“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)
My husband and I decided we were going to go on a date. Nothing too fancy, just a drive through the countryside (and of course I was also dreaming of getting to stop and stroll down a beach to watch the sun set, with the wind in my hair, and the sand squishing between my toes) to talk and just enjoy being together. As we set off, thunking down our dirt road, I wondered why it seemed like the road was bumpier than usual. How odd. I couldn’t recall the grater coming through that day (which frequently has the reverse effect on our road as what is intended), but yes, it definitely seemed more bumpy. But maybe I was just imagining it. Perhaps I just had such a long day that the usual bumps were annoying me more than they should have.
Whatever the case, I decided to dismiss it, and began chatting about things I had been pondering that day.
But by the end of the second hill, it became clear to both of us that something was actually quite wrong with the car. The bumping and jostling had become very pronounced, and we weren’t even on the dirt road anymore! Then came the “thunk”, followed by, “thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk”. He pulled over. The tire was completely flat. All my hopes and dreams for our date night quickly evaporated, as my husband had to call family to come help him change our very flat tire, while I sat in the car…and sat…and sat. We hadn’t made it very far. “There goes our date night,” I thought, gloomily.
We’ve all been there. Maybe not in a car…but in life. Who of us hasn’t had dreams for the future – whether for the course we want our day to take, or the dreams we have for our careers, or the relationship we’re longing for – that haven’t been dashed before we’ve gotten very far? We’ve all gotten “stuck” on our way, as we happily roll along – everything seeming rosy and bright, and then “Thunk”. Everything grinds to a halt, and we find ourselves quite stuck, sitting on the side of the road as we watch everyone passing us by, oblivious to our disappointment, and our dreams quickly melt away like ice-cream on a too-hot day, while we’re left holding just a soggy cone.
No one wants to be stuck as our dreams grind to a halt. But it happens. Oh yes, it does. Very rarely has any human in this imperfect world of ours found the way to true success paved and smooth. There are lots of bumps, many detours, and mountains with mind-staggering grades. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. But…what do you do when things break down, and you’re left sitting, looking at the towering mountains ahead, wondering what the purpose of life is, wondering why you’re here, and wondering how to accomplish your dreams and goals in this life full of uncertainty and disappointments…?
First: Put aside your phone, shut that computer down, and turn off the music you use to drown out the sound of your aching heart. Run to Jesus. No, not just a passing, “God, I’m stuck again,” but sitting at the feet of Jesus, and actually seeking His face, His will.
Not all dreams are good…and again, not all dreams are bad. It isn’t wrong to have hopes, but we must first take all of our dreams and lay them at the feet of Jesus, whether they’ve already gotten “stuck” or not. We must lay them down before Him, and take our hands off of them. Surrender. And instead of trying to drown out the aching in your heart, just share it with Jesus. He loves to hear what is on our hearts; even if it is whispered brokenly, between tears and sobbing. He cares, and He longs to help us in our time of need. As 1 Peter 5:7 reiterates, “…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (ESV)
Then…ask God what He wants of you. “Lord, is this the way you want me to go? Or…do you have something different for me to do?” As we lay down our own ideas and plans for our lives and truly seek Jesus, and His plans, we will find that the anxiety of needing to accomplish our own dreams fades away, and we will find our identity being rooted more and more in Christ, and not in what we do, or our “title”.
As we become satisfied in Christ, we can begin to lose our grip on our dreams, and actually have the heart-attitude that is able to honestly desire to do God’s will more than our own. It’s a hard place to get to, but so very necessary. When we can say with confidence, “I am following Jesus,” it takes away the sting of dreams not playing out like we had imagined, and the weight of needing to prove ourselves, and our own capabilities…because, we can’t. But we can trust God’s plans, even when they are different than what we expected, and even when they don’t make sense to us yet.
When we follow Jesus, He often asks us to do things that we really, truly can’t do in our own strength anyway, to show, in our weakness, that He is strong, and that when we lean on Him, He will carry us and accomplish much greater things in and through us than we could have ever imagined.
When your dreams have been dashed, instead of being crushed by it, and letting yourself go into a spiral of despair and self-doubt – wondering who you are, why you’re here, and if there is really any purpose for your life – run to Jesus.
Do you want to make progress in your dreams today? Align your dreams with those of the Lord! Psalm 37:4-7 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (ESV)
When we begin to delight in Jesus, our desires will become the same as His. And as our desires become conformed to His will, God is glad to grant them. He is glad to prosper our way, when our way is following in His footsteps, and as we seek to be His hands and feet in this broken world. As we follow Jesus in His ways, we don’t have to worry about measuring up to the standards that this world gives us for success. We don’t have to worry when people we know are prospering more than us in their careers, love-life, etc. When we know that we are following the Lord’s ways for us, our hearts can be at peace with little or with much, because we trust in Him…and because we know that He cares for us just like a good father cares for his children; with love, compassion, gentleness, and wanting the best for our lives even more than we ourselves do. As we look to Him to guide our ways, He will cause our path to become clear before us, one baby step of faith at a time.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)