on letting go of your dreams


Oh, I used to have so many dreams.

I dreamed of having a big house, a nice car, a degree, lots of money... of traveling the world, taking sweet vacations, being super fit, being a labor and delivery nurse and then later getting my certification as a midwife...

Then somewhere along the way my dreams started to change.

Some of them were fulfilled over the years, and for some I've lost my desire completely.

The ones that were fulfilled always came with a surprise at the end. They were great and all, but in the end, were so meaningless after they were done. They were nice, but in the big picture, what did they really matter?

I really never expected that reaching a dream goal would be unsatisfying. But like getting a big house, there's always more to chase after with each one. There's always a better car, getting more education, more recognition, a more exclusive trip, becoming more fit... it's never ending.

And over the last few years, I feel like God has been so, so good to me to show me just how unfulfilling each of those things are. And part of me {the human part} has been a little sad to lose those dreams. I really don't want any of them anymore because I know they are empty. And that feels a little weird for this American girl.

I think in part of this culture, we are drilled and taught to dream big dreams- to go for what you want. To know that you can have it if you work hard enough. And even in Christian circles, so many times you'll hear all of your dreams can be fulfilled if you ask God to help you and you believe He will.

But the more I study the Bible, the less I see of people's own dreams being fulfilled, and the more I see of God's glory being revealed in their less than ideal situations.

The human part of me wants this relationship with God to be kind of a give and take. God, I give you this, but I want this to happen because I followed you. For so many years, I said I will follow you, God, but please don't let me die while my children are young. Please protect my children from harm. But lately, I think He's killing that kind of prayer in me. And it's a very good thing.

When I look at the people of faith in the Bible, I see over and over a life given to God completely....human dreams lost and then replaced with the desire to do the will of God.

I mean, even thousands of years ago, a girl would never dream that she would lose her husband and follow her mother-in-law to a foreign country to be gleaning grain in fields with the poor, only later to marry a very rich man and be part of the lineage of Jesus and the great-grandmother of the king of Israel.

...A wife of a great man would never dream that she would be 90 years old before God gave her a single child.

...A humble man afraid to speak publicly would never dream that he would lead millions out of slavery to wander in the desert for 40 years, and never enter the promised land.

...A favored youngest boy would never dream up that he would be sold into slavery to foreigners by his brothers, then be thrown in prison for years for something he didn't do, only later to become second only to the Pharaoh of Egypt and later save the entire nation of Israel.

...A prophet would never dream that his call would be to tell his people God's message they would reject over and over again until they were ruined.

...A sweet young girl betrothed to marry a carpenter would never dream she would become pregnant before she was married with the very Messiah, the Son of God.

...The disciples never dreamed they would leave their house, their family, their jobs to follow this Messiah who was so greatly loved and so greatly despised, only to see him beaten and die a tortuous death on a cross among criminals, and rise from the dead on the third day.

...A devout Jew who persecuted and killed those followers of Jesus would never dream he himself would later give his own life up for Jesus, and be imprisoned and beaten for the sake of the very same man.

Over and over and over again, we see that God is completely sovereign in every single situation, and that His plans are not our plans. Our dreams can't compare with what He has in store for us. And sometimes {most of the time even?} what He has in store for us looks nothing like what we dreamed of.

When I look at these stories, I don't see people begging God to fulfill what they dream of in life, and Him answering. I see God taking regular people and giving them faith- changing their hearts to willingly do what brings God glory, and His plan being fulfilled through them in the strangest of ways, and often at the loss of their comfort and even their lives.

But that is such good news, because God's ways are so much higher than our ways- His wisdom so much deeper, so much wiser than ours:

Romans 11
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

We can trust God with all of our lives- even all of our dreams and hopes!

You see, our own dreams are tainted with our fleshly desires. We seek our own comfort, our own protection, our own loves.

Our dreams don't involve our hearts being broken, or losing the way we like our lives. We don't dream of losing our husbands, our children, our homes. But that might be what God has for us in this life.

