How to Respond When Your Dreams Are Shattered

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Your shattered dreams can be the greatest turning point of your life. The pain of your past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for your future.

Whether we’re a kid, young adult, in mid-life and beyond, we all experience shattered dreams. For some of us, it’s the heartbreak of our parents divorcing when we were children. For others, it’s that we never get married or we lose our spouse prematurely. Still for others, it’s the loss of a job or a home.

Often, we have pictures in our mind about how our life is supposed to look. So when it doesn’t, it’s very painful. Most of the time, we don’t want to face our shattered dreams or even know what to do with them, much less know how to grow from them.

Yet, our shattered dreams can be the greatest turning point in our life. They can cause us to grow, and even catapult us into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and with others.

The question is: How can we get to this point where God can use our shattered dreams for good?

1. We must face our shattered dreams. No matter how painful, we must face our shattered dreams and feel our pain. We need to deal with the loss, pain and resentment instead of hiding, compartmentalizing, lashing out at others, internalizing the pain, and especially, blaming our shattered dreams on other people and our circumstances. We need to own where we’re at and take responsibility for what we do have control over.

Sometimes, this means admitting that we need God’s help. God has mercy on those who need Him and He’s compassionate to those who are honest and ask Him for help. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:8)

2. We need to understand our shattered dreams. Sometimes our dreams are shattered because we’re set up for failure. If we expect things that aren’t true, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. For instance, we’re bound to get hurt if we believe things like: “I’ll be happy when I earn ‘X’ amount of money” or “Good things happen to good people” or… “If I follow God, then everything will turn out alright.” None of these things are true!

Shattered dreams aren’t a high possibility, they’re a given in an imperfect world with imperfect people. Jesus didn’t promise that everything in our lives would turn out perfectly. But He did promise that we would have trouble in this world.

We need to understand that shattered dreams flow from three universal longings: to be intimately known and loved, to live in a better tomorrow, and to leave a legacy in this world. God is the only person who can perfectly fulfill these deepest longings.

The Apostle Paul explains how, in an encouraging word that he wrote to a church that was experiencing shattered dreams and difficulties: 

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul’s prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit, applies to us today as well.

Here’s what we need to know: Our heavenly Father longs for each one of us to receive wisdom, insight and revelation so that we’d know Him better – as the One who will love us consistently and will never let us down. He also wants us to truly know and experience the kind of hope that no shattered dream can break – the hope that resides in our relationship with Christ. This hope is not just wishful thinking. It’s the absolute hope that God is real, heaven is real and we have a glorious inheritance with Him!

It’s always been God’s desire for us to have an intimate relationship with Him and to keep an eternal perspective. These two things are the “antidote” to our shattered dreams and the key to our losses and pain being turned around for good.

It’s my hope and prayer that we’ll learn who we really are and why the pain of our past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for our future.

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