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About this series
Overcoming the Pain of Your Past
Pain. It is part of the human experience, and one of the things that helps us grow to maturity. But for some of us the pain we have experienced feels crippling. Broken promises, dysfunctional families, damaged relationships and rejection keep us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. Sometimes it's a challenge just to get through the day, let alone to extend love and strength to those around us. The Bible, however, offers great hope for pressing on. From the book of Ephesians, learn who you really are and why the pain of your past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for your future.More from this series
Of all the things that are hard to deal with in life I think one of the most difficult things in life to deal with are shattered dreams. And we all have them. When we are little children I don’t know that we conjure up and think, “This is dreams,” I think it’s just innate.
And then you move to adulthood and the dreams actually get a little more clearly articulated and you want to find “Mr. Right” or the perfect girl and you have dreams because you’ve watched movies, like I have, and read a few novels that you’re gonna have deep talks, and long walks, and romance.
Good jobs, wonderful kids, probably find a home, actually get to buy it. There’ll be joy, and campouts, and little league and just all these pictures of what it would be like - we’ve been fed the American Dream - and for many, that dream got shattered.
In mid-life we, I think the dreams shift to by now you’re at that point where you thought, you know, the job and the career would be at a certain spot, you would have a certain level of impact or significance and financial security. You know, you poured your life into your kids, you went into all those games, you saved all that money, you went into all that debt and you wanted your kids to really turn out right.
And for some that really was neat and you got bits and pieces of it. And for others, your house is upside down, some of your kids dropped out of school, there are some real shattered dreams that the promotions and where you were at and where you thought you’d be, you know, like your life is half over and the realization that some of those things you thought you were going to do, they’re not going to happen.
And so, you either push that down, and make the best of it and this ties into a lot of why we do lots of mind-numbing things. When you have deep longings that aren’t fulfilled and when dreams are shattered it just feels good to eat, or go out to eat, or go on a vacation, or charge something.
In the later years, you have this picture that you’ve worked hard, you want to relax, you want to travel, want to be closer to family, you’ve really worked hard about maybe where you can stay, maybe relocate near your kids or grandkids, and pretty soon your 401k is a 101k.
Some of your kids aren’t in a position where either you want to be around them now, or they want to be around you. And it’s really hard when you find yourself saving, saving, saving and then instead of these golden years, one of you has cancer.
And you know what? Whether you’re a kid, or an adult, or in mid-life, everybody experiences shattered dreams. And they can revolve around your career, your relationships; they can revolve around the kind of pain and dysfunctions that grow out of them.
That the people that you love the most, you do know, they can hurt you the most. And when you see what happens in shattered dreams what you find is that they’re like a pivot point.
Some people experience deep shattered dreams and it is what catapults them into a level of growth, and impact, and health, and relationship with God and it came because they hit rock bottom, or they they’ve realized the ladder of their focus was against the wrong wall.
And other people, they have shattered dreams and it just is: status quo, just plowing through, you make up stuff like, “I don’t really care.” “It doesn’t really matter.” “I didn’t want to do that anyway.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.
And so, we’re going to talk about how do you grow? How do you respond to the shattered dreams in your life? And I want to encourage you. I’ve got three specific things that I think are critical, and regardless of the age… see, shattered dreams can be the greatest turning point in your life, but I’m going to suggest three things have to happen, and then I’ll develop them.
Number one, we must face our shattered dreams. Number two, we need to understand our shattered dreams. And number three, we can grow from our shattered dreams. And the third one is you have to be willing to.
So, first we must face them. No matter how painful… until you face the pain and the hurt, and the loss, and the disappointment, and the anger, and the frustration, and the resentment, you’ll never grow.
Most of us hide, compartmentalize, compensate, lash out, blame, internalize, and never grow through our shattered dreams. “It was my mom’s fault, it was my dad’s fault, it was the government’s fault, it was so-and-so’s fault, it’s that guy who introduced that, it’s that person who did that.”
And then you just shove it down, shove it down… it’s like you have this empty hole in your leg and you just take all that stuff and you just keep shoving stuff in it, shoving stuff in it, and you just don’t deal with it. That’s what we do.
Because it’s painful to face. It’s painful to say out loud, “My mom didn’t love me. If she did, she wouldn’t have abandoned our family. My dad didn’t care about me. My mate walked out on me. I thought I would be here in my career, I made some really big mistakes that I blamed everything and everyone for, but I’m here and I’m not there, and it hurts and I’m hurt and I’m angry, and I always thought it would be… and right now, there is nothing I can do about that.”
It takes courage. You know why most people don’t change? It takes courage. You never can move from where you are, until you have the courage to face, “This is where I really am. I have a problem. I’m disappointed. I have anger issues. I have an addiction. I’m in denial. Part of that marriage issue was my problem. I can’t control hers or I can’t control his but this part was mine. My kids probably don’t call me, one, because they’re insensitive and this and that but they probably don’t call me because… I need to own this part of it.”
And it’s in that facing of your shattered dreams that’s painful. But now you know where you’re at. Now you’re ready to be a recipient of grace. I mean, do you ever get help until you say, “God, I need Your help.” And part of our shattered dreams, sometimes they’re completely out of our control but you need to get them out there where you say, “This part’s mine. And Lord…” you know?
By the way, some of us forgot one small, little thing. It’s a fallen world and you are human. You know what human beings do? They make mistakes. It’s not wrong to make a mistake. Have you ever made a bad decision? I have. I mean a bad decision like a dumb car that I bought. Right? Wrong hire. What was I thinking? Wrong job.
Now, well, it wasn’t on purpose, I just made a mistake. It’s a fallen world. Are you perfect? I’m not perfect. But when we make a mistake we act like, “Ahhh! Shock! How did that happen?” Like who do you think you are? Superman or Jesus? I mean, you’re going to make mistakes.