Yet God's ways are so much higher, so much bigger than ours. We can rejoice that His plan is so much better than ours, because we not only have those human examples in the Bible- we also have one perfect example of God's plan and glory at work:

The Son of God came to live on this earth, and His purpose was this:
John 6:38
 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus, the Son of God- the one we worship, humbled Himself as King of the Universe to being without a home, to being beaten and mocked and killed by sinners for the sake of the will of the God. Remember why:
Hebrews 12
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

It was for the joy that was set before him that He endured the shame. He was doing the will of His father so that all might come to believe in Him and be saved!

Hebrews 2:8-9
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

So God's plan asked His own Son, the Lord of hosts, to become lower than the angels, so that He might redeem all of mankind through His suffering and death. I think we can all agree that is not one human's dream.

If God's plans for His Son include giving up His life to horrible suffering and death, are we not called to the same?

Romans 8
12So then, brothers,d we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonse of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Future Glory
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

We have to give up our own desires, our own will, our own body here on this earth like Christ did. We are heirs with Christ if we do the same. And we can do this, because when we believe, He gives us the same Spirit He gave Jesus!

Our dreams, our hopes, our desires- we can lay them all at the feet of Jesus. Jesus did the same, and gave up His own will so that He could do the will of His Father and save us!

When we set our eyes on Jesus, and give our hearts to do His will, He changes us to long for the things He wants instead of what we want for ourselves.

When you look to Him, what is so amazing is that He gives you faith to believe that His way is truly better than our own. And His way might be painful for a time- we might not see why He is destroying all of our old dreams. But He is doing it for our good, and for His glory.

I love the way C.S. Lewis puts it:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
You see, God is so much wiser, so much more wonderful than we ever could be. Our human dreams are so, so small- but God has so much bigger plans for our lives! We can trust Him with everything!

Give all of your dreams to Jesus- ask Him to make your heart long to do His will and not your own. Don't worry- we can't do it on our own anyway! His Spirit will help us, will give us faith. Beg God to help you give up your own desires so that His will can be your desire instead of your own.

You never know what might happen. He might end up fulfilling some of those very dreams when you give them to Him, or He might have bigger or different plans for you.

Like all the stories of the faith in the Bible- you might not see the end result of His plans in this life, but you can trust that He is good and His plan is sovereign. Your God is worthy of your heart and your life. 

Oh, sweet friend. Dreams are nothing without Him. Nothing here on this earth will satisfy you. Better is one day in the court of God, than thousands elsewhere.

When you give your heart and your life up in submission to God, there is no happier, no more satisfying place to be. No earthly dream can compare to walking with the Lord of Hosts. He is so good, and He wants all of your heart, your soul, and your mind. All of your trust.

Oh, that we would give it all to Him. His dreams are so much better than ours. Our decent little cottage has nothing on His palace. :)


How have you seen God change your dreams over the years?


What dreams has He fulfilled? Which ones were you glad He didn't fulfill?
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of having no children, or at least not any until I was 28. I'm so glad He didn't let me have that dream fulfilled! Instead, I had 4 children by the time I was 26, and He's worked in my life in so many ways because of that different outcome. :)

33 comments

Anonymous said...

Be blessed sweet sister! Know that the Lord uses your faithfulness to speak truth, greatly in my life.

Mandy said...

oh thank you so much for your encouragement! It was a blessing to my heart to hear that! thank you.

Ulrika said...

