Remember Sesame Street? “Sunny days chasing the clouds away.” Everybody skips down the sidewalks and smiles. Then remember when you found out what thunder sounds like? When the flash of lightning and downpour from the dark clouds stopped your skipping in its tracks and made you wonder, what now?
It’s the difference between a fairytale and real life. One we’ve all likely experienced. We move through life with a plan. And sometimes, the plan doesn’t go according to plan.
The dream we were sure God planted in our hearts veers right when we think it should stay straight. Pressures mount. Plans fall apart. And while our dreams drain away, our futures fill with fear.
Eleven years ago I packed up my life to move north with my husband and best friend, Luke. We set off to join our first team in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns. As I drove to Ohio, visions of Super Bowls danced in my head.
The odds of being drafted into the NFL are slimmer than being struck by lightning. God brought Luke here. It’s certain He’ll use the talent He gave Luke to spread the gospel around the world, I reasoned. I could almost see Luke hoisting the trophy and proclaiming, “I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Eleven years later . . . not even close. However, we do know a lot about packing boxes and loading Uhaul trailers. After a dozen moves we’ve questioned the road, and the goal, many times.
What about your dreams?
That talent made uniquely for you. The one you know you’re good at and others point it out, too. Or that burning in your heart for a certain group of people or problem in your city or the world. The one that can bring you to tears and makes you yearn to do something, anything, to help.
Is it on track? Are you frantically trying to keep it on track? Have you forgotten about it all together?
When pressure squeezes in around us. When things just don’t go our way. What do we do? Through my decade of dreaming and learning I’ve pinpointed three ways we usually respond to a threat to our dreams. I call it our survival mode. And for fun I named each response after a Disney princess movie. So which Disney movie are you?
1. Sleeping Beauty
When your sunny days turn stormy you turn around. You’d rather not face the fight in front of you. So you throw away your dream completely and head for higher ground.
You settle for the safe way, but live with a life of disappointment. The ins and outs of ordinary days . . . day after day after day . . . lull you to sleep. You’re God’s beautiful creation with His divine dreams, but you’re asleep.
God’s people, the Israelites, know how you feel. When God brought them out of Egypt He led them to the promised land. By His miraculous power He provided for all their needs through the wilderness and took them to the land guaranteed for them.
But as they waited for their moment to take over the land, some spies scouted the place and returned with a grim outlook,
Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:31 (ESV)
With their eyes fixed on the goal, instead of the God who planted the goal, the entire community wailed with confusion and surrendered the purpose they carried with them all the way through the wilderness, to inhabit the land God gave them.
When storms come your way you reach for the raincoat and a strong umbrella and challenge the thunder to give you its best shot. There’s no stopping you. The problem is, you’re running on your own strength and handling things your own way.
You work and you move refusing to be outdone, but all the while you weave a web of self throughout God’s holy call on your life. You fight with anger or pride. You’re driven by selfish ambition or even a hint of fear.
Moses, one of the greatest leaders in Scripture, fell into the same trap. Moses grew up in the palace in Egypt. As he walked, one day he noticed a fellow Israelite being treated harshly at the hands of an Egyptian.
Moses’ heart yearned to see his people set free from this oppression, but instead of consulting God and His way, Moses took matters into his own hands,
He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Exodus 2:12 (ESV)
Moses accomplished his goal his way but tangled himself in the web of his works. He fled from home and wandered into a wilderness where later God would call him to lead all of Israel to freedom . . . but with God’s strength, not man’s. In his haste, Moses added panic, too, and subtracted time from his life.
The surprise of a turn in the road stuns you. Your instincts to keep order and hold onto a routine lock you into place and you stand frozen. You don’t move forward. You don’t move backwards. You don’t move at all. How can you?
The uncertainty of the future proves too much to bear. The fear of what if? strips your identity. And you remain in that place, the one that took your dream away.
You’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath. But do you remember the part just before that of the Israelite army and Goliath?
All the men of Israel, when they saw the man [Goliath], fled from him and were much afraid. (1 Samuel 17:24 ESV)
Trained soldiers in the army of the living God froze in fear – for forty days they did this. Day after day they stood on the battle line and did nothing! They didn’t advance. They didn’t retreat. They simply stood. Frozen. With no plan to overcome the obstacle.
Maybe you’ve been like one of these before. Maybe you can think of a time when you’ve been like all three. There is one more way, though. The way we all want to respond.
What we all want to be is Brave.
And the only way we humans can do that is to rely on God. He is your Savior, Redeemer, and King if you have accepted his free gift of salvation. And if you have not, He wants to show you the life-changing power of grace if you’ll surrender your life to Him.
Copyright © 2021 by Katy McCown @https://katymccown.com/2014/10/06/when-dreams-go-bad/ No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.