Living with broken dreams

Published 11:33 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

by Andrew Book

This week at Courtland United Methodist Church, we are talking about broken dreams and the power of God to un-break those dreams that have been lost. As I have been thinking, praying and reading about the ways that our dreams can guide and direct our lives, God has been speaking to me about the two sides of the coin. We all have times when we are pursuing dreams, but, on the flip side, we also have times when those dreams are no longer in reach and we are simply responding to life. Life coaches, organizational gurus and other “experts” love to point out the importance of having dreams and a vision in order to make progress toward your goals.

However, those experts often miss the reality of broken dreams in our lives. There are times when we just break, and the sense of purpose and picture of the future we had seen simply evaporates. It is easy to live with “purpose” when we have a dream, but what do we do when the dream is shattered?

Moses is a powerful example of the reality of broken dreams. As a young man, Moses was an adopted prince in Egypt and he was determined to help his biological family —t he people of Israel — who were slaves. In his zeal, Moses attacked a slave master who was beating an Israelite and killed the man.  He hid the body, but soon realized that his secret had been discovered and he was forced to flee (see Exodus 2). Moses’ dream (and his entire world) were broken, seemingly beyond repair. He left the life of a prince and fled Egypt as an exile. He eventually ended up sitting at a well in a place called Midian.  It is at that well that Moses gives us an important clue for how to live as people with broken dreams.

We don’t know how long he was sitting by that well, but as he sat there, he witnessed a group of women trying to bring their sheep to get water. Those women were chased away by other shepherds, and Moses responded. Moses defended them, helped them water their sheep, and then sat back down by the well to figure out life. Moses no longer had a vision or a dream that was guiding his life. He was not pursuing anything (other than staying alive), but as the situations of life crossed his path, he responded to those situations in a faithful and godly manner. His response, it turned out, was a major turning point in his life.

Shortly after these women left with their sheep, they returned. Moses was still sitting there. In my mind, he was stressfully running his fingers through his hair while staring intently at an ant crossing the sand between his feet. He had nowhere to go and no dream to pursue so he was just sitting.

The women invited him to come eat dinner with them, which led to Moses settling with them and becoming a shepherd. Moses eventually married one of the women he rescued, Zipporah. Moses and Zipporah had a family together, and the man with no dream and no vision found family and purpose.

Moses had lost everything. He had no dreams left to pursue (and no amount of “life coaching” or encouragement could change that). He was in a place in life where responding to the world around him was the only option left to him — and he responded well, which led him to finding a new family and new job and, eventually, a new dream when his sheep led him to the burning bush in Exodus 3.

The reason Moses’ story is so valuable for us today is that we easily think about the heroes of faith as people driven by Godly dreams during every point of their lives, but that simply is not the case. Once God gives Moses a new dream and marching orders in Exodus 3, Moses is living from that vision, but Moses is simply responding to life around him for 40 years. He tried to respond in the best way possible, and that made all the difference.

Some of you are people whose dreams have broken. You know you should be pursuing something with your life and energy, but you can’t for the life of you think what. You are in good company with Moses and many others! Tell yourself that it is OK to simply respond to what life is throwing at you.

Trust that God will bring a burning bush across your path when it is time for you to see a new dream to pursue, but for now simply try to live well in each situation you are in. Who knows, you might find a new family and new hope as you respond with love grace, and mercy to those things that come across your path. Dreams and goals are wonderful, but they are also fragile.

So, when your dreams break, don’t pretend that you instantly have another dream to replace it. Be broken, respond to life as best you can, and trust that God will renew your dreams in God’s time.

We will be unpacking this story more fully this Sunday at Courtland UMC if you are interested in joining us. Wherever you are this week, whether you are pursuing a dream or simply responding to what life throws at you, may you find hope in Christ and the strength to live well though God’s Spirit!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or