The End of Your Broken Dreams

Gary Wilkerson

Asking the Question that Resets Your Future 

If you’ve been a Christian for some time, you have known Jesus’s healing and restoring power through your griefs and losses. When you faced the end of your world as you knew it, Jesus opened your eyes to a new world beginning, and it blessed you.

These statements may sound outlandish to anyone suffering deep trials. The truth is that God’s work in our lives transcends our understanding. The psalmist wrote, “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). Our minds simply can’t grasp the sufficiency of the Spirit’s power to carry and restore us through our losses and trials.

This message is for anyone who cries themselves to sleep at night wondering if they’ll overcome the depths of their broken heart. Jesus has something more for you. His power to touch your broken dreams is greater than you can imagine.

There are two basic schools of thought about our broken hopes and dreams, and the first says that God heals the brokenhearted. 

We all know Christians who lost their marriage, their business failed, their children fell away from faith or their spouse died. Despite their most desperate pleas to God, they felt their world fall apart completely. Through it all, however, his healing power brought them comfort, restoring their broken heart and bringing them life.

One of the most vibrant examples of this is a woman who inspired generations: Joni Eareckson Tada. As an athletic young woman, Joni was paralyzed in a diving accident. She was confined to a wheelchair and prayed for physical healing that never came. A great healing did take place, though, not in Joni’s body but in her heart. Her faith grew, and she led a life of vigor, vitality, joy and gratitude to God. Her testimony and ministry brought multitudes to faith in Christ. Through all her suffering, Joni never stopped believing that the Lord could heal her. She fought with him over it, yet she ultimately knew God was good and that he might choose not to heal her. She wrote of struggling but also of being at peace with his lordship over her life.

Many of us have desperate hopes that simply don’t come to pass. This can cause a shift in our beliefs, which leads to the second school of thought about broken dreams. This thinking says, “God is here to comfort me, but he isn’t here to change my situation.” I grieve when I hear people say this. I believe they shut down a certain hope that is core to our faith.

People’s lingering hurts sometimes hinder their belief that God cares. Some wounded couples give up hope for their troubled marriage. Some parents lose hope that their child will break an addiction. Some unmarried people despair because they haven’t found a spouse despite years of longing. After a time, some of these folks tell themselves, “The Spirit’s work in my life is not about my situation. It is only about my heart.”

No, God is all about changing our circumstances. He is the difference-maker in how our lives go. That is the heart of the gospel, and we can never lose sight of it. God is faithful, and when he makes a promise, it’s guaranteed to happen. You may object, “So, why did God break his promise to me?” God’s promises aren’t the same as our wishes or ambitions. I’ve had a lot of ambitions, and I felt let down by God when they didn’t come to pass. We can be brokenhearted over a crushed dream, but we’ll never see a promise broken by him. His word is steadfast and sure, and it cannot be thwarted.

If our dream dies, no matter how painful that may be, we can know that God is working all things to his greater glory.  

A group of Jesus’s dearest friends experienced this. Christ spent a lot of time with a family in Bethany that included two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. When Lazarus became sick to the point of death, the sisters sent word to Jesus, knowing his healing power could restore their brother.

Instead of healing his friend, however, Jesus said a greater glory was at work. “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’” (John 11:4). He then made a curious decision. “So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:6). At the time, Jesus was only two miles away (see John 11:18), and according to the sisters, their brother would die if he didn’t intervene. Christ’s decision to stay where he was might have seemed cold and unfeeling, yet we’re told, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5, my emphasis).

While Jesus delayed, the unthinkable happened: Lazarus died. Mary and Martha each responded differently. “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house” (John 11:20). Many of us react as Mary did when our desperate prayers aren’t answered. We grow distant from God, becoming less inclined to pray or trust him as we once did. By contrast, Martha ran to Jesus and was direct with him. “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11:21).

Martha’s words sound accusing, as if to say, “Jesus, you could have done something to prevent this. You knew my brother lay on his death bed, but you never showed up.” You may flinch at Martha’s boldness, but Jesus wasn’t offended. On the contrary, scripture says, “He was deeply moved in his spirit” (John 11:33). Then comes the shortest sentence in the Bible, one that says much about God’s response to our sufferings. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

I believe Jesus wants us to come to him as Martha did. When our dream has died and our heart feels beyond repair, he weeps with us just as he did with Lazarus’s sisters. More than that, he invites us to bring all our grief, anger, pain and sorrow to him so that he may bear it.

A question often arises in our trials, one that seems universal: “Why?”  

Many of us address God as Martha did, “Lord, why did you let this happen? Why weren’t you here for us?” I believe we need to ask a different question, not “Why?” but “Who?” as in “Who is my redeemer? Who is always for me? Who walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death? Who is in control always? Whose promises have never failed me?”

The difference in asking “Who?” rather than “Why?” can shift our path. Asking “Why?” is an intellectual pursuit; even if we receive an answer, our spirit gains nothing. Asking “Who?” is personal. If we ask it, God will reveal himself to us, and we’ll experience his faithfulness. We’ll also be able to better trust that our steps are in line with his glory.

I believe we need discernment about where God is at work in our lives. Is he working strictly on our hearts, or is he shaping our circumstances too? Does he ask us only to receive his healing or to also step out in faith despite our grief? Jesus’s compassion on Lazarus’s sisters wasn’t the end of the story. He worked a greater glory by changing their circumstance. It began when he resurrected their brother, who had been dead for four days. Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). When Lazarus emerged, Jesus instructed the bystanders, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44). I am stirred by Christ’s word “unbind.” Lazarus’s resurrection wasn’t meant just for his sake; it was for everyone’s. The miracle Jesus performed began to unbind Martha’s belief in the Lord’s care. It began to loosen Mary’s crossed arms and heal her resistance to him. Jesus was healing the whole crowd’s broken hearts and dreams.

He was healing ours as well. Jesus always wants to heal our wounds, yet he wants to do more as well. He wants to unbind our repressed hopes and restore our passion to fulfill his purposes. When he resurrects his promise, he calls on us to engage it with faith. The problem is that some of us buried our desire long ago when our dream died. Our loss may have happened decades ago, but if the promise was truly from God, then it is still within us. Its voice may be faint, but as we trust Jesus, we’ll begin to hear it again.

You may think, “How can that be? The death of my dream was permanent. My business was dissolved. We lost our home. My marriage ended. All of that is buried and gone. Nothing is left of my dream, and nothing will resurrect it.” If this describes your situation, I pray the Holy Spirit has brought you comfort through your grievous loss. I pray too that his balm has enabled you to raise your hands in genuine praise that he has remained faithful to you.

There are certain times, however, when that kind of faith isn’t all that God calls for. If we have a promise from the Lord – not just an ambition of our own, but a genuine calling by the Spirit, affirmed by others – he will not abandon it. In fact, he calls us to reclaim it.

What is his promise for your life? Is there a dream inside you that was born of God? If he promised it, he will deliver on it. Has that dream died or been lost? I pray this message begins to bind up your bleeding wounds and unbind your belief. God wants not only to comfort your heart but to restore your hope. Let him know all your anguish and grief. If your dream was lost, a new dream will come from it; that is guaranteed because Jesus does not leave us hopeless. His promises never fade and are always yes and amen. Is he calling you to reclaim your hope? This may be the day to leave your shattered world behind and enter the new one God has before you, for he is faithful always. Amen.