Overcoming broken dreams

August 18th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Overcoming

Broken dreams, everybody has them, but sadly most people have trouble resolving them.  Picking our way through a field of broken dreams is not easy.  The Bible, right from the outset introduces us to the harsh reality of dealing with broken dreams in our lives.  Thankfully we can draw wisdom from those who have gone before us.  Imagine what Adam and Eve had to go through to cope with their loss of paradise.  And of course we all know what happened to the dreamer Joseph’s dreams.  He suffered for years before his dreams made sense.

The book of Exodus introduces us to the biggest field of broken dreams anyone can imagine, it’s called the wilderness.  First we encounter Moses whose dream of delivering Israel died with the Egyptian he killed.  He ended up burying his dream-turned-nightmare in the backside of the wilderness.  But the greatest lessons to be learned about overcoming broken dreams is the story of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt and passing through the wilderness into the Promised Land.  The wilderness is that place we must pass through in the journey from promise to fulfillment.  It is here that God teaches us how to pick our way through a field of broken dreams and position ourselves to be overcomers.

There are two aspects to resolving broken dreams and coming out on the other end the better for it.  We must stop the negatives while initiating some positives. 

First let’s tackle the negatives.  There are three major negatives, temptations if you will, that we must strive with God’s help to overcome.

1.  Reject Regret – Looking back and rehearsing all the bad choices we made that got us in our mess, only leads to deepened sadness.  And focusing on the past robs us from enjoying the present and blinds us from seeing a preferred future.  Crying “oh that we’d never left Egypt” only makes things worse.  It did for the children of Israel.

2.  Admit your Anger – Frustration leads to anger and that anger is usually directed at those whom we feel are the cause of our broken dreams.  It may be toward others, ourselves and even God.  This is a common temptation, but a dangerous one.  We must battle this one through and come to a place of forgiveness with God’s help.  If not we will end up wringing someone’s neck, abandoning God or hanging ourselves.  And none of those will help make things any better.

3.  Cut out the Complaining – Grumbling and complaining about trying circumstances beyond our control is debilitating.  It’s like an infectious disease that incapacitates us and all those around us.  It is often is rooted in self-pity.  We must deal ruthlessly with self pity because it fuels depression.

Sometimes the only way through this these temptations is in implementing positive actions.  So here are two things you can do proactively to move on from a broken dream. 

4.  Bury the Broken Dream – Since God is the re-builder of shattered dreams we must place the broken pieces in His hands.  Let your unfulfilled dream die.  Quit pumping any more effort into reviving it, take it off life support and let it die.  Have a funeral service for your unfulfilled dream and lay it to rest in God. 

More often than not, that will bring a great sense of relief, as if a heavy burden has lifted.  People must do this sort of thing all the time with failed businesses, poor career choices, estranged relationships, devalued assets etc.  Only in letting something die and burying it once and for all, can you ever hope to move on with your life.  A dream like a seed must fall into the ground and die if it is ever to bear fruit.  (John 12:24)

5.  Hang onto Hope – One way we often beat ourselves up in a prolonged trial is in thinking if we just had more faith we’d get out of it.  That can lead to misplaced expectations, presumption and deepened disappointment.  

Having hope is more important in dealing with broken dreams than faith.  Hope puts our reliance on God’s intervention while conjured up faith has a way of putting the burden on us.  Who do you want the burden for resolution to be upon? 

In Jim Collins book Good to Great he tells the story of Vice Admiral James Stockdale who was a Vietnam prisoner of war for seven years.  Collins recounts how Stockdale differentiated between those who survived interminable imprisonment and those who didn’t. 

Surprisingly it was the optimists that didn’t make it.  “They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Stockdale however had a different approach.  “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”  That to me is a hope approach.  In many ways hope precedes faith.  Without true hope you cannot have faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)  In other words faith is based on a solid hope in God.  Without that kind of hope there can be no faith. In coping with broken dreams try to focus more on having Stockdale’s kind of hope and not the contrived faith of the “optimists.”  You too will prevail and turn your experience into a defining event the gives you “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  (Isaiah 61:3

What have you learned about overcoming broken dreams in your life?