But we’re so unwilling to face that, we will do all kind of mental gymnastics to rearrange the world, and how we frame everything. Instead of saying… Even in relationships, I just found, “Well, you know the reason I was late was because the traffic was this, and there was this, and there was this, and there was this.”
And how about this? “I left ten minutes late because I was more interested in what I was doing than our meeting. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I was selfish.”
When was the last time someone told you that? “It was really busy.” Now, see, it’s true, right? There was extra traffic. But what we do is, we tell sixty-seven percent of the truth to get ourselves off the hook, and then we live with this [inability to tell the truth]. And then we learn to do that in all kind of things.
So, all I’m saying is step one, face your shattered dreams. Painful, but God… what did we learn? Psalm 34:17… “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
I mean, every time you find Jesus in the New Testament, people that: “I got it together, I don’t need any help, I can handle this,” Pharisee. What’s he get? He gets a cold response. And then: “Have mercy on me, I’m a sinner.” “I’ve had five husbands, you must be a prophet.” “I’m wiping your feet with my tears,” and Jesus is so compassionate to people who just come and say, “I’m broken and I’m part of it, and other people were part of it, but I can just tell you, I need help,” and you will always find the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness.
Look up that phrase, and just do a search, and find out how many times that happens in the Psalms, how many times that happens when God is telling us who He is, through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. How many times the prophets will be preaching and then say, “For the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness,” right? Even when He revealed Himself to Moses, that’s what He said.
But then He’s a just God and He says, “But He will… He’s a just God. There is a recompense for sin and God is fair.
Second, we need to understand our shattered dreams. And under this I have three subsets, and I don’t want to develop this too much, but sometimes your dreams are shattered because you’re set up for failure.
In other words, dreams are built on expectations. In other words, I expect certain things. If you expect certain things that aren’t true you’re destined for disappointment.
Okay, here’s some expectations. I’ll be happy when I meet so-and-so. I’ll be happy when I earn x amount of money. I desire all of life to go my way and when it does then I’ll be happy. Expectation: Life is fair, good things will happen to good people. If I follow God I’ll be happy and everything will turn out right.
Now, you may not actually say those things. I have news for you. None of those things are true. None of those things are true. Life isn’t fair; it’s a fallen world! The apostle Paul said: “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus,” here’s the promise, (you want to claim one?) “will be persecuted.”
Jesus said, “In the world you will have,” what? “Trouble! Tribulation! But be of good cheer.” He doesn’t promise that things are going to go great. He promises He’ll go with you when they’re hard, and when they’re great, and when… every other time.
Life isn’t fair. There is no formula. If you obey God and you do exactly what He wants, you’ll never get cancer. A drunk driver will never go left of center. All your kids will turn out right. That’s American stuff. That’s not in the Bible.
You have a good and loving God, who is absolutely in control, and there will be pain and difficulty, no matter what you go through, and you will make mistakes and people will make mistakes, and you will experience suffering and hurt, and the God of the universe will frame you, and use you, and conform you to the image of His Son, and allow you to have intimacy with Him and others, in the midst, probably in the suffering more than any other time. Painful but true.
“For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His sake,” Philippians 1:27. “Experiencing the same conflict, which you heard to be in me and now see in me.”
The second way our dreams are framed, they flow from what I call “Universal longings.” If we had time to develop it, these three things all come from Genesis chapter 1 and 2. Before there is sin in the world God makes Adam, He makes Eve, He makes mankind, He says certain things like, “Multiply, it’s not good for a man to be alone.” So God knows relational connection.
He says to them, “I want you to have domain, treat the earth well, but I want you to be a co-creator, I want you to make a difference, I want you to make impact.” And so these three longings are in your heart.
It’s the longing to be intimately known and loved. You don’t have to teach a kid that. A baby cries; baby doesn’t know anything. You take that baby, they cut that umbilical cord, and you drop that baby on a mommy’s chest, and every one of us until the day we take our last breath have a deep, abiding longing to be loved and to be known just for who we are.
That’s not wrong. God made you that way. But I want to tell you, in a fallen world, you need to find someone who will love you that way all the time and never let you down. And there is only one person who will do that, and they’re not a person of flesh. So, if your expectations are there is going to be a person that will do that, you’re kind of set up for a shattered dream.
The second is the longing for a better tomorrow -that there is hope. “Be fruitful and multiply!” There is no sin in the world and God said, “I placed you here, make a difference! Multiply! There is a better tomorrow, there is going to be more of you.”
All of us live with a sense that every single day, wherever your life is, wherever your job is, wherever your marriage is, wherever you are with your kids, there is the sense of what makes life… that tomorrow can be better. It’s called hope.
Someone rightly said, “Hope is the oxygen of the soul.” You lose hope, it’s like… that’s built in.
The third longing that we all have is the longing to leave a legacy, you want to make a difference. Everyone wants to make a difference.
There is something in you, you want to see, if you have kids or people in your job you want a legacy, you want to make a difference. It’s built in. So all I’m saying is that you need to understand shattered dreams, one, get your expectations clear. Realize there is universal longings that are going to move you toward fulfilling those and if they don’t get fulfilled what you and I will do is we’ll try and fulfill those in unhealthy ways.
And the final thing is that dreams are built around imperfect people, in an imperfect world, that we can’t control so they almost always shatter.
It doesn’t mean your dreams were wrong, it doesn’t mean they’re bad, but it means that in a fallen world here’s what I want you to get: God wants to use your shattered dreams, and my shattered dreams, to be an agent of growth, an agent of meeting Him in a way that we never would, because when our dreams are shattered, where our hope is and what we wanted to happen, there is a vulnerability in our soul, where God can fill us and meet us in ways like never before.