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It’s hard to trust God with reality in the present, let alone with dreams for the future. But as I continue to dream about what God has for me and my family, I’m seeing a host of spiritual issues rise to the surface. Maybe some of these will help you as you strive to go before God open-handed with what you’re most excited about in the days and years ahead.
The Trouble with Dreams
Before we get to the spiritual issues, it’s good to start by framing our dreams in a biblical context. That means starting with trouble, since Scripture tells us we live in a troubled world. The trouble with dreams in our troubled world is that we dream in and out of communion with God. There’s a rift between us. True, that rift has been bridged by Christ, and no one can tear down the bridge. But we don’t always walk on the bridge. We wander. We drift. We lose our footing. Crossing the bridge of Christ to communion with God is something that we strive for as Christians, and God’s grace always helps us along, keeping us faithful. But until we’re taken up into glory with him, we’re prone to wander, to leave the bridge behind us and meander back into the miserable country of doubt and distrust. We’re prone to dream out of communion with God. That little fact has massive implications for our dreams.
When we dream out of communion with God, we dream in communion with our sinful selves, which means our dreams are essentially selfish. How do you know if you have selfish dreams? Consider what would happen if your dreams came true. Would God be in the picture? Or would you just be careening carelessly through a 5-bedroom craftsman home in a retirement community by the beach? If God’s not in the picture when your dreams come true, he’s probably not in the picture while your dreams are developing. Dreaming in communion with God means that he’s not just a part of your dreams; he’s the center of them. He’s why you dream. Keep that in mind when you’re mulling over your dreams for the future.
Spiritual Issues Arising from Dreams
Having said all that, here’s a list of spiritual issues that might confront you as you dream in the real world, drifting in and out of communion with God.
- You can’t tell the difference between your own passions and God’s will. This is a tough issue! How do we tell the difference between what we’re excited about and what God wants us to do? Can our excitement be evidence of what God wants for us? Yes, I believe it can be. God has given each of us unique gifts and passions. He has put those gifts and passions in place so that he can use them. If you’re excited and passionate about something, don’t ignore that or instantly write off the feeling as selfish. Your passions may be calling you to do what God has given you a passion to do. However, you need to have a biblical drive for your passion. In other words, you need to have a sense of what biblical purpose your passion will serve. Passion isn’t an end in itself. It helps us accomplish something greater. If that “something greater” isn’t in the pages of Scripture, you’re probably dealing with a self-centered passion. And don’t dive into Scripture searching for a text to justify your passions either. That’s very easy to do. Instead, read the Bible with an open heart, asking why the passions you have are stirring inside of you. God is always faithful to speak to you where you are. Listen.
- Your dreaming stems from discontentment with the present. Often we dream about the future to escape from the present. If discontentment is the driving force of your dreams, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Sure, discontentment with things that are not of God is a good thing! But discontentment in light of worldly standards isn’t (e.g., you don’t have a big enough house, a nice enough car, the latest phone, a buffer of cash in your bank account). The latter needs repentance, prayer, and spiritual reshaping by the Holy Spirit.
- You dream in isolation. Do you talk about your dreams with others, with your spouse, with your friends, with your pastor? You should. Talking with others about your dreams does two things: (1) it enables you to work out the motives and means for achieving them, and (2) it gives you (honest) sounding boards who can confirm your gifts, question your motives, and encourage you to do what can seem terrifying. Dreaming in isolation is like driving with blinders on both sides of your face. You can see ahead of yourself; you can see what you want, but you can’t see the dangers or the oncoming weather that might threaten your plans. Don’t dream in isolation. Dream out loud in the company of those who know you and the God you serve.
- Your dreams do not involve your calling. Your calling is what God has given you passion and skill to do. Both parts are necessary. Passion without skill is a waste of time; skill without passion just leads to burn out. Pray about what God wants you to do with your passion and your skill, not just one or the other.
- You don’t pray about your dreams. If you don’t speak to God regularly and hear his voice in Scripture, you’re not going to dream with a desire to fulfill your divinely-given purpose. You’ll just dream about whims and wishes. It’s true that what you originally dreamed to do may not be what God has planned for you to do, but the sooner you make that discovery, the sooner you’ll be on your way to dreaming God’s dreams for your life. And there’s no substitute for that.
Those are some issues that I confront, and maybe you have too. The best place to start is to go to God’s word and commune with him in prayer. Dream in communion with God. And God will be faithful to give you dreams that align with his will for your life.
If you want to dream in communion with God, you need to use words to commune with him each day. That’s why I find it so helpful to see language as communion behavior. Read more about that here:
“Hibbs has given us an excellent book to present in accessible form the biblical basis for the centrality of language in God’s communion with us, in God’s creation and providence, and in human living. The book combines biblical exposition, practical examples, and clear, winsome writing. There is nothing like it on the subject of language!”
Vern S. Poythress, author, In the Beginning Was the Word: Language — A God-Centered Approach