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9 Responses to “Overcoming broken dreams”

  1. BONNIE BECKSTROM August 18, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Faith is the anchor, but Hope floats.

  2. I have learned that you cannot retire from the sustaining kind of hope that strengthens faith because if you do, you get Ishmael – literally, spiritually or emotionally. And, oddly enough even though Abraham and Sarah made that error, when I look at the whole of their journey it is a story that helps sustain me. As an aging individual it is often tempting to succumb to the idea that whatever opportunities you may have had are just flat gone, never to be seen on the lip of any horizon anywhere ever again. In a culture that prizes youth above age it is a difficult not to feel like that second-hand camel abandoned by a cracked palm, near that dried up Wadi that caravans avoid. But when I flip to Genesis12:4 and read: So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran . . . I think: Now if the Lord can call Abram at 75 to begin his great walk with God; and if Moses can be sent by the Lord to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt at the age of 80 (Exo. 7:7) that’s enough sustaining hope for me to feel that the Lord can still use me too. . . . and those are my sustaining stories— and I’m hanging onto them!!

  3. Bonnie – It brings up a good distinction between faith and hope. I beleive there are different levels or kinds of faith. For one thing there is a difference between faith to survive vs. faith to thrive. Faith in God for my survival says – “I trust Him that somehow I shall get through this trial.” But faith in God to thrive says – “I am confident that God is going to do a miracle in the midst of this trial that shall reverse my fortunes.” I suppose survival faith is like an anchor wherease faith to thrive is like Jesus speaking to the winds and waves and quieting the storm.

  4. Candace – A common challenge for us fourth quarter Christians which does require being met with hope and faith. (See When I’m sixty-four) My standard claim of God’s promise is that “the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former.” (Haggai 2:9). The best is yet to be!

  5. BONNIE BECKSTROM August 19, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I was referring to the kind of faith that is firm/solid. “I know this chair is going to hold me when I sit down” kind of faith. Whereas hope carries you through the still waters in life as well as the rough and keeps you afloat on top of that circumstance in which you find yourself. The key to survival is your focus-once you lose your focus you set yourself up for the possibility of drowning-then that is where a solid faith would come in to the rescue you hope.

  6. Candace – I don’t know you but your response has bothered me since yesterday so I’m putting my 2 cents worth in. I am in my mid-forties and have wondered for years where the older women are that are willing to sew into us younger ones. I was at a prayer meeting a few months ago with my regular 40 something prayer partners, a 70 (or so) gentleman joined us for 1 night. I was so appreciative of his input and experience and so saddened when he didn’t return. We are desperate for your wisdom of simply living and experiencing more than us. Please don’t ever feel you are not needed. We need you. I truly believe all of the generations should mix so much more than we do and Christ could do so much more through us all.
    God Bless.

  7. I have also learnt that a broken dream inspires,” let God have dreams as they will be fruitful. Plan not to have dream of your own.Let Him give us the dream, which even the storm can not break.
    I was reminded by God my Father as to what did I loose.He is the Supervisor Himself. I felt sorry when I made it my Pigeon.

  8. Thank you for al your messages, I enjoy them and get so much from them. This one about broken dreams: reminds of how His grace is sufficient for thee – even with broken dreams. When so many dreams are broken you stop dreaming. Then one day you realize that the dreams are still there waiting for the right time to be brought back. It is a amazing to see the fullfillment of a dream.

  9. What a wonderful article! Dealing with broken dreams is one thing I know all too well. I resonated with the three negatives you highlighted. What spoke volumes to me and has given me a revolutionary change in direction is your differentiation of hope versus faith. Thanks for putting this out there to encourage me. It was a God-inspired blog that I needed to read tonight.

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