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Is It Okay to Grieve over Unfulfilled Dreams?

Is It Okay to Grieve over Unfulfilled Dreams?

As human beings, we have precious plans and dreams for ourselves. It is a hopeful and optimistic part of our God-given natures and is a sign of good mental health, too. Perhaps we have a special talent, and we would like to take it to a big stage to share it with others. Maybe we want that top job in our organization, a role of importance and lasting impact. Or perhaps our dream is to have a family, raising children in a loving and connected home.

It can be devastating when our dreams don’t come to pass. Sometimes our most cherished dreams seem tantalizingly close, only to be ripped from us, often inexplicably. The coveted job never works out, our artistic talents aren’t recognized, or those wished-for children don’t come. The dream that once motivated us so much now becomes a persistent reminder of failure and heartbreak.

Is it okay, as Christians, to grieve that dream? You bet — and it’s important too, as part of the healing process, and to make space for God’s perfect plan for your life. After your grief is experienced, a new day will dawn, if you stay in close communication with the Lord, asking Him to show you all your new and exciting possibilities.

Here are some thoughts to consider as you let go of that dream:

We Have Our Plans, But God Has His

I have always found it so helpful to remember that while I have plans and dreams — and often feel like the primary architect of my life — there is a much greater Architect that never makes mistakes, and always builds something both pleasing to Him and good for me, if I have trust and patience. When my dreams fade, I have grown into a believer that can turn to the Lord, express my sadness, and ask Him for peace and a new direction.

We once had a family friend who hoped and dreamed for something that sounds pretty simple: a loving family. Sadly, her husband strayed from their marriage, and her children became distant, too. Her dream was shattered and she couldn’t fix it — she had to watch it slip away.

Then, she became a Christian. As sad as her family situation was, she learned that she could only do her best every day and that God loved her completely, He knew her situation, and she could find rest in His mercy and grace. She centered her thoughts on Him and was able to focus on the parts of her life that were working — her job, her friends, and her church community. The change in her attitude amazed everyone, and she became a living testimony to the fact that God’s love is the most important love in life.

Jeremiah 29:11 always reminds me of this dear friend: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Others Still Love You if You Never “Make It” — God Sure Does

While your dream is precious to you, remember that your dream doesn’t define you. Bitterness is a common feeling as we see doors close, and it helps to remind ourselves that we are so much more than our dreams — we are children of the Most-High God, who does not base His love on our accomplishments, but instead on our spirit, our eternal soul that was created by Him. God loves us when we are failing and broken — always remember that. And when you have God’s love and mercy, you are indeed blessed. Bitterness can recede when we remember God’s persistent, intimate love for us in good times and in bad. Jeremiah 31:3 is a reminder of His love: “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’”

It helps to remember, too, that others in your life love you because you’re you — and not because you are a “success” as defined by the world. I used to keep disappointment tightly bottled up in my heart, and through the years I have found great release if I express my grief at the loss of a dream to God, and to others who care about me. Often, they will surprise me with their take on my situation, seeing possibilities and accomplishments that I had never noticed.

I remember inviting my dad to a track and field day when I was in elementary school — I was just certain I was going to win the 50-yard dash. I had practiced my sprinting every night, and it seemed written in the stars that I would win the race. I dreamed of his proud expression as I crossed the finish line, and was so proud that he was taking time off from his busy job to see me win.

Well, as you can guess, I not only didn’t win, I came in almost dead last. That little dream of winning the race in front of my father died in a few seconds, and I can still feel the pain, embarrassment, and disappointment as others sailed by me. But who was waiting for me with open arms? My dad. And guess what he said: “I am so, so proud of you. You have really learned how to dedicate yourself to a goal, and you can use that your whole life long.” My dad highlighted my accomplishment, not my failure. That’s what love does.

Something More Wonderful Is Just Around the Corner!

As we grieve our dream, it is helpful to remember that we cannot know the future — we just can’t know the plans God has for us! Like a loving parent that sometimes must say “no” for a child’s good, God is allowing that door to close. God is all-powerful, so if He wanted that dream for you, it would happen. But since it isn’t happening, God is planning something different — something that truly fulfills your destiny, and perhaps others’ destiny, too. Think of all the loving couples devastated by infertility that go on to adopt a child. God knows that not only is that couple fulfilled, but a child is, too. We can even celebrate closed doors once we have grieved our lost dreams because God is showing His loving care for us with a hedge of protection; He is active in our lives! We must give thanks for this.

Here’s a hopeful thought — is that dream really dead? Perhaps God is allowing it to percolate a little longer and will allow it in the future, in His perfect timing. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” We cannot see our future as God sees it, but if we trust in Him and put our love for Him before our own earthly dreams — no matter how precious they are — God will take the clay of our longings, plans, dreams, and hopes, and in His love create a beautiful masterpiece out of our lives. Remember, He sent His own beloved son to walk amongst us, experiencing emotions like sadness and loss. Who better to both understand your grief — and help you move past it!

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Casper1774Studio

deirdre reilly author headshot bio photoDeirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.