There are two stages when dreaming is especially wonderful: first, the beginning (when the promise is fresh and new, and our steps on the path are light, quick and joyful).
And second, the ending (when we’ve finally reached that golden plateau and we can euphorically look back, admiring the beautiful view).
But oh, the in-between parts.
by David LallyWe talked previously about how to hear, accept and begin acting on your God-given dreams. This is the honeymoon stage of the dreaming process—when all is fresh and new.
But, as you may have discovered, the path to our dreams is often not a straight one, and certainly not easy.
The fact is, however, God calls us not only to accept the dream but also the refining process it takes to make the dream a reality.
Unfortunately, it’s often a package deal.
Sometimes the enemy brings doubters. These are the people that say, “Really? That sounds a little outrageous,” “How is world is that going to happen?” or even “Are you sure God wants you to do that?” In the book of Genesis, we learn that Joseph’s own family literally laughed at his dreams (Genesis 37).
Here’s what I say to the doubters: if it really is a God-sized dream, then we have absolutely nothing to fear. We can confidently proceed in the direction of our dream because we trust the giver of the dream. Plain and simple.
(By the way, that requires that we believe that too, deep down in our core.)
The biblical character Joseph endured quite a refining process before he saw his dream come true.
Mental and physical abuse by his brothers. Separation from his beloved father. Forced slavery in Potiphar’s household. Adjustment to living in Egypt, a foreign culture. Extreme temptation to commit adultery with his boss’ wife. Imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit. And even abandonment and broken promises by those he’d trusted.
These situations must have been incredibly difficult to bear, especially since God had given Joseph the dream of so much more (read Genesis 37: 6-11 for the details).
What was Joseph asking himself through all of these challenges? Perhaps questions like “Why is this happening, God?” “When will these dreams come true and how, oh how, will they happen?”
Questions that we ask too as we endure difficulties on the journey.
In Joseph’s story, we see that because of these challenges he gained maturity, strengthened his integrity and grew in his reputation as a wise yet humble man. These were the precise qualities that allowed him to properly fulfill God’s dream for him as a leader. He went from being a pampered, favored child with leadership skills (a possible future dictator) to a patient and wise governor (a servant-leader–exactly what the people of Egypt needed during the famine).
God wasn’t the giver of the trials, but he was the refiner of them. In one of his final recorded words in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
Romans 8:28–written by the apostle Paul thousands of years later—says : “And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” God revealed His dream for Paul after Paul’s amazing conversion. We read about Paul’s journeys—and his trials and tribulations—through much of the New Testament. The concept Paul describes in Romans 8:28 must have been a comfort to Paul as he endured so much difficulty.
If biblical characters like Joseph and Paul endured difficulties on the journey of fulfilling their God-sized dreams, chances are that our road will probably not be easy either.
The Slow Revealing
In the past, I’ve tried to predict how a dream will unfold. Usually it’s because of pride. I want to be able to look back and say “I knew it would work out like this!”
But no matter how clever I am in trying to figure out how God will make it happen, I am always wrong.
I think that’s why God’s big lesson to me right now is one of day-by-day trust and manna. He is slowly revealing some really cool things to me about my dreams, but He’s doing it one step at a time.
It’s as if he and I are walking on rocks across a stream in a beautiful nature preserve. The only way to get across this stream is by walking on these rocks. Each rock appears one at a time, sometimes long after I’ve stepped on the previous rock. He walks in front of me, arms stretched out, and beckons me to follow.
Sometimes it looks as if the step onto the next rock is really far away, and I have to reach out further and hold His hand even tighter.
Sometimes I feel like I have to wait a really long time before the next rock is revealed to me, and that requires a lot of patience and trust.
Lately, the rocks have been appearing fast and furious, and my heart rate has been soaring as I leap from one to the other, still careful to ensure I’m holding his hand. Endurance, excitement and trust have been my lessons of late.
But I have learned to not look ahead and predict when the next rock will come. Instead I am concentrating on the rock I’m on right now. Whether this is where he wants me to stay a while or a for only a moment, I’m doing my best to go where he leads. I’m seeking only to follow my Leader.
This is the pace of dreams being revealed—sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It requires a careful attention to the Master’s pace and a continued trust in the strength of His grip.
I Am My Own Dream Stealer
And then of course our sinful selves like to step in the way of our God-given dreams. Personally, my biggest sin is my desire to take control, to tell God “surely there’s an easier way to get across,” or “maybe this way is a better way,” or simply “I don’t want to do this anymore” (because it’s too hard or it hurts too much).
Do we trust the dream-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ? We may say that we do, but do our actions speak otherwise? In those moments when I’ve had to deeply trust in God’s unseen direction, I discover just how deep the sin of control reigns in my life.
It is scary and against our human nature to trust our whole selves to someone else. Especially if that someone is leading us up a harrowing and strenuous path when all we long for is the flat beauty of the meadows below.
In these moments, I find the greatest fight to be in my own mind. I may say I want God’s dreams for me to happen, but I am tired, winded and honestly, not liking the fact that I don’t know what’s around the next bend. It is a conscious choice to keep on climbing, to keep reaching out for the Lord’s hand, and to not let my fears steal all that God has in store.
I have to say to myself, “Sure the safe path is comfortable. But is it ultimately satisfying?”
Our guide will never drag us on the path. He simply calls us, waiting for us to respond. He says, “My sheep know my voice and trust me.” (John 10:27).
Remarkably, sheep come to know the voice of their shepherd and will follow only his voice, not the voice of another shepherd. What a beautiful picture of simple obedience and trust in our savior—our shepherd. This gentle, non-forced guidance is the mark of true love—His distinguishing mark of utter love for us. We are not following a dictator-God. He simply says, “Come… follow me. Let me show you all that I have in store for you.” And—sinful, wretched, stubborn, controlling mules that we are—we would be wise to submit and follow.
“Come to me like little children,” He says (Matthew 19:14). He knows that we need a child-like trust. Like little children who can’t carry the full weight of life’s realities, sometimes God mercifully shields us from the answers to the “why-are-we-going-this-way” and “how-are-we-going-to-get-there” questions. It is out of his love for us. We’ve got to surrender to that and to accept it.
The journey may be exciting, harrowing, difficult (or even boring), but ultimately, Psalm 23 tells us where the ultimate destination will be: still waters where he will restore our souls. How refreshing those still waters will be once we’ve traversed the paths and allowed our trust to grow deep in our Savior.
As long as our heart is beating, God will continue to dream amazing dreams for us. With each step we take toward those dreams, our hearts become more in line with His goals and we find ourselves trusting His outstretched hand more and more, ready for the next adventure. His path may take us through some frightening and unknown terrain, but the destination is indescribable and it’s place that we’ve always longed to go.