Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Big Dreams and Bad Nightmares: How to Heal Your Future

  • Steve Arterburn Author and Chairman of New Life Clinics
  • Published Nov 29, 2005
Big Dreams and Bad Nightmares: How to Heal Your Future

Editor's Note: This is fourth in a series of articles called Healing is a Choice. Links to other installments can be found at the end of this page.

The Fourth Choice: The Choice to Heal Your Future

The Fourth Big Lie: “Time heals all wounds.”

Did you have great dreams for your life that have never come true? Most of us have. We do our best to rise above the circumstances of our births and childhoods, but we rarely do. Most of us end up with mundane lives, just struggling to get by. We’ve fallen short of our own expectations and often the expectations of others.


Yet there are others who don’t have dreams. They’ve been hurt so badly they don’t believe dreams come true—at least not for them. But whether you’ve had big dreams that haven’t come true, or nightmares that have scared you away from dreaming at all, everyone’s past converges upon the shared experience of pain. Pain is a character builder, but if it’s not responded to in a redemptive manner, it has the potential to be incredibly destructive.


I’ve known people who’ve lived for decades in the pain of shattered dreams and broken expectations. They’re still suffering at 50 or 60 because of something that happened when they were a child or a teenager. Whatever it is, they’ve never gotten over it and moved beyond it. It’s still working on them, eating at them, and robbing them of the life they could have.


Healing Your Future

When we resist grieving, we drag our pain with us all through our lives. The pain that has been so detrimental to our past is inadvertently allowed to wield its destructive force upon our future. But doing the tough work of grieving will plow the fields and soften the soil for a healthy harvest of connected relationships and a life of purpose and meaning.


“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20). The pain felt now removes the curse of pain in the future. It’s resolved and no longer needs to be fed, minded, or protected. Disconnected alienation is traded for a feeling of connection, belonging, and community. Dependency on your own resources and survival tactics are traded for a trust in God and a dependency on Him. Old feelings and old ways are traded for a new life.


Defenses and Pretenses

How will you know you’re making progress at truly working through grief rather than just digging up old hurts and dwelling needlessly upon the past? You’ll recognize progress when you find yourself giving up some of your defenses and defensiveness. We protect ourselves from more pain when we’ve not really faced our grief. We arrange our lives so we won’t have to endure more than we think we can bear, and we defend our ground by not allowing others to speak truth into our lives. If they try, we push them away.


When losses are grieved we become more willing to listen and hear the truth. We’re able to live through the vulnerability of connection, so we’re less inclined to present ourselves as something other than we really are. The little lies that deflect people from the real life we’re living are no longer required. We have no need to hide behind the old façades that protected us from hurt but prevented us from knowing the life God had for us.


The Big Lie

The big lie is that time will heal your deep wounds—that one day, if you just bide your time, you’ll awaken and feel better. In fact, just the opposite is true. The longer we live with untreated wounds, the greater the potential for infection. We want to believe we just need time, but what we need is time well spent.

How you mark your time can be the most powerful healing choice you can make. Will you spend your time alone and hurting? If you do, there’s not much chance that the wounded mind that got you there is going to help you out. That mind will just drive you further and further away from where you could be—from where God wants you to be. Refuse to believe or live in the lie that time is going to heal you.


Cleansing Power

The psalmist said, “I weep with grief; my heart is heavy with sorrow” (Ps. 119:18). He wasn’t just shedding tears. He was cleansing his past and healing his future. He was letting go of what was and what might’ve been, and reaching for what is and what is to be. In this deep cleansing process we reach a point where we’re able to let go of the past, of unmet expectations, and of a concept of God where He’s supposed to protect us from all hurts and pain. In the deepest forms of grieving we let go and we find healing.


Healing is a choice. It’s God’s choice, but we can make choices that allow the healing He has for us to be manifested in our lives. Healing is a choice to let go of our past hurts by grieving them, and grieving is a choice to heal the future.


The above piece is an adaptation from Healing Is A Choice: Ten Decisions That Will Transform Your Life & Ten Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them, by Steve Arterburn. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2005.


Stephen Arterburn is the founder of New Life Clinics, the largest provider of Christian counseling and treatment in North America. As host of the daily New Life Live! radio program, he is heard nationally on over one hundred and eighty stations and at www.newlife.com. Steve is the creator of the Women of Faith® Conferences and is the author/coauthor of over thirty books, including Healing is a Choice, Lose it For Life, The God of Second Chances, Every Man’s Battle, and Avoiding Mr. Wrong.