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What to Do When Your Dreams Don’t Happen

What to Do When Your Dreams Don’t Happen

When I was 9 years old, I dreamed of being an Olympic figure skater just like Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan. In awe, I watched them on the old TV screen in my childhood living room. And I believed with all my heart that I could do that too.

As a little girl I would place cassette tapes in my karaoke machine and sing into the attached microphone, proudly recording original songs—lyrics scribbled in scented milky pens in my journal. I dreamed of being a Christian pop star. And I believed with all my heart that I could be one.

I began performing at a very young age. I won scholarships. And I went to school to become an actress. Broadway was the dream. And I believed with all my heart that I could be on a Broadway stage one day.

I’ve had many dreams.

Some dreams faded quickly. Like being an ice skater. Some dreams, the Lord asked me to walk away from. Like being an actress.

Some dreams, I’ve had to learn to grieve.

More than any other dream, I’ve always dreamed of marriage. I’ve always dreamed of being a wife. I’ve always dreamed of being a mom.

I do not know if I will ever marry. I hope I will. But the Lord has never promised marriage. That is a hard pill to swallow.

But even if I marry one day, I realized recently, that there are still dreams that I must grieve.

Never would I have ever imagined that I would be single at 28. Ever.

I will never be the 24-year-old bride. I will never be the 28-year-old holding her newborn in her arms.

That isn’t my story. And that was my dream.

There is the life we thought we would have. There is the life we dreamed we would have. And there is the life we have.

Perhaps the life you dreamed you would have and the life you do have align. Or perhaps your life is “more than what you dreamed.”

But perhaps, like me, your life is not at all what you dreamed it would be. Maybe your life has been marked by suffering. Perhaps you have lost a loved one unexpectedly. Perhaps you have struggled to find financial stability, or the job you have is not what you want. Maybe you received a frightening diagnosis or are enduring life with a chronic illness. Perhaps you are weeping through infertility, a struggling marriage, depression, anxiety, an aging parent or various broken relationships. Perhaps nothing is going as you always dreamed it would.

John Piper writes:

Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.


Weep. Grieve. Grieve what is not and will never be. Grieve the losses.

Then trust.

Trust God for a new dream.

Elisabeth Elliot writes:

My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.” The Lord was answering, “I must teach you to long for something better.”


There are dreams that create a deep longing within me. There is nothing wrong with these dreams. There is nothing wrong with my desire to be married. I believe that God created us to long for marriage and be married. Like Elisabeth Elliot, I have prayed for God to give me what my heart longs for or to take away my longing because it hurts too much. Hope deferred indeed makes the heart sick.

But He graciously reminds me that He must teach me to long for something better—to long for someone better. To long for Him.

To long for a new dream.

To allow Him to teach you to find your greatest dream fulfilled in Him.

The famous Philippians 4:13 is often quoted wildly out of context. Paul writes, beginning in verse 11, “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul is writing about contentment. And notice a word used in verse 11 and again in verse 12: learned.

Contentment is learned. And like most things that do not come naturally and we have to learn, contentment is hard. Finding contentment in whatever circumstance is learned. And I would argue that it’s something that, through discipline, must be continually learned every day for the rest of our lives. And gracious contentment is something that is empowered by the strength supplied by Christ. And true contentment is ultimately only found in Christ.

Through Christ who strengthens, we can grieve our dreams. We can grieve our losses. Trusting all the while in His unchanging character.

And through Christ who strengthens, we can take hold of a new dream.

He is the greatest dream. The dream that will not end. The dream that will not fail. The dream that will not abandon or betray. The dream that will satisfy. The dream that heals. The dream that mends what is broken in us.

So occasionally grieve your dreams.

And by God’s grace, take hold of His hand.

And by His grace and through His strength, find in Him a new dream.

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