As a performance anxiety suffering straight A student degrees et.c. was probably what I worried the most about. I pictured myself finishing my PhD and then maybe doing a postdoc and then at 30ish have a couple of kids... Then I got severe digestive issues which got really debilitating at age 26. I was then 2 years into my PhD studies and just starting to dream of having kids as soon as possible instead of some time in the distant future. I spent more than 3 years on medical leave (though not to the extent that I needed, which made me fall way behind in my work) fighting to get help with my digestive issues and finally had a colostomy surgery. By that time I had developed anxiety problems and panic attacks as a result of my health issues and all the stress during those years. I had to deal with that as well and finally 4 years after I had started to dream about children my husband and I could start trying. And now 3.5 years later we have two boys! I have been on full time maternity leave since our first son was born and I am dreaming of more children. I feel God has spoken 2 more children into my heart and I am a c-section mom due to a paralysis condition I had as a child so it's one pregnancy at a time for me with a wait and see approach. (Not that anyone is guaranteed to have children, but I think you understand what I mean.) We'll see what happens. I try to work in my "spare time" to hopefully one day finish my PhD but it's not so much about my own pride anymore but more about being able to contribute to the family financially and because mom would be proud of me, and also because I want to do a good job since my supervisor and employer have been so understanding about my situation. Anyway, to make a long story short my dreams nowadays is a fairly big family, an ok health for my family and myself and for my husband to become more active as a Christian and not just Christian by culture, and for my kids to be saved of course. There is nothing wrong with asking God to protect from evil or to give health. Jesus healed people, and didn't say it was simply God's will that they were ill. I pray for health every day and I want to use it to do good.

Ulrika said...

I agree with the anonymous commenter above. :) Got a bit caught up in my post about the changed dreams and perspective on life so I forgot to bring that up. LOL. <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. It's exactly what I needed to hear today. My dream is to have a family (just one child and we would be happy). My husband and I have been married for four years but have put career ahead of family first. We finally started trying for a baby last fall and I got pregnant in October. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage in December. If that wasn't enough, I lost my job around the same time. It's been so tough because I keep asking why? My life was in order and thought everything was just right. Now I'm slowly realizing that my dreams are not His dreams. He has a plan for my life and I just have to trust him.

Mandy said...

@ulrika- Thank you friend! :) I am so glad he is working in your life to shape your dreams as well! :D

Kimberly Sanchez said...

Mandy, your post today is just beautiful. There is so much wisdom here. Thank you for sharing your experience and for all the Scripture that speaks so perfectly to your points. I needed your words today.

Heather Vance said...

I'm curious about your take on the idea that 'God gives us (places in us) the desires of our heart', and also about Samuel's mother having her desire/dream of having a child fulfilled.
Thanks a bunch.

Renee said...

I want to recommend a book to you. It's called Radical and is written by David Platt. I'm currently reading it, and many of your recent blog posts seem to coincide with the book rather perfectly. It's a tough read in that it's very convicting, but I definitely recommend it.

wwwdotwallis said...

I spent many years fighting God. He kept placing an amazing man in my life and I couldn't imagine how it could work. Finally I tossed my hands up in the air and stopped fighting it. I allowed myself to love and to be loved in ways I never imagined. We got married and I moved my daughters and myself 900+ miles to join him in our nation's capitol. I like to say that God's plans for me were much greater and more amazing than my plans for myself.

Mandy said...

Hi Heather-here are my thoughts:

1. Psalm 37:4 says this: Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I believe this verse is very misconstrued today- most people think it means God gives you everything you desire- but I don't believe it is that way- I believe it means that when we set our eyes on Jesus- when our delight is found in Him, He tells our hearts what we desire, and we want that. Sometimes what we desire and what He desires does line up and we receive that, and lots of times, our hearts goals change first to line up with doing the will of God, because we love Him first rather than our own will.

2. Hannah was greatly greatly burdened for many years and wept bitterly year after year for her dream. After many years, she finally gave up and told God if he gave her a child He would be His for all of His days, and God granted her request- and Samuel grew up under the priest Eli as soon as he was weaned. I believe that her holding on to her desire so tightly was what made her very anxious and vexed {1 sam. 1:16}, and it wasn't until her heart changed and she gave up her womb - her dream- to the Lord that she saw her dream fulfilled. I do believe sometimes our dreams will be fulfilled {like above}, but it's not in our timing and it's not up to us if it happens, or the way it happens, and the sooner we give our hope and will to God, the better off we are. :) God had a sovereign plan for Hannah to give up her son so that he could later become a prophet of the Lord- it probably wasn't the way she dreamed of raising a child, but God had a plan for him. :)

Mandy said...

