I am a dreamer. I don’t “live” in the future per se, but it’s a well from which I draw energetic water for the present. Often, however, I’ve wondered how to reconcile this tendency with the biblical imperative to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
In other words, although I’m a dreamer by natural tendency, I’m a Christian Hedonist by biblical conviction. I’ve felt a tension between the pleasure of making plans and looking forward to delights in this life, even as I know lasting joy is rooted in the eternal hope already secured for me in Christ.
I once believed these two things were mutually exclusive. Certainly, they can be. We can worship our dreams. We can idolize an unrealized future. However, this possibility need not keep me (or you) from dreaming. Christians can dream big to the glory of God—partly because we can be disappointed big to the glory of God.
Dead Dreams as a Litmus Test
If dreaming has taught me anything, it’s that your dreams will disappoint you.
This disappointment can range from the almost trivial to the nearly debilitating. For a while, I’ve dreamed of building a deck off our back patio. My hitherto undeveloped carpentry skills and the skyrocketing price of lumber have rendered this relatively small desire yet unrealized. When my wife found out she was pregnant with our son, we dreamed about introducing him to our parents and our family traditions. But the sudden death of my wife’s mom seven weeks before our son was born seemed to make a mockery of this once happy dream.
Christians can dream big to the glory of God—partly because we can be disappointed big to the glory of God.
In my experience, dreams have a high mortality rate. This doesn’t make dreaming wrong. I believe God created us to create, and creating requires dreaming about unrealized possibilities. Creating requires imagination.
Such imagination is not a result of the fall. Creating is God’s idea. Building sturdy decks and creating rich family traditions are ways we glorify him—by dreaming of ways we can bring order out of the world’s chaos. Whether as visionary artists, groundbreaking scientists, deck-builders, or proactive parents, our sometimes simple, sometimes audacious dreaming bears witness to a God who makes all things new and who has made us in his image.
However, our creaturely creativity differs from God’s in that we’re neither omniscient nor omnipotent. We can’t see the future, nor are we sovereign over outcomes. Thus, to dream up future possibilities is to open ourselves to the possibility of disappointment. Creativity requires vulnerability. Often, our level of disappointment directly corresponds to the scope of the dream and our investment in it. Big dreams die hard.
Should this potential for disappointment keep the Christian from dreaming? God forbid.
In the wake of dead dreams, we must remember what remains. Your dreams were never meant to be your “living hope.” Such hope can only ever be rooted in the “resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). Christian dreamer, although your dream may be dead, your God is not. This reality sets the stage for worshipping in the aftermath of crushed dreams.
Dead Dreams as Instruments of Worship
In light of a realized resurrection, unrealized dreams become instruments of worship. Dream big. If they come true, worship the God from whom all good realized dreams flow—and in whose creative image you are made. If they fail to materialize, worship the God who works all unrealized dreams for your good.
Although your dream may be dead, your God is not. This reality sets the stage for worshipping in the aftermath of crushed dreams.
Above all, remember this: Your dreams may be a mirage, but the celestial city is not. This reality is more than a Christianized version of that poster in your middle school homeroom: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you will land among the stars.”
Yes, aim for the moon. However, in all your lunar dreaming, don’t settle for the hackneyed promise of the motivational poster. If you fail to reach the moon, you won’t land among the stars. Instead, you’ll find that you never left the arms of the Father. And, in all your legitimate disappointments, you’ll find that you have gained Christ.
Jesus is no consolation prize. He is gain (Phil. 1:21). He is surpassingly better than any dead dream. Christians feel disappointment, but we don’t fear it. It is good to grieve the loss of good things—and good dreams are good things. But the Christian dreamer doesn’t grieve as those who have no hope.
Unrealized dreams don’t make you a failure. But they will certainly make you holy—if you allow the Spirit to shape you in your disappointment. Because your chief hope will not put you to shame, you can be disappointed to the glory of God.