Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
Last week I outlined the meaning of this powerful proverb. This week I lay out two practical steps you can take to recover from broken dreams.
Step One: Be honest and embrace sadness.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Since you are not a robot and you have a heart; expect it to hurt when dreams are broken. You are no different from anybody else. Don’t equate bravery to denial of real pain. It requires courage to admit, even to yourself, your hurt. Denial causes unnecessary damage — like running on a fractured bone, it aggravates the injury and prolongs the recovery. Healing requires admitting your hurt and then addressing the pain.
Tears reflect an honest assessment of what has been lost. We try to hold back tears because we believe they make us weak. But the truth is tears have a power — they cleanse away false shame, release unresolved anger, and (when shed before God or in community) open us to outside support. Inside Out, the Summer 2015 blockbuster, illustrates the redeeming power of sadness very effectively.
Creating space to be honest about pain, and grieving broken dreams is necessary to a healthy recovery. Journal, pray, talk it out with a friend/family member or consider meeting with a qualified counselor. Real sadness (not self-pity nor self-loathing) can open a door for healing.
Step Two: Be courageous and embrace a new dream.
“A desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” When dreams come true it feels like we are back in the Garden of Eden, where the “tree of life” stood. Life is as it should be — vibrant and full.
But, broken dreams make you feel like life will never be full again. Heartsickness makes everything look dim and gray. Feelings of alienation set in as everyone else goes about their normal business while your world falls apart. Feeling lost, afraid and disoriented — it’s difficult to process even simple decisions.
Like someone lost at sea, you must keep your head about you. Of course you thirst for relief. But cynicism is salt water. You must not partake. Courage will require you to embrace a new dream — that somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, all things can be renewed.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the prime example that God works through broken dreams to establish new and better dreams. As the promised Messiah, people expected Jesus to throw off the Roman yolk and restore Israel’s national sovereignty. The disciples devoted years of their lives to see patriotic dreams fulfilled in their day. Any reasonable person present at Calvary knew the disciples’ political ambitions were irreparably broken. The Romans were experts at crushing the dreams of anyone who threatened them. They’d done it thousands of times before. None of the disciples, except John, had the fortitude to stay and watch Jesus die on the cross. They all scattered — feeling lost, afraid, disoriented and disillusioned by a failed revolution.
But the revolution was not over, only transformed. Unimaginable things were about to happen. The disciples’ broken dream of political freedom was remade into a new and better dream of total freedom — not merely from a temporary enemy (Rome) but from eternal enemies (sin, death, and Satan). For the new dream to be realized, the old dream had to be broken — it was simply too small.
When recovering from a broken dream, we doubt God’s goodness. It’s devastating when God allows our dreams, especially the really good ones, to be put to death. However, God is not finished. He is working, even now, to recover broken dreams. He uses the broken pieces, to make something new and beautiful — just as He’s done through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Embracing new dreams takes courage. Don’t give up like Judas did. He failed to see Jesus’ better dream simply because he surrendered to cynicism and despair before the dream had a chance to become reality. It doesn’t require great faith to see God’s better dream come to fruition. It simply requires the courage to stick in there and wait for it… and then get on board!