal.

A greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by it.


Sheridan Voysey is an author and broadcaster regularly featured on the BBC, CBC and other networks. His books include The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned, and Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings. His inspirational print The Creed can be downloaded here.