Oh, thank you Kimberly! I'm so very glad that you were encouraged by it. Thank you for sharing that with me! :D

Christie said...

I think my dream was probably to marry a guy and live happily ever after. Well, I got married, but couldn't find happily ever after to save my life. It was rough! Thankfully, God used the struggles of our early years to bring us to repentance, and to teach us about Himself. I am so thankful for the wisdom of God; I truly believe that His sovereignty places each event, good and bad, in our lives. Learning to trust that has made all the difference in the world. Like you said, Mandy, now I'm much more interested in God glorifying Himself through us, than in our individual happiness. And guess what? Eureka: here is joy.

Mandy said...

I love that book! I read it a year or two ago and I was a huge fan! It's one of my top 10 books! :D Thank you for sharing it with me!! :D I'm so excited you're reading it! :D

Mandy said...

oh that's awesome! What a great testimony! :D

Mandy said...

AHHHHH! I LOVE it!! :D God is so good- it never ceases to amaze me how God uses our difficulties and brings us out of our own ways for His glory. Even when I wasn't faithful, He was and didn't leave me there- He brings you out and you know Him more because of where you were before! It makes me want to shout with praise! :DDDDD So so very thrilled to hear how He's changing your heart and the joy it brings! Wohooo!

Mandy said...

:D thank you for sharing your story sweet girl!

Mandy said...

Oh, praying for you tonight, sister! I know He has a plan for your heart and your life, and that He loves you. Praying that you find even more and more comfort and trust in Him! much love!!

Stephanie said...

Hi Mandy, LOVE your blog. This post really hits home for me. My husband and I are always making tons of plans. Where we want to move, what we want to do, how it will be someday... but I think the smaller dreams are where I think I give myself the most trouble. I get so stuck on getting my starbucks on a busy morning or getting my whole to do list done in one weekend, I give those little things way too much attention. I like the verse you shared about delighting in the Lord. For me, that's something that will help me keep Him in my busiest morning or most chaotic weekend. I just want to slow down and try to keep Him at the forefront.

As far as dreams that I've ditched over the years, goodness. I just laugh at my perspectives over the years and how much they have changed. Career has become something that I am less and less invested in, and family is something that I have become much more passionate about. Not just my own family but my siblings and parents. I'm slowly letting go of an obsession with clothes and trying to spend more time outdoors. I guess these aren't dreams per se but different priorities for sure.

Not sure what God has in store for me, but I trust in Him always.

Brilliant post. Loved the quote too. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Mandy, check out the March 20th post on www.cindybultema.com/ about dissapointments. It's very good & goes along well with your post. God bless! ~ Jenny

Melody said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I am currently reading "Not A Fan" by Kyle Idleman and I want to be a true follower of Christ, not just someone who knows a lot about Him. And that's scary b/c I know there are things He has to do in me/change so I am truly inside and out, dedicated to Him in all I do! And who knows where He will lead me? But when I think about that and start feeling overwhelmed, I realize all He needs me to do is take it day by day, growing closer to Him, and when He places an opportunity for me to do something completely outside of what I had planned, I will know it's Him and be confident. I was just thinking, if I truly believed that the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is also inside of me, why on earth would I let doubt, fear, and insecurity keep me chained up? Thank you for your post, it's right along with all the messages He is sending my way, and completely in line with His Word. :) I know the Spirit was in your brain and fingers b/c most people who deliver that pure of a message (and a hard message to hear at that) come from Seminary!

JoyBelle said...

Amen (to the explanation Mandy gave)!

JoyBelle said...

I used to attend a very up-and-coming church/youth group and it was beaten over our heads "What is your dream?! DREAM BIGGER! Don't put God in a box" blah blah blah.

I was never comfortable with this (I was a young teen, new Christian so I didn't know as much of the Bible at the time to say WAIT, that's just not right). When I said my dream was to be a mother it just didn't seem "good enough" and I was told to dream bigger. As if I didn't accomplish some certain limit of amazing (in their eyes) then I wasn't "doing enough" for God's Kingdom.

