Have you ever lived your dream and then lost it? How we respond to life-altering experiences determines our future and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for our life.
Recently, I heard the song, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of by The Human League. The lyrics took me back to my decade’s old once-upon-a-time dream. The things my dreams were made of died… essentially all at once.
I married my high school sweetheart, enjoyed my creative work, and later on, we bought a new home and had a beautiful son. But in a few short months, everything – except my job, came to an end. Unexpectedly, our little boy died, our house was gone, and our marriage was headed to divorce court. My dreams were shattered in a million pieces. Life as I knew it was leveled to the ground.
Losing our son and trying to hopelessly hang on to our marriage while rebelling against God sent me spiraling down into a dark abyss for a couple of years. We were in church every time the doors opened, we tithed faithfully, volunteered regularly, we prayed and lived by God’s Word. God was allowing our hearts and lives to be crushed for a greater purpose. That was beyond my understanding at the time. Instead, I blamed God for everything. I cried out for answers, but none came. I accused Him of dreadful things. I questioned God as though He were on trial.
Thirteen years later, a divine encounter with God brought my prodigal heart back to Him. I began the process of learning to trust God again. In the Bible, I read how other’s lives didn’t go exactly as they’d planned. Many godly people who had life-altering experiences and encounters with God suffered greatly, only to ultimately see God’s plan and purpose in the end.
- God allowed Satan to take all Job had.
- God allowed Joseph to be thrown into a pit, sold as a slave and imprisoned.
- God allowed David to be hunted like an animal by someone he loved.
- God allowed Naomi’s son’s and husband to die and left her with nothing.
- God allowed Paul to be imprisoned in chains, beaten, starved, and shipwrecked.
And greater than all these, God allowed His one and only sinless Son to be shamed, tortured, beaten, and die a brutal death for our redemption.
These are not the things that dreams are made of. But God had a purpose and plan bigger than any of these sufferings.
As a young woman, I believed I was entitled to have my dreams come true. I was a faithful follower of Christ, and suffering was not part of my gravely flawed theology, as was the church we were attending at the time. What I failed to understand was, God often allows suffering to prepare those He loves for greater work and bigger dreams. Dreams that are tied to eternal purpose, dreams much greater than we can ask, think, or imagine. But to fulfill those dreams, our character must be tested and tried in the fire of affliction to prove our faithfulness to God and Him alone.
Our response to adversity determines our future and the fulfillment of God’s plan and the dream He has put in us. The response God is looking for in us when experiencing hardship and suffering is not one of rebellion or a stoic grit-and-bear-it attitude, but one of joyful acceptance and obedience, which can be obtained only by God’s grace.
Joyful acceptance amid pain is humanly impossible. But God’s amazing grace enables us to adopt this attitude if we simply ask Him for it. Just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering, so must we. Grace offers a big role in suffering, as well as obedience.
On the other side of my lost dreams, God gave me bigger dreams with eternal purpose. Dreams that were beyond what I could have ever conjured up myself, and He is still fulfilling them. I stand amazed as I continue to surrender my will to Him. In time, God restored my marriage to my High School sweetheart, gave us two more beautiful children, a lovely home, and more.
How we respond to hardship is a choice and it’s key to unlocking God-sized dreams and living a fulfilled life in Christ.
Consider how you will respond to hardship the next time it knocks on your door.
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10