5 Myths About Shattered Dreams

shattered-dreamsMonday, I posted my review of Pete Wilson’s new book Plan B.  The book addresses the questions…

  • What do you do when your dreams are shattered?
  • What do you do when your life isn’t turning out the way you thought?

Chances are you’ve had at least one dream shattered.  It happens to all of us.  Have you ever had someone close to you die?  Faced a health crisis?  Been fired from a job?  Found yourself in jail?  Had the marriage you thought would last a life time come to a heart-breaking end?  Then you know what I’m talking about.

Usually, when our dreams have been shattered, we cry out with one big question…


That’s because we assume that things in life are supposed to work out.  That’s especially true if you work hard, are nice to people, treat people fairly, and try to follow God.

Unfortunately, in our quest to make sense of our shattered dreams we often deceive ourselves with mythical explanations.  I thought it would be worth looking at 5 misconceptions people often have about shattered dreams.

5 Myths about Shattered Dreams

1) God is mad at me. Sometimes we believe that because we’ve done some things that were wrong in our past that God hates us.  He has shattered our dreams because he is mad at us.  This just is not true.  God loves you.  We’ve all done things that are wrong, and he wants to forgive us.  If Jesus could have mercy on the woman caught in an affair, the thief on the cross, and the very people who crucified him, he is not going to hold a grudge against you.

2) God has abandoned me. When our dream has been shattered it’s very easy to feel like God has abandoned us.  But the bible tells us otherwise.  “I will never  leave you, nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.“ Romans 8:39  Sometimes this can be difficult to do, but it’s important to choose to believe the truth of the Bible rather than our feelings.

3) I mis-heard God’s leading. Sometimes when we fail at something, we start to second guess whether we should have been pursuing it in the first place. When a new business goes bankrupt we may wonder whether God really was leading us to start it.  When a ministry fizzles out, we may question whether it was really God who led us to start it.  Certainly when our plans blow up there is a place for reflecting on our motivations.  And I think if we’re honest, most of us would admit that some of our dreams have been motivated by self-interest.

However, just because God calls us to do something doesn’t mean it will turn out the way we envisioned it.  And to turn it around, just because something didn’t turn out the way we envisioned it, doesn’t mean God didn’t lead us to that place. God called Moses out of Egypt but he ended up in the desert for decades.  God called Paul to preach the gospel all over the Mediterranean, but he was frequently beaten and thrown out of town.  And in the ultimate example, God called Jesus to return to Jerusalem where he was arrested, beaten, and killed.  They didn’t mis-hear God’s leading.

4) I let God down. Similar to #3, sometimes when an effort appears to fail and a dream dies we blame ourselves for the outcome.  God gave us the dream, so we assume God must have wanted the outcome we envisioned.  And if God was working towards that outcome, it must have been something we did (or didn’t do) that messed things up.

Well, we certainly are good at messing things up, so we shouldn’t completely overlook this possibility.  It is appropriate to look back and see if there was something we should have done differently.  But if you did things with honesty and integrity, worked hard, and make the best decisions you could, then you did all you could.   I think sometimes we assume we have a lot more control than we really do.  If God really wanted the outcome you had in mind, he could have made it happen.  He works around our short-comings and limited perspective all the time.

5) There’s a reason for everything (that we can know). When dreams are shattered the cliché thing to say is, “I believe there’s a reason for everything.”  There’s a lot of truth in that.  God is certainly at work in our shattered dreams.  Romans 8:28 says “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Where I think we sometimes get off track is in trying to figure out God’s reasons for everything that happens.  We certainly should pray and seek to understand what God might be doing, but the truth is we may not be able to see what God was doing for many years.  And with some situations, we just won’t know the reason this side of heaven.  It’s important to accept that we won’t understand everything God is doing and  trust in his character – his love, his kindness, his faithfulness.  When we trust in his character, we choose to believe that God is up to something good even in the midst of our shattered dreams.

Have you ever found yourself believing one of these myths when it really wasn’t true?

25 Responses to “5 Myths About Shattered Dreams”

  1. Great blog post – must get that book and read it.

    I think like many of us, I have had to wrestle with the idea of failure at something – and what this means in my walk with God. It is automatic to assume that failure means that it is something that I have done wrong (1 of your 5 points above), and it is hard to accept any other reason. But, being an entrepreneur I have had to deal with this – because, although I am successful in business, I think I have more failures than successes – it is just that my successes far outweigh my failure.

    The best example is my current company:

    In 2001 I worked for a really good friend of mine – selling thermal rooms (such as saunas). I had been working for him for over 5 years at the time and loved what I did. I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning. It was a dream job.

    One day my friend told me that he was selling the company and moving to a different country. My wife and I prayed about this – and we both felt God was saying that the company would be mine, and that he would give it to us.

