I’ve always been one with a lot of dreams—everything from changing the world for Jesus, to traveling the globe, to the million-and-one projects I’d love to do, to deeper things like wanting to be loved, secure, and fulfilled. I’d love to have it all in the idealistic world of Michelle.
But maybe you, like me, have realized that not all of our dreams come true in this life. Maybe it’s the career you’ll never have due to an injury. Maybe it’s the future that’s not to be due to the death of a loved one. Maybe it’s the romance that ended in spite of the bright hope it seemed to hold. Maybe it’s the poor choices you’ve made, and now you’re paying the price. Maybe it’s just realizing that God’s plans for you are different from the ones you had in mind.
Whatever the case, the death of a dream isn’t easy. It can be anywhere from slightly disappointing to earth-shatteringly devastating. It’s hard to keep faith in the face of it. It’s hard to trust when I can’t understand what in the world God is doing.
Sometimes there’s a sacrifice. And sacrifice isn’t an easy word. It makes me think of the patriarch Abraham, trekking up the mountain with his only son and a bundle of wood. God had promised him a legacy—through Isaac! And now that dream was about to die. Isaac was about to die! Why would God ask this?
Why does God seem to ask us to lay even good dreams on the altar at times? Here are my ponderings.
TO TEST US:
“Michelle, maybe God just wants you to be willing.” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was sick of where I was and what I was doing. I didn’t see how it was good for me. I wanted out. I felt like I needed out! Yet here was my mentor, telling me to be willing? It was a sacrifice I didn’t want to make.
Maybe you’ve been there. The circumstances don’t make sense. It goes against everything you want. And God says, “Are you willing?” In the instance above, the Lord finally did bring me to the point of being willing. And interestingly, He then provided a way out. I didn’t end up having to go through with it. The doors opened, and the exit came. And I took it—but actually with a lot more thought and prayer than I dreamed I would.
Looking back, I realize that sometimes God tests us this way. At the last minute He steps in and holds back the knife as with Abraham and Isaac, but He’s asking for our trust first. Am I willing?
TO “ALTER” OUR PLANS FOR SOMETHING BETTER:
As I was studying about laying things on the “altar,” I at first had trouble finding what I was looking for due to what I thought were my superlative spelling skills. Yup, there’s a difference between “altar” and “alter.” The latter means to adjust something, make it different, or, according to Google, “to change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way.”
It struck me that sometimes God may ask us to put our dreams on the “altar” because He’s about to “alter” them. Maybe God’s about to take your plastic pearls and give you real ones. Maybe His ways are higher— He wants to do more than we ever dreamed—but He can’t do it until we let go of the inferior dreams we cling to. As C.S. Lewis said in his sermon “The Weight of Glory”:
“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (“The Weight of Glory,” available online, emphasis supplied).
Or, to put it another way: “We are never called upon to make a real sacrifice for God. . . . Even when called upon to surrender those things which in themselves are good, we may be sure that God is thus working out for us some higher good” (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 473, 474).
The tricky part is that in the process, we can’t always see that! They may say that when God closes a door, He opens a window, but at the moment the door closes, nothing else may be visible. I don’t see what the finished alteration will look like. So again, I am challenged to trust.
TO RESURRECT WHAT WE LAID DOWN:
Have you ever stopped to think, What if Abraham had actually killed Isaac? We don’t necessarily think about it because we already know the end of the story. But to Abraham, this was for real. He was killing his son. So how could he still trust God’s promise as he was in the act of killing it? How could God’s word be fulfilled like this?
While teaching the Sabbath School lesson, a friend of mine made a statement I’m still pondering: “Faith equals friendship.” Hmm . . .
James 2:23 says that “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (NKJV). Abraham had such a friendship with God that, somehow, he trusted the goodness of his friend, even in the face of a complete loss that made no sense. How? Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac . . . of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (NKJV). Abraham’s friendship with God was so deep that he believed his God would still keep the promise—even if it took raising the dead, something that up to this point in world history had never happened.
So here’s the question for me to ask: Do I trust God like that? Do I trust His Word like that?
Sure, I can accept that God may test me to
see if I’m willing to sacrifice dreams, but
in the end, He’ll either not make me go
through with it or He’ll provide something
better, right? I can handle those options.
But what about when dreams really die?
When no hand stops the knife, and no
alternate door or window seems to open?
Will I trust Him then? Abraham did. He
trusted because he knew the power of
his Friend. He believed that even out of
the ashes of destroyed dreams, God could
Personally, I feel as if I’ve had to lay some dreams on the altar recently, and I can’t say I’ve done it entirely with the heart of Abraham. In fact, I feel I should be writing this later—when I have a wonderful success story to report! Instead, I sit here today staring at some lifeless dreams, wondering what happens next.
Maybe you can relate. But this is faith: when things aren’t seen, yet we believe anyway. It’s when we trust that He will yet do something. It’s trusting that—whether we sacrificed the dreams at His request or through our own mistakes and failings—He is still able.
He will still fulfill His Word. He can still bring life out of death. And someday I will write the rest of this testimony. But today, I must trust the Resurrector of dreams. Lord, help me be Your friend.