Yesterday another dream died. The church I planted in September 2016 closed its doors. It’s the second time a church I’ve planted has closed its doors. I know not many people can relate, but the only pain greater I’ve ever experienced is the loss of a loved one.
Like many dreams, this one spent a long time incubating (7 years) before it was realized. Then, in half the time it took to birth the dream, it died. Even though I stepped away from it 9 months ago, it is still hard to swallow.
Now, I know a lot of good things happened in that time frame. People were saved, baptized, and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. For many, it was their first time having a church family. But nobody plants a church thinking, “I’ll be so pumped if we can make it three years!” No, everyone who plants a church thinks it’s going to last forever.
Everyone who gets married thinks it’s going to last forever.
Everyone who tries to have a baby thinks they’ll get pregnant.
Everyone who gets pregnant thinks they’re going to have a healthy baby.
Everyone who has a baby thinks they’ll watch her grow into adulthood.
But not every dream is fully-filled in this lifetime.
Some marriages end unhappily.
Some people are never able to get pregnant.
Some pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Some children die tragically before their parents.
Some prodigals never return.
Yes, everyone experiences the pain and loss of shattered dreams at one point or another. In fact, very few dreams turn out how we envisioned them in our heads. (That’s why the bestsellers lists are stacked with the “Make Your Dreams Come True” genre. We all want it, but few realize it).
So, what do we do when the dream that was birthed in our heart, nurtured in our mind, and developed through depth of sacrifice that few will ever know, lies shattered beyond repair?
The Life of Joseph
There’s a kid in the Bible who had a huge dream. Joseph was just 17 years-old when God gave him this incredible dream that his parents and brothers were all going to bow down and serve him. What a great dream, right!? Who doesn’t dream of being a person of power and influence who will rule over your siblings?
It’s a great dream! But like an idiot, he tells his brothers and father about it. Of course, they don’t think it’s such a great dream! So, his brothers throw him in a well and sell him as a slave to an Egyptian trader.
So much for that dream.
Here’s Joseph – a slave in a foreign land; nobody knows he’s there and his father thinks he’s dead.
He ends up working for this guy named Potiphar who is the captain of the palace guard. God blesses Joseph and Potiphar puts him in charge of his whole household. Things are beginning to look up for Joe.
Enter Potiphar’s wife. She’s got eyes for our young Joseph, but Joseph is a man of integrity and he doesn’t have eyes for her. She gets upset from getting the snub and frames Joseph for attempted rape. Uh-oh. That’s bad news! If you’re a foreigner accused of messing with a government official’s wife, you’re in deep trouble! Fortunately, God spares Joseph’s life, but he is thrown in prison. Things are looking dim again.
So, since having this amazing technicolor dream of greatness, Joseph has been:
- betrayed by his family
- sold into slavery
- falsely accused of rape
- wrongly imprisoned
How must that have felt?
I know if it was me, I’d be like, “Oh, God! What are you doing to me? You give me this dream and then all this stuff happens. And here I sit in this lonely pit… again.”
Fortunately, God’s not done writing Joseph’s story. While in prison, a couple of fellow prisoners have strange dreams. Good news! Joseph has a gift not just for having dreams, but for interpreting them as well. The interpretations he gives come true.
One of the dudes is the Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, so Joseph tells the guy, “Just do me one favor and mention me to the Pharaoh when you get out of prison.” Not too much to ask of a guy whose life you just saved.
Could this be Joseph’s big break?
Unfortunately, no. The cup-bearer has a mind like a sieve and forgets all about Joseph when he gets out. Joseph’s probably wondering, “What do I have to do to get a break around here?”
Two years later, Pharaoh has a dream. He can’t find anyone to tell him what it means. Suddenly, a light bulb goes on in the cup-bearer’s head. “Say, I know someone…”
Joseph can interpret Pharaoh’s dream when nobody else could. Obviously, the Pharaoh is impressed. He not only gives Joseph a “get-out-of-jail free card,” he puts him in charge of his entire government – second only to himself. Not a bad deal.
Well… not quite yet. So, although Joseph’s no longer counting the cracks on his cell-room wall, he’s still not seen the fulfillment of his dream.
Fast-forward seven years. There’s a drought in all the land (part of Pharaoh’s dream). But Egypt has been storing up grain because they had the inside scoop. So, all the surrounding countries are coming to Egypt to get some food. Some of the people who come looking for grain are Joseph’s brothers.
To make a long story short: he’s in charge, they need food, they bow. The dream comes true!
(Okay, that’s the “Cliffs Notes” version of the story that spans 13 chapters in Genesis 37-50).
How long did it take for the dream to come true?
Are you ready?
The biblical timelines are always sobering perspective-changers. We live in an instant-gratification culture. I want it and I want it now! If things don’t immediately go as we had hoped or planned, we get discouraged, frustrated, and angry.
Of course, this is a legitimate response in many cases. Brokenness hurts. Death sucks! Why would God give me this dream only to take it away? There are far more questions than answers.
But Joseph’s story gives us hope for dead-end dreams.
UP NEXT: “Hope for Dead-end Dreams”