    Although my friend is a Christian, I (obviously) didn’t tell him this as he needed to hear God for himself and not be manipulated by my. My wife and I just kept praying about it and keeping it before the Lord.

    There were several buyers interested in the company – so I approached a bank to see if I could borrow enough money to buy it. The business was so good that they were willing to lend me £3/4m (over $1m at the time) to buy it, without any real security.

    It wasn’t enough though, and my friend sold to someone else. God’s promise to me seemed to be falling away quickly and there was nothing more I could do about it. What made matters much worse was that the company was sold to someone that I really didn’t get on with – so in early 2002 I left – with many tears.

    It was an horrendous time. God’s promise to me was that the company would be mine. The reality was that It was somebody else’s and I didn’t even work at the company any longer.

    But sometimes, we can’t see the wood-for-the-trees and I couldn’t see the end. I knew what God has said. So I kept praying.

    The company was built by importing a German product and selling it in the UK. 5 years after the company was sold, the German company approached me and asked me if I wanted to get back involved. The guy who had purchased the UK company wasn’t doing so well it seemed.

    So 4 years ago, I took control again.

    I got the company back. God’s promise was fulfilled.

    And I didn’t have to pay anything for it!

    I wonder about David sometimes. Called called him “king” long before he took the throne. It wasn’t an easy journey to the throne either. His story held a lot of hope for me. God gave me the company long before I physically had it. What seemed to be a failure turned out to be a God’s victory.

    In all of that struggle, I went through each of the five points – but specifically number 3- I often thought that I misheard God, especially when I was leaving. It was a constant battle to hold on to it. But I kept coming to a central truth “my sheep know my voice” – I knew that I had heard God, and I couldn’t judge that on my reality – but I had to believe that in-spite of my reality.

    • Matt, what a wonderful testimony you have to God’s faithfulness in your life. Two stories in scripture which Pete Wilson leans heavily into in Plan B are the stories of Joseph and David. God took them both on a long and windy road towards their eventual destination, and your story sounds quite similar.

  2. Great post Paul. I have definitely say “Yes” to everyone of thee myths at some point in my life. Looking back over the last five years or so, I can see that God has been systematically tearing down everyone of these in my life.

    My wife and I have walk through some pretty tough things, and to be honest, we are still in the middle of some pretty difficult circumstances. Having said that, I am more at peace now with the fact that God is doing something IN me, not TO me than I ever have been.

    I think that is why “Plan B” resonated so much with me. It really put into words, much of what has been going on in my head/heart for some time.

    • Kit, that’s awesome! I’m glad that you understand that what God is doing in you is more important than your circumstances. That’s huge. I really think “Plan B” is going to resonate with a lot of people because shattered dreams are so universal.

  3. Gonna have to add this to my must read list!

    I think it is foolish to be down on yourself when you fail at something or something doesn’t work out like you had hoped.

    Me personally I have gotten fired from a church, quit 3 jobs, and fired from another all within the past 3 years.. Did I say “God why did you lead me here and forsake me?!?! Oh whoa is me!!”

    NO.. and excuse me but HELL NO! God put all of those opportunities in my path for a reason and each one of them was the right move at that time. Everything happens for a reason and a crappy job or relationship you have now could lead to a contact or conversation later that changes your life.

    I know for me that is completely true in ever situation. I don’t question anything anymore. I used to and I was way stressed out.. Just go with the flow, ride the waves and do what your heart is telling you.

    • Scott, you’ve got a great attitude and perspective (though I’m not quite sure what to make of the 5 jobs in 3 years). I wouldn’t say someone who’s down on themself is foolish, though. All of these myths are quite rational if you don’t know God very well or if you take your eyes off of him.

  4. Haha.. man I’ve had more jobs than I’ve had underwear! I get bored too quickly or tick someone off! Because “I” can do it better!!! For proof of that go check out my official “About Me” section: http://guardraildamageahead.com/who-am-i/

    For me being down on yourself gets you nowhere. I’ve always been a pretty easy going guy and live pretty stress free.. Most things that would tip someone to the brinking point just cause me some tears..

    Last year for example my wife and I have another miscarriage in March, I get fired a week later, my grandma dies in late April and my Mom dies May 15th. And I took a job with a horrible boss that made many physical threats against me. Was I stressed? sure I probably put on 20lbs during all of it, but I didn’t question God. I wanted to but was then reminded that He has allowed us free will and when we screw up we are to blame for those screwups, not HIM. Everything does happen for a reason.. And it’s our decision what that something is that happens..

