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Living With Broken Dreams

Taking my iPod for a walk the other morning after dropping the kids off at school, this great old song came on:

For one so young at the time, it was such a mature song, and I began to think about the disappointments that crush our dreams:

  • You dreamed of a long and happy retirement, but your spouse was struck down by a terminal cancer
  • You thought your work was going to change the world, but instead you clung on for retirement
  • Your children’s choices in adulthood broke your heart
  • You longed for children, but none came along
  • You expected to marry, but either the right person never came along, or they did and they were a disappointment, or they left you for someone else
  • You wanted to be a church leader, but the church didn’t share your conviction
  • Your heart ached for reconciliation with your family after those dark early years, but it never came and the parent who so let you down died before it could be resolved

Parents, teachers and church leaders all encourage children, teenagers and young converts to dream big dreams. “You can change the world!” Years later, many of those former young people are sat among the shards of shattered hopes. We could live differently.

We could sing the cynical words of ‘Always look on the  bright side of life’, – you know, ‘Life’s a pice of sh*t when you look at it’ – as the best an atheist, nihilist world can offer.

But I can’t accept that. Wouldn’t it be better to live with that Christian balance of Cross and Resurrection? The disciples thought their dreams had been destroyed at Calvary. ‘We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel,’ said one on the Emmaus Road. The discovery of an empty tomb and witnessing the One who blessed and broke bread changed everything.

A sermon I preached about three years ago and which you can find here on this blog was built on some personal experience of walking through such dashed dreams and darkened hopes. It was based on the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s great chapter about the Resurrection. His conclusion is not to sit tight and look forward to heaven, but to keep on striving, because ‘in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’ The God who will make all things new – even new heavens and a new earth – will make something good out of broken dreams.

Perhaps we can therefore encourage young people to dream differently. Dream on; dream about God’s kingdom purposes, which cannot be thwarted, even if he takes us on a detour to get there.