Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13: 12
Have you checked your “Hopes and Dreams” list recently? I am sure we all have had those aspirations in our minds since we were young of what life could someday be.
The ability to dream is one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us. It can open our eyes to so many possibilities, and give us purpose in life, a reason to look expectantly ahead to tomorrow, and it gives meaning for making the best of today. God gave us imaginations that have no limits and an abiding hope that can sustain us if challenges and disappointments lie in our path. Then when we do fulfill our goals, the satisfaction is that much greater and the feeling of success that much sweeter.
I hope most of your dreams have come true, but if not, there’s still time. Or maybe life has taken you in a direction you never imagined, that has far exceeded your expectations, and those old dreams have gone by the wayside with no regrets. Or maybe, there’s still one, or even two, still there, hidden deep down inside, almost forgotten, but with no real hope of it ever being fulfilled.
Yet, every now and then, it rises to the surface and you still wish and ask yourself, “Could it really happen?” Perhaps it’s a good time to take an inventory of our lives and see where we stand in the “satisfaction and happiness department”. None of us want to come to the end of our lives and have major regrets about things that we wish we had done differently.
An article I read recently “drove this idea home” even more. It was about an Australian nurse who spent several years lovingly caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies when she asked what they wished they had done differently in their lives. Here are the top 5 responses she received:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to carry out my own hopes and dreams, instead of living the life expected of me.
2. I wish I had not worked so hard and so much.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I was really surprised by the number 1 answer. I suppose I had never really thought about how much unfulfilled dreams can affect your life and happiness. It makes me wonder about the reasons why these individuals weren’t able to do so.
Was it their parents discouragement of those dreams, financial reasons, no opportunities to do so, family obligations, or did these individuals give up too easily and settle for something far less? Did criticisms, fear, doubt, or a streak of bad luck keep them from pursuing their dreams?
Obviously, as these were dying patients, nothing can be done about their disappointment. I hope and pray that there was more to their lives than those feelings of regret. I hope there was more that brought meaning, joy, and fulfillment, and they didn’t live out their years being bitter, resentful, and sad.
I wonder about those lost hopes for their lives and why they were such a disappointment. But as wonderful as dreams can be, surely we all know in our hearts that they can’t always come true and a back-up plan is called for. If the failure of a dream devastates someone’s life, maybe he/she had too much invested in the idea of “the dream”. There has to be more to life than that one thing that will make the difference between your life being happy or miserable.
Our dreams need to be realistic. Too often we place our hope in the wrong areas – in ourselves, in wealth, success, or fame. How many people get so disappointed and bitter about life because their dreams didn’t come true when in fact it wasn’t their dream to have. How many young people want to become the next American Idol, but they don’t have the talent, or how many young boys dream of playing professional football or basketball when they don’t have the necessary skills or abilities?
God gave each one of us special gifts, abilities, a unique personality, and experiences that will shape the person we are, or the one we can become. Often what we dream and aspire to be may not fit with those qualities God has given us. Yet, He gave us the potential to be more than we ever thought we could be. If we seek Him and ask Him to help us find our place within those dreams, I truly believe He can exceed our own expectations.
God desires our happiness and wants us to have lives that are fulfilling and full of joy. He has promised that with Him, nothing is impossible. And sometimes, miracle above miracle, we may even come to the place we can admit, that those dreams we had weren’t really what we wanted anyway. What God has given us in terms of love and family, good friendships, feelings of pride and accomplishment, His blessings in so many unexpected ways, the joy of His presence and grace, have far exceeded any dreams we could have ever imagined on our own!
If we place our hope in Him, we can have the assurance that our lives will be secure, for He is the only one who can give us the contentment and satisfaction that we long for. He is our anchor in the present and in the future. For without Him, “hope deferred makes the heart sick”, but with Him the heart is filled with joy.
As for those of you who haven’t been able to fulfill your dreams and still wish to, take your dreams to God. Tell Him what is on your heart. With Him nothing is impossible and nothing is ever too late. Go to Him, seek His counsel and guidance, and see where His love and grace will take you. And even if it doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped, you can rest assured that He will satisfy your longing in a way you could have never imagined!
Dear God, there is so much about life we can’t know or understand. You know our hearts – you understand our hopes and dreams. Help us to look to you with hope that you will lead us in the path that will bring us the most joy and contentment in our lives. Thank you for the gift of life and all its many blessings. Amen