  5. hmmm, I sometimes get stuck at: God is not really interested in my dreams

  6. Another great post. I have personally had to wrestle through a lot of these myths in my heart as I’ve walked through my personal “Plan B” situations. I like when Pete discusses in the book that we make a crucial mistake when we assume God must think and feel as we do. Whether the bottom is falling out of life or we are in a time of great success, we tend to project onto God our view and interpretation of our situation, and expect him to act according to how we would. Big mistake that sets us up for disappointment every time.

  7. Great post Paul. I love these myths!!

    • Pete, thanks for taking the time to stop by, read the post, and comment. More than that, though, thanks for the time and effort you put into writing Plan B. I think the book will help a lot of people, and I imagine God could do a lot through churches that might base a sermon series on Plan B.

  8. Hey Paul,

    Great post. Plan B…..

    Have you read God of the Possible?

  9. because it sounds like you have some similar themes as him. Which is a compliment?

  10. hate to go theological on you, but… I wonder if any dreams shattered the day the put Jesus on the cross?

    One of my favorite quotes is from the book A Road Less Traveled – “life is hard”

    I believe that how we engage and think about broken dreams have everything to do with how we continue on after them. Not easy, but possible. If we are not dreaming, we are not living. If our all of our dreams come true, we are living at Disney Land.

    Doesn’t mean we stop dreaming, it means we continue to dream. Gods dream is for His Kingdom to come to earth, and I don’t think that has come true yet? But the dream continues.

  11. While I don’t think God should be like a fair-god mother, Disney type, I do think that when certain dreams come true and they’re shattered, it’s hard. I’m not a name it and claim it person. I’m not someone who thinks God should give me everything I hope for but, having just had one of my personal dreams shatter and feeling most if the myths you mentioned, writing off dreams altogether in saying “God isnt a fairy-god mother” kind makes me feel a little stupid for ever even having that dream in my heart. Was I stupid for ever hoping? Am I naive for having made that dream a matter of prayer? I’m probably missing the whole point here and I’m definitely still raw with pain. I really did think The Lord spoke to me about the situation but I guess I was silly to ever had the dream. I know should be comforted by God being with me but…maybe there was no point in the dream ever.

    I’m sorry for sounding so crabby.

    • Hi Kies, I am really sorry that you’re dealing with the heartbreak of a shattered dream, and I appreciate you sharing your raw thoughts in a comment.

      I don’t have any easy answers. If I did, they would probably seem trite and cliche. All I know is that these times challenge our faith. They force us to decide which we love more – the dream or the Dream-Giver. Which will we hold on to, the dream or the One who may have given it to us.

      I pray that God will comfort you, Kies, and I hope you not try to work through this on your own but in a community of people who love you and God and can encourage you through this difficult time.

      • Thank you for your kind and speedy reply.

        Yes, the challenge has been asking myself which do I love more? What was shattered was attached to a dream I’ve held for 24 years. Just last September part of that dream came true and just as soon as it did, it was met with grief, depression, anguish, countless suicide attempts, a week long stay in the hospital and now a medical leave from school.

        It’s no doubt that my faith is being challenged. God has spoken to me throughout this time in ways I understood, or at least thought I understood. When I was passing judgement on the person involved in this dream, The Lord spoke through a random woman I met and basically let me know that I shouldn’t judge the person involved. When I was concerned about the time limit I had to see the person involved in this dream/hope, God let me know that He controls the time. That following week He told me to “Be still”. Now with the medical leave I’m forced to physically be still but I’m still worried.

        Though many of my friends know what’s been going on with me, I haven’t really engaged in my community group lately. I’m afraid to let people know about it because I don’t want them to give me a cliche Christian bandaid and stuff me full with scripture without even trying to hear me out and help me.

        I always had a feeling this would be God would challenge my faith in Him. Through all of this pain, I’m not sure how to respond to Him. Do I hate Him? Do I cling to Him? Do I accuse Him of being sadistic? Do I lose myself in “reckless abandon” in His love and just let everything fall to the wayside?? I guess I have to deny myself this dream but even if I do that, I don’t know how true I’d be.

        Thank you for your prayers and understanding.

  12. Hi Paul,good job!-just like kies I feel drained and even tho our God is not the one of Disneyland, am afraid that he is no longer interested in whom I am or what I do,neither in my dreams!am grieved for being the victim of the 5 myths and believe me I want to believe and trust in his character but am soo disappointed that every time I try to get close to him,I wakes up to a more heart breaking situation that leaves me wondering how comes every choice i make is wrong despite my requests for guidance .everything seems senseless!

    • Hi Rosa, I’m sorry to hear that. I can assure you that God loves you very much. He made you and has a plan for your life.

      >>how come every choice i make is wrong despite my requests for guidance

      There are a lot of possibilities. What do your close, Christian friends tell you when you talk to them about your decisions and heart breaking situations?

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