It became so much about numbers. To me intimate discipleship and friendship with one or a few people was so much easier and effective in building up people's faith than just filling seats, putting on a good show and then not really developing anything further with people.

So I could get carried away with this. I love this church and the leaders there; I think they just got caught up in the mega church fever back then. I'm not entirely sure what their heart is TODAY but I do hope they have learned and grown in this particular subject.

I completely agree with your post.

JoyBelle said...

I got my husband that book! He's still reading it. ;-)

Olivia said...

Mandy have you ever thought that the plan God has for you is to be a minister or pastor? What you wrote is right up there with some of the best sermons I have heard.
My church is studying the "Last Words of Jesus" this month. Very interesting the things he told the disciples to do after He was gone. Because of them Christianity spread. What faith they must have had to follow Jesus.

Morgan Hagey said...

I apologize for skipping the above comments, so ignore if this is a repeat: One of the important things I have ever learned is what a RIGHTEOUS desire is. Heavenly Father's will is OUR will when our desires are righteous. If we are prayerful, God will direct our desires to be in line with his. It is a hard lesson; to give up what we think we want for what it turns out we ACTUALLY want. But it is worth it. I keep learning this over and over and over.

Mandy said...

Hey girlie! Thank you for sharing! I know what you mean- it's so easy to get caught in the daily goals! I'm so so excited you are seeing your heart change over the years! what an exciting and WONDERFUL thing!! EEEE :D I love your perspective!

Mandy said...

Melody! I am so excited for you! I know that it is so scary to leave it all up to Him...we have no idea what He will bring. But you are so right- it is one day at a time, and he has given you so much amazing power in His spirit to do his work and trust in Him! :D I'm soooo thrilled for you! Thank you of sharing some of your story! God is so good!

Mandy said...

Oh, thanks for your thoughts, girlie! I know that the prosperity thing is a very popular theme in American church culture- you can have it all with God if you just believe enough... I worry so much about the people who believe in it that they will find themselves turning away from God because they didn't receive what they wanted and dreamed of even though they believed. :( It hurts my heart to hear those kinds of stories, but hopefully the cultural pendulum is swinging back toward the truth- God gives and God takes away- blessed be the name of the Lord. :)

Anonymous said...

Very great and helpful post. Do you know which C.S. Lewis book that quote came from?
Jessica

Mandy said...

I believe it's mere Christianity :) Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Your blog is such an encouragement to me. God has fulfilled some of my dreams but after waiting and hurting and being frustrated and angry at times! I, too, wanted children so badly and prayed and prayed. We tried to conceive for 2 years and after testing were told we wouldn't conceive without medical intervention. I was so angry, bitter, and frustrated with God - and believed it was his punishment on me for living a sinful lifestyle earlier in my life. I finally gave it over to God and told him if we never had children, then I still trusted him. Do you know, I got pregnant probably the same week I surrendered it to him. I didn't realize the timing until later but looking back, it was within a few days or maybe at most a week! And he has since blessed us with a second child. I agree with your explanation about Hannah - not that God grants everything once we surrender it, but He is so much more concerned about our heart than our dream.
Last year, my husband and I moved across country to help with a church plant. It has been a journey with a lot of ups and downs. Our house still has not sold, which is a burden we don't understand. There are days I am so weary and feel like God "owes" us something for obeying him - but thankfully He is helping me see that every trial is for a reason and that I am so wrong when I think that way. Having to rely on God on a daily basis for our financial security is a lesson we desperately needed to learn. It's hard because we never "arrive" in this life - we will always be facing a trial or testing of some sort. But it is good to remember that God is always good, and always loves us - and these trials are tailor made for what I need to learn. And I am thankful that He is making me long to be changed - and long for my true home!

Anonymous said...

Late night headache...can't slerp so I decided to read some of my favorite blogs. Love this post...some of the things I've been wrestling with God about (been studying about Jacob lately ;) Many times you have been a source of knowledge and peace for me. Thank you!
Dawn B.