The Death of a Dream

By Ruth Johnson

“When you walk through the Valley of Weeping
it will become a place of refreshing springs where
pools of blessing collect after the rains.”
Psalm 84:6 NLT

Old directions and dreams must often die in that Valley of Weeping before God can bring us into the Promised Land He has for us. The Word refers to this spiritual principle:

“He brought us out from there in order to
bring us in, to give us the land which
He had sworn to our fathers.”
Deuteronomy 6:23 NASB

Only when we yield to the “bringing out” can God then “bring us in.”

While the old is ending, the Father doesn’t always let us know what the new thing is going to be. He does this so that our trust in Him is stretched and tested.

Then in His eternally planned timing, He reveals the details of where He is leading us. This process involves transition and change, both of which are natural for us to heartily resist. The familiar is so much more comfortable that we may be tempted to cling to it, even if it isn’t God’s best for us.

When we struggle with letting go of the old, the Spirit of the Lord nudges us toward entering into the new. The following quote captures that wind of change when it blows across our life:

“Every now and then into a life come whisperings that old riverbeds, as deep and natural as they may seem, are not necessarily the best riverbeds. Sometimes the flow must change direction for the sake of the future. The current must be reversed and redirected.” Author Unknown

During the times when the flow of our life must change direction, the Lord is that still, small voice saying to us:

“Forget all that. It is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do a brand new thing.
See, I’ve already begun.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

It is encouraging that no matter how wonderful the place we are leaving behind happens to be, the place where God wants to take us is always a better place. It is where His plans for our future can thrive.

If we resist change and decide to stay in the old place, it will become one of barrenness and lack. Just like the Israelites, we must follow the Lord’s cloud of glory by day and His pillar of fire by night. When He wants to take us in a different direction, we must move with Him. Then there is nothing that can stop us from fulfilling His destined purpose for our lives.

This is another favorite quote of mine. It inspires me every time I read it, even as it challenges me to let go and move on to where the Spirit of the Lord is trying to take me:

“While change always takes something from us, it can also bring us something. There’s much to be gained from the sometimes uninvited and almost unsettling realities of losing, leaving and letting go.

If we approach change with great expectations for what God has in mind, it is an unparalleled opportunity for growth. It can knock out manmade boundaries, throw open new doors of possibility, broaden horizons, introduce new relationships and occasionally take our breath away.

When change breaks into the status quo of our life, things happen. We connect with fresh emotions, take a personal inventory of our abilities and talents, reassess our direction, re-forge our commitments and make important choices.

The brisk breeze of change can be invigorating. It can blow away spiritual cobwebs and clear the stage of our life for the upward call of better things.” Author Unknown

The year of 1999 was one of those unsettling seasons of change for me.

God brought me out of a place where I wanted to stay so that He could bring me into a better place. His glory cloud moved on and I had to move on with Him, no matter how heartbreaking a transition it proved to be.

I struggled with despair as I watched my dream to serve the Lord die. In the midst of my grief, God didn’t let me see the glory that was just ahead. He didn’t spare me the agony of walking through the Valley of Shattered Dreams.

He knew that in this painful wilderness, with no hope in sight, He could form His character in me.

All that I thought God had planned for me had to die in that valley. Those plans had become monumentally important to me and now I had to lay them down and walk away. I actually had to come to a place where I could tell the Lord:

“Even if I never get to live the dream that You birthed in my heart as a young child,
I will love You. I will serve You. I will do whatever You ask me to do.”

It would sound a whole lot more spiritual if I told you I made this declaration with joy. But that wasn’t the case.

The truth is I made it with an utterly broken heart, through a torrent of tears that lasted for weeks and with a grief that at times I didn’t think I could handle. During this season of loss, the Lord “refined me in the furnace of suffering” (Isaiah 48:10 NLT). He humbled and tested me so that the true intentions of my heart could be exposed and purified.

In time, God healed my brokenness. He loved me back to health and I found myself once again facing each new day with His marvelous joy.

Since that season of the death of a highly cherished dream, God has opened wide the doors. He brought me into the Promised Land that He gives to those who will cooperate with His “bringing out that He may bring them in.” He kept this promise to me:

“I will bring you in and plant you
in the mountain of your inheritance.”
Exodus 15:17 NASB

To my amazement, in this new place the Father gave me back my dream.

Yet it’s so different. Many of the ways that were part of my past thinking are now gone and I can never go back and resurrect them. They were all about me, my ministry and my gifts being used. This self-centered thinking has no place in the life I am now living completely for Him.

There is also a keen awareness that this dream has been given back to me at a great cost because the Lord is the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:46 NASB). With this realization I found myself more committed than I have ever been to guard its purity as a sacred trust.

Often I was in awe as I watched this unfold. In addition to a ministry in the Northwest, the Lord sent my husband, Barry, and I to the nations. Both of us finally faced each day with an abiding sense that God had brought us into what our lives were all about. When all of this began to take place, I was deeply grateful that the Father didn’t give up on me in that valley where I couldn’t even hope.

I am also thankful that throughout the crushing season of change and transition, the Lord never communicated that He was disappointed in me, even though there was many a day when I faltered and “grew weary in doing good.”

I never felt Him scolding me or getting upset with me. The Father always just let me know that He understood why I felt such anguish in my soul. He understood because He is the one who told us, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick” (Proverbs 13:12 NASB). In my devastating loss and grief, He never withdrew from me, even though there were times when I shut down on Him under the weight of my despair. All I can recall God ever doing during the painful season in that valley was be kind to me. With tender compassion, He did whatever He could to love me back to life.

Then came the unforgettable moment when I realized I could once again believe Him when He said to me, “I will rebuild you and you will be happy again” (Jeremiah 31:4 NLT).

If you are in the valley where your dreams and hopes have died, my heart goes out to you. More importantly, the Father is extending His compassionate kindness toward you, just as He did for me. In that painful place of sometimes overwhelming loss, He is saying to you:

“I am concerned for you and I will come to help you. You will pass safely through this sea of your distress because I will hold back the waves of that sea for you. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.

I have not ignored your suffering. I have not turned and walked away. I’ve listened to your cries for help because I care about the anguish of your soul. I made your heart so I understand exactly how you are feeling. So be encouraged. When doubts fill your mind, I will comfort you because My comfort will give you renewed hope.”

Ezekiel 36:9 NLT
Zechariah 10:11 NLT
Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT
Psalm 22:24 NLT
Psalm 31:7 NLT
Psalm 33:15 NLT
Psalm 94:19 NLT