I remember a 80s commercial that often ran on TV when I was growing up. The catchy tag line was, “No one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’” The premise of the commercial was broken dreams from broken lives ruined by drug addiction. I think we often think of ruined lives in these types of extremes, but in reality, many people (who live “normal” lives) feel deeply underwhelmed about the position they find themselves in. They just never would have dreamed that they would have ended up where they have.
We live in a culture that personifies “success” as many things, and most are completely vain. Most kids, at early ages, are taught to “live their dreams,” or they are taught that they are special and that they were meant for some great undertaking that only they can accomplish. Then, when real life hits, and they don’t accomplish what they imagined, depression begins to set in, along with a sincere loss of purpose. They just end up feeling lost, like a piece of driftwood tossed back and forth by the ocean’s waves.
What is far more troubling is that American culture has slowly, but surely, seeped into the Church. You hear many, many preachers appealing to unsaved sinners to come to Christ because He, “has a wonderful plan” for their lives. Their motivation for seeking salvation isn’t their present condition of filthiness in light of a holy God but, rather, they seek Christ as a means to their own end. Essentially, Jesus is good because Jesus will make my dreams come true. The underlying principle for their conversion has nothing to do with the humiliation of repentance, and everything to do with their own narcissistic passions and desires. In every Biblical sense, they are clinging to Christ so that they can maintain the essence of everything He hates: a selfish, arrogant, desire-driven, ambitious love for this world and what it offers. So, when their dreams and their plans fall apart, what do you think happens?
I remember someone I worked with in a church, which I was a staff member of, asking me where the abundant life was that he was promised. This individual seemed to have the preconceived notion that following Christ meant possessing a life of ease and prosperity. He associated the Christian walk and God’s favor as having wealth, position, and comfort, and when he didn’t receive those things he was left bewildered at the broken promises he believed he was given. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.
This is even further perpetuated with a world manipulated by social media. Social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, nurture the illusions that people make daily for others, and maybe themselves. We see that post about that person’s awesome job, family, kid, car, house, business, and whatever else, and we become envious and unsettled. It compels us to feel a magnificent amount of malcontent and ungratefulness. We see that person with their seemingly perfect life (the life we always wanted), and suddenly the gravity of our broken world crushes us into the dust.
The truth is, we all deal with unfulfilled hopes and broken dreams. We all have gaps in our lives that might never be filled. We all face things that don’t turn out the way that we anticipated. The question for us is, What do we do when our dreams don’t come true? What do we do when our lives end up in places we could never imagine? What happens when: My marriage didn’t turn out like I dreamed; or I never got the job I always wanted; or my child didn’t turn out the way I hoped; or I never could bear a child; or I never fulfilled that ministry vision; or God never answered my desperate prayer; or I never got what I know would fulfill me.
I think the Apostle Paul answers these questions for us with extreme clarity:
“…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 (Phil. 4:12-13).”
In other words, the Apostle Paul could face whatever life brought him – whether brokenness or prosperity – because He knew the all-satisfying Redeemer who provided the grace for him to walk through every trial or blessing of life with joy. This verse is often used for, again, self-serving interests that give people the idea that Christ will provide the power for me to accomplish whatever I desire to do. This interpretation is far from the truth. Paul was not speaking of a God who exists to empower the fulfillment of our dreams, but of a God who is enough. He was enough for Paul in good or bad; in plenty or poverty; in mountains or valleys; or in beatings, shipwrecks, whippings, stonings, cursing or in acceptance and welcome. Christ was enough.
So when our dreams don’t come true, let me ask, is Christ enough? Is He enough when your marriage falls apart? Is He enough when your kids go wayward? Is He enough when you don’t make the amount of money you want or have the possessions you want? Is He enough when all your ministry dreams vanish into thin air? Is He enough when you fail Him again and again? Is He enough when everything you have ever hoped for or dreamed of never comes to pass? Is He enough?
If there is one thing that broken dreams have taught me (and I have many) it is to put my hope, trust, love, and desire in a faithful Savior who never fails or disappoints. His grace is sufficient for all things, and His glory, wonder, and saving power is far greater than anything I could have ever dreamed.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”