By Matt W Sandford, LMHC
Everyone I think has goals and dreams. A great job where you are respected and with travel opportunities, finding “the one” to spend your life with, becoming a Mom or Dad, starting your own business. But many of those dreams are not realized. And sometimes the dream is found and then lost. I know. My wife and I had reached our dream, but then in flash, it was gone. And, many times it’s not just that a dream has to be put on hold or doesn’t materialize, but that “life” interferes in cruel ways through hardships of all kinds, like injury, chronic illness or disease, death or loved ones, financial loss, crime, or natural disaster. A dream can be broken slowly over time or could go up in smoke in a flash, but the loss of our dreams is like experiencing a kind of death.
We seem wired to dream and make plans. When someone has no plan and has no interest in making plans for their life, most would believe that there is something wrong. Without dreams we feel we have no future, nothing to look forward to, nothing to strive for. And without striving our dreams seem like nothing but fairy tales and fancy. Dreams give us motivation and motivation feeds our dreams. We will work long and hard to reach our dreams. And the harder we work the more of our heart gets invested in the dream, the more it becomes part of us. And so when the dream is lost, it is like a part of us dies with it.
Loss and heartache draw us to look beyond ourselves. And that’s a good thing; to look beyond ourselves and our own strivings and dreams and desires and to look to heaven with a burning, a hunger for something to quench our thirst and satisfy us in a disappointing world. And since we believe that God has the power to make it otherwise, and since we believe God is sovereign over all that we experience, then it has got to mean that there is a purpose for our losses and broken dreams. What might be that purpose? What value of a loss of a dream could there be for the believer in Christ? Is there a surprise behind our losses and tragedies?
Okay, so let’s say I have been trying my best to walk with God and follow him. And then a circumstance, a tragedy, a change comes along and rips my heart to shreds? We feel confused and even betrayed by God. “I thought God had given me this vision, this dream, but now I don’t understand what God is doing.” I think taking a look at things from the perspective of the book of Job can be very relevant. Job was likely living his dream out when everything came crashing down and God allowed Satan to take his children, his livelihood, his respect in the community and his health. Let’s look at how Job responded and why God commended him.
- Job’s losses focused his attention in a dramatic way on seeking after God. We are told that in all of his grief and pain and anger that he did not turn his back on God, but rather he moved towards God.
2. Job desperately sought out God to understand why. When God answers Job at the end we all focus on how God never answers Job’s questions. But I think that something we miss in that is that God does not condemn Job for questioning him. Although God doesn’t answer us many times, he does not resent our questions or our upset.
3. Job is then rewarded by God. He is given family, health and respected status again. Have you ever wondered why that is and assumed that God was replacing what was lost? I suppose that is part of it. Although, I don’t believe that God felt that he owed Job for all he put him through. I believe that God was commending him for how he conducted himself through the loss. And remember, in the Old Testament, that physical fortune was considered a sign of God’s favor. So, maybe that was partly for the benefit of observers. But I wonder if most of all the point is to demonstrate that there is life after loss. That tragedy is not the end. Even in death there is a resurrection. In Job this looks like a new life on this earth. In Jesus this looks like life everlasting.
Okay, so here’s the surprise. When God takes our dreams away it is not to crush our spirit, control us or make us obey him, or to punish us. Those things just don’t fit God’s character. God is not messing up our lives as an end around the whole free will thing. No, every action of God towards us is one that is wholly directed by nurture, patience, kindness and love. Because God is our Good Parent. And just like a good parent who sometimes has to do things that hurt their child, God does the same. It’s not for the purpose of hurting, although from the child’s point of view it doesn’t seem like care. God may enact limits or re-direct circumstances or allow tragedy because he has a dream, a great plan too. An amazing, incredible dream that will not fail! And just like a good parent who supersedes the desires and plans of their children, because they know what is best and they have the advanced knowledge and experience to back up that claim, God too imposes his plan over top of ours. The surprise is that our Good Parent is perfectly accomplishing his super plan even while ours comes crashing down and that it is actually by aligning with that plan that we will find our deepest desires and dreams fulfilled. I know this can be an awful, devastating time. It was so for me. But when a part of us dies, it may be leading us into something better – a resurrection.
The challenge then is how to live in the light of this super plan, or another way of saying that is – how to respond to God’s parenting of us?
The first thing is to practice embracing the reality that God is our Good Parent. The key is to begin seeing yourself as a preschooler in God’s family. See Mark 10:13-16 as support of this notion. Just like a preschooler has to practice often that their parent is in charge and not them, we need to often be reminded that we are God’s children, and that means that we are not in charge of our life. The more we embrace this reality the easier it gets to walk with God and receive from him the events of life. Seeing God as our Good Parent also protects us from leanings towards resentment and jaded anger towards God when he interrupts our life with his agenda.
Then, when we experience the loss of our dream, we can turn towards God, pursuing him even more fervently. We may recognize that we need to revisit our longings and see if there are parts of us that need to be resubmitted to God’s authority. There is grief associated with the loss of our dream, but this grieving is healthy and clears out our soul and makes us more ready to receive God’s plan for us.
May you find peace and renewal in our Good Parent’s Super Plan!
If you would like to schedule a counseling appointment with Matt, call 407-647-7005.
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