One morning over breakfast, a wife said to her husband, “I had a dream last night that you gave me a pearl necklace. What do you suppose that means?” “Well,” he said, “you’ll have to wait until tonight to find out.” That evening, he came home with a gift for his wife. She eagerly unwrapped it and discovered a book entitled Interpreting Dreams.
My guess is that she wasn’t impressed. I’m also guessing her husband was unpopular for a while. It’s never fun having your dreams dashed.
Sometimes things just don’t turn out as planned. No matter how hard we work, pray, hope, plan or struggle to make something happen…it just doesn’t. Everything just falls apart. Our dreams are dashed, seemingly beyond repair. The perfect job is terminated. The funding falls through. Our partner walks out. The doctor’s report is grim. All of this leaves us feeling empty, hurt, angry and more than a little confused. We begin to question ourselves and to question God.
The Bible is full of people who experience dashed or delayed dreams. Joseph’s dream eventually came to pass, but not without a great deal of time and pain. Moses was never able to enter the Promised Land despite leading Israel for forty years. David didn’t get to build the Temple even though it was his deepest desire. Abraham finally had a son but made costly mistakes along the way.
There are no easy answers to dealing with unfulfilled expectations and lost dreams. Sometimes we need to grieve the loss of such hopes. We need to face the reality that they may never come to pass. Close friends can help us process our loss and talk things through. It’s important to ignore Christian clichés and to get into God’s word. Something about Scripture helps to reorient our perspective and puts our unmet expectations in their proper place.
We should, however, never stop trusting and believing that God remains on the throne and his plans will never be thwarted. Even when we can’t understand why things turn out as they do, we can offer our trust in God. Paul reminds us that “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, The Message)
So even when our dreams have died, we can have confidence that God’s Spirit is at work within us – and God’s Spirit always brings new hope.