The Purpose of Dreaming: How to Hope

There’s a weird cultural trend happening right now called “manifestation.” It’s all about visualizing what you want to accomplish or what you want your life to be and acting as if it were already true in order to bring it to life. 

You’re told to speak, think, dream, and journal about this future life and watch as it unfolds. One post I read said, “Everything that is occurring in your life right now can be directly traced back to thoughts, feelings or beliefs you (consciously or unconsciously) practiced in the past. “

I can see why this is trendy. It’s exciting to think about accomplishing your goals and people love to be told to dream big and shoot for the stars. But it’s also terrible advice and I hate it. So I thought we’d talk about that today.

I’m in dreamer mode big time right now. Steven and I are talking seriously about whether or not we should move and if so, to where. (Welcoming all suggestions.) And that leads me to dream about a new and different life. One with more space and a real kitchen (!!!) that’s maybe closer to my family and doesn’t have such bad winters. 

But I’m also dreaming about my career and what I want to do long-term. I’ve got a few ideas buzzing around that feel big and scary. But the good kind of scary. The kind that’s exciting and daydream-inducing. 

And of course I always dream about being a writer. No matter how impossible I know that reality to be. 

As I write this, I’m aware of how vulnerable it is to talk about your dreams. I wrote last week about writing for communion over content and set a goal for this year to be more earnest and forthright with my feelings. But even still, it’s hard to admit these things to anyone. I immediately feel foolish. Fearing that none of them will come true and I will look stupid or that people will read this and roll their eyes. (Please don’t, I’m soft.)

So I can understand the thrill that must come from owning your dreams and not feeling sheepish about them. I can see how empowering it must be to “manifest” your future and believe that it will come true.

But that’s not how it works.

I mean, I hope not. The only thing scarier than being vulnerable on the internet is the belief that everything in my life can be “directly traced back to thoughts, feelings, or beliefs consciously or unconsciously practiced in the past.” I am a sinner who struggles with depression. Do you have any idea how bleak my future would look if my thoughts could control it?

I don’t meant to oversimplify this. I do believe in the power of positive thinking and agree that there can be some benefit to thinking about your long term goals to better set the short term goals that will support them.

But I want to understand the true purpose and place for dreaming. 

I want to find the middle ground between manifestation and those weak prayers I’m guilty of where everything is caveated by “if you will” instead of characterized by hopeful expectation of what God can do. 

How do we pray for what we want if we don’t know that the answer is yes? How do we hope for the future without putting all the hope in ourselves (our thoughts, feelings, or beliefs consciously or unconsciously practiced in the past)? 

And what do we do with all this want while we wait for God to answer? 

Someone wiser than me could / should / probably already did write a whole book on this topic. And as someone in the thick of the questions I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer. But I wrote this post and it needs an ending so I’ll do my best.

We are most to be pitied if we have our hope only in ourselves and what we think and feel. There is maybe nothing more dangerous than resting all your happiness in your own ability to achieve. We are all sinners. We all make mistakes. We all fall short. All the time.

And there is danger, too, in placing our hope in future circumstances. No home or hobby or husband will satisfy our souls. It isn’t wrong to want them. It just can’t be the thing we think will fill the void in our hearts. 

So we have to look beyond our selves and our circumstances to the true source of hope and know that He’s enough. That if all our plans fail and our dreams disappoint and our goals are never realized, we are still wholly loved and held by a good and gracious God.

He knows our hearts and our desires. He sees our every longing and is present in each moment it is felt. He hears our prayers and petitions for change. And He welcomes us in as we bring them to His feet.

And as He answers – in every yes and no and not yet – He asks us to trust that His answer is far better than anything we could think up or hope for and dream about. 

His grace and glory is the only thing our lives will be “directly traced back to.” 

And that alone should be our hope.

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