Last week I received the news that a book I’d co-authored was being put on an inventory reduction by the publisher. Back when the book was just an idea, my mind went wild with its potential, all it could become — the people it could help. Now just like that, any hope I’d had about the book catching on and changing the world was dashed.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with a job, a ministry, a start-up or a creative venture. You imagine your dream taking off, but instead it fizzles. Your business folds. Your ministry doesn’t get traction. A relationship doesn’t survive. Instead of becoming a bestseller, your book sits in boxes in the garage.
Experiencing the end of a dream can be painful, particularly if you felt it was a God-given dream. Here are four ways to recalibrate.
1. Give your failed dream to God.
The Lord already knows all about your disappointment. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV). This year in particular, many dreams died. College basketball players didn’t get to compete in March Madness. Couples couldn’t hold their long-awaited dream weddings. Graduates didn’t get to walk across a stage to receive their diplomas. Business owners lost their businesses. In the midst of broken dreams, God invites us to give our disappointment to Him.
2. Grieve the loss.
Before I met my husband, I went through a disappointing breakup that seemed to dismantle my plans for the future. Though I knew we had made the right decision, I felt sadness over the loss. The Bible says there is a time to weep. When a dream dissipates, grief is a natural response. It’s OK to mourn what is lost before moving forward. The good news is, God promises to be with us in our sadness and grief. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
3. Accept that God has a different plan.
When I was 16, I really wanted to play the part of Liesl in a community production of “The Sound of Music.” (I know, theater nerd.) Based on my audition and callback, I thought I had a good chance of getting the part. I can still remember the sickening disappointment I felt when I learned I’d been cast as part of the ensemble.
A verse that comforted me was Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I’ve experienced disappointment over and over again in my life. When what I hoped for doesn’t happen, I can rest assured that God still has a plan. In fact, I’ve often looked back and realized God’s plan was a lot better than what I wanted.
4. Allow God to stir new dreams in your heart.
Our God is all about making things new. In Isaiah 43:19, He says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” When dreams die, our Lord God stands by to create beauty and new life in the place of destruction. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom once said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Each time I let go of a dream, I create space for God to give me new ones.
It hurts watching a dream come to an end. But as believers we have access to hope. Romans 15:13 has been especially meaningful to me this year: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” When my plans fall through, that’s exactly where I want to be — abounding in hope.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.