In the Disney animated musical movie Tangled, there’s a song in there called “I’ve got a dream“.
During the song, various characters lament how they all have dreams to do different things in their lives, but something often holds them back. This may be that they have some disability, that people typecast them or overlook them because they look like villains, or because of other circumstances in life.
Do you have a dream? And how has it worked out for you?
Sometimes we can feel disappointed when life doesn’t work out in the way we had hoped. Perhaps you dreamed of being married with a family by the time you were 30, but you’re past that age now and that never happened. Or you wanted to be a musician, but faced rejections and could never get your foot in the door. Maybe you felt God calling you to be a missionary or get involved in a certain ministry, but were beset by illness or injury, making it seem impossible to do the very thing you planned.
Or maybe you thought you’d live a very normal life, but one small mistake or wrong decision completely changed things forever. Now you feel like you’re trapped, in a dead end, or burdened with responsibilities you never thought you’d have.
Perhaps you prayed that God would change your situation and answer your heartfelt prayers, but now it feels like it’s too late.
What do you do when you think life should’ve turned out differently and your dreams haven’t materialised?
HERE ARE 4 THINGS TO DO WHEN IT SEEMS THAT GOD DIDN’T FULFIL YOUR DREAMS
1. Don’t put your happiness in your dreams
Sometimes we believe that if only we can achieve a certain dream, then we will be happy. Finally, we’ll have the acceptance or respect or sense of identity that has eluded us all these years.
However, when our happiness depends on these things to give our life significance, then we’re placing them above God. We’re saying that He is not enough for us in order to be happy. Only something else can bring us the meaning we seek.
That’s when we make our dreams into idols. As Tim Keller writes in is book Counterfeit gods, an idol is:
“…something we cannot live without… It is anything more important to you than God. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
I’ve written about this numerous times before. Idols can also include our dreams, on which we’ve pinned our hopes and expectations for a better life.
God isn’t there simply to fulfil all our hopes and dreams like a genie. We can’t present him with a wishlist, making demands of Him, and then when it doesn’t work out, we end up blaming or abandoning Him. The most important thing for us is our relationship with Him and becoming more Christ-like in character.
Sometimes we need to examine whether we’ve made our dreams more important than our relationship with God. If so, that may be why He has not allowed certain dreams to come to pass.
2. Be thankful and embrace the life God has given you
If we keep living in the past or keep wishing things were different, we will unable to move forward. Our life may not be the way we planned, but God can still bring good out of it.
We don’t have a time machine and can’t turn back the clock and undo our mistakes or decisions. But we can learn from them and move forward.
One way to move forward is to be thankful for what God has given us. It may not be ideal, but we can still be thankful in our circumstances. That doesn’t mean being thankful for our circumstances, but learning gratitude even when our situation isn’t what we had hoped it would be.
Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t mourn over what could have been. There is a time for grieving. It’s part of the healing process. We can give our broken dreams to God in prayer and tell him how we may still be struggling to let go of them. We know that God cares for us, and that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant for Him.
However, part of moving on means accepting that even if our dreams never come to pass, God will still be sufficient for us.
As Habakkuk 3:17-19 says:
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
Even when life doesn’t work out as planned and our dreams may have died, we can still rejoice in God for who He is and for what He has done for us on the cross.
3. If God has given you a dream, trust that He will protect it
Although it can seem as if your dreams may have died, if it is God’s will, and if it is a dream He has specifically given you, He can still bring it to pass. In fact, He is able to protect that dream even when everything all around seems to be burying it.
The image above was a prophetic picture that a woman drew for me nearly three years ago, accompanied by a few Bible verses. She had a ministry of prophetic art, and sketched this during a healing prayer ministry session at church. The picture is of a snow globe. However, unlike a regular snow globe where the snow is on the inside, here instead, the snow is falling on the outside.
After asking God for the interpretation, she told me that the city inside of the snow globe represents a dream that God has given me. The snow falling around it is everything else in the world that has fallen on it, threatening to bury it. However, the dream is protected by the glass of the snow globe.
Although many things have threatened to destroy the dream, like the snow globe, God is protecting the dream and not allowing it to die or to be buried.
Psalm 18:42 says
So I pulverized them to powder and cast them to the wind.
I swept them away like dirt on the floor. [The Passion Translation]
The woman told me that the significance of this verse was that all the things that have threatened to destroy the dream, God has pulverised like powder and cast them to the wind.
I won’t go too much into Psalm 18:2-3, the other verses given to me, as most of it is more specific to me and not relevant to you. However, the woman indicated that verse 3 meant that all I needed to do was call on the Lord. Once I had done what was needed to be done, God would bring this dream to life.
Now, I’m not going to apply this prophetic picture universally to your situation and make a rule out of it. The picture was given specifically to me as a word of encouragement. What applies to me won’t necessarily apply to you.
However, I’m sharing this with you in the hope that it might also speak to you as well. The main message for you to take away from this is that God can protect your dreams like that snow globe, if it is something He has given you.
Psalm 37:4 is a verse that is especially important to me. It says:
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Sometimes people interpret that verse as if God is like a cosmic genie. As long as you delight yourself in Him, He will grant you anything you wish – whatever your heart desires.
However, that doesn’t really fit with what we know of God’s character and how He wants us to put Him first in our lives. Simply granting us whatever our heart desires can result in receiving something that isn’t good for us. It can replace God as the centre of our lives.
The better interpretation of it is that when we delight ourselves in the Lord – i.e., spending time with Him and in His word – God gives us or places in our hearts certain desires. These originate from Him in the first place. They are often our dreams and ambitions that come from God Himself.
God may have given you that desire or dream in the first place. If that dream was part of His plan, you can trust that He will still protect that dream even when everything around seems to bury it. He can still bring it into reality when the time is right.
4. Trust that God has a plan even when things move in another direction
Although God may have given you a dream, He may not always bring it about in the way you thought.
You can read about it in more detail there. Briefly put, when solving the Rubik’s cube, sometimes you have to move pieces out of order. This happens even when it seems like you’ve almost solved all six sides.
In a similar way, God can move pieces out of place even when we think we’re near our goal. It might seem to go against reason or accepted wisdom. However, God sees the bigger picture and what needs to be done. We can trust that even when things don’t seem to work out, God still has a plan for us.
The Parable of the Three Trees is a fictional story about dreams that seemed to be buried. There were three trees, each of whom had certain hopes of doing or becoming something great. The first wanted to be a treasure chest filled with precious jewels. The second imagined he would be a mighty sailing ship to transport kings and queens around the world. The third wanted dreamed of becoming the tallest and straightest tree in the forest.
Unfortunately, one by one, each tree seemingly failed to live up to its potential. From their point of view, they ended up far from the life they desired. This appeared to leave their dreams in the dust and their hopes shattered. However, unknown to them, God was still able to use them in a very special way to bring glory to Him.
Rather than describe everything again here or spoil the story, I’ll let you watch it for yourself in the video below.
From our own point of view, it can appear as if we’ve failed in the world’s eyes. Our dreams haven’t come to fruition, and there seems to be no way of bringing them back.
Proverbs 16:9 says
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”
Like the trees in the story, we don’t know the ways in which God can use us for His glory or work in our lives. We may make our own plans, but God may take us on a more roundabout route. Although at the time we may question what He is doing, it may work out in a way we never expected or could have imagined.
Did you expect life to turn out a certain way but are now disappointed with the reality? Have you had any hopes or dreams that seem to be dead and buried?
What has been your response? Have you simply given up, or are you still trusting in God?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.