Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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. :)

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