What To Do When Your Dreams Stall

5 steps to take when you've given up on your goals.

She told me I was selfish to try to be a writer.

My mother said other people can afford to go off to become journalists, but God gave me gifts for a reason. Not so I could do whatever I wanted. Writing was good hobby, she said, but it doesn't pay the bills or move us out of our low-income housing.

So I shoved my applications to Boston U and Columbia into the garbage can. I applied to become a computer science and engineering major and stayed close to home. I never told anyone about my broken dreams because it always felt like I was being ungrateful for the opportunities I was given to get an education.

I let go of my dream of becoming a writer. I lived separated from my heart.

I eventually found healing, but only after I took the painful path to re-awaken the dreams I tried to deny my whole life.

Maybe you too have given up on the dreams you felt called to when you were younger. Maybe you’re discouraged and think it just isn’t meant to be. I had to learn the hard way that God-given dreams are worth pursuing, even when it’s difficult. 

Here are a few things to do when your dreams stall.

Feed Your Soul Instead of Ignoring it.

When your soul is free to be real, you can receive the comfort and strength from God to dream again.

We often think of the action-figure Jesus, but the Bible tells us, “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16).

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing His soul with His Father was more important than what He could do.

We need spiritual whitespace to feed our dreams.

Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's poeima -- poetry translated as "workmanship"—created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Are our lives more like art or cluttered advertisement?

Make Rest Your Ambition

Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. Rest is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God (Romans 15:20, 2 Corinthians 5:9).

"We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life" (1 Thessalonians 4:10–11).

Downtime puts us in touch with our passion instead of numbing ourselves by managing our inboxes, Facebook updates, TV or achievement-oriented productivity.

Rest rejuvenates our dreams with creativity, deep relationships and adventure.

Cast Your Net On The Other Side

It’s too late, you tell yourself. You’ve moved on and gained strength by helping others. But Jesus sees the nets you’ve left.

Jesus says, “Cast the net on the [other] side of the boat and you will find a catch” (John 21:6).

Jesus sees the empty nets. Put out where it is deeper and let down your nets.

It’s not too late. Try something radically different. Maybe even the opposite direction you've been heading.

Confide in God.

It's soul wearying to constantly hide your dreams. To deny our desires and the pain of loss. We feel guilty for not moving on and beat ourselves for not being thankful.

Instead, Jesus whispers,“Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Confide in God about how you really feel. Make space to ask the hard questions. When your soul is free to be real, you can receive the comfort and strength from God to dream again.

Journey To Find the Open Door

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You're ready to give up. But no matter how long the journey or how broken you feel your story has become, none of it can change who God made you to be.

It’s not too late. Try something radically different. Maybe even the opposite direction you've been heading.

The door to your dreams God has intended for you can never be lost, closed or destroyed by anyone or anything.

“I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name" (Revelations 3:8).

Sometimes, it's easy to give yourself away when you no longer carry any hope for the dreams you once held.

Sometimes it takes more faith to revisit dreams that have stalled than asking for faith to forget about them.

I went on to finish my book and find my voice. I hope you will take the journey to recover yours with God too.

19 Comments

Linda L. Hoenigsberg

1

Linda L. Hoenigsberg commented…

I first read Finding Spiritual Whitespace, then bought five more copies for friends and clients of mine (I'm a psychotherapist). It was brilliant and just what I needed in my own life as well. Love this post, Bonnie.

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray replied to Linda L. Hoenigsberg's comment

that's very kind, Linda. you're doing the hard and heart work that opens up stories to be lived. #beencouraged #soulkindreds

Satin P

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Satin P commented…

Love this, Bonnie! I love that you are paving the way for us Dreamers to dare to dream again! Thank you for walking in obedience to Jesus and in doing so, encouraging us to do the same! I look forward to watching all that God does in your life. He most certainly will use your life example to bring others closer to Himself. Much love to you, friend! ♥

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray replied to Satin P's comment

your story is opening with each step you're taking to be you, Satin. it's good to have kindreds on this journey together.

Amy Hannaford

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Amy Hannaford commented…

This is so great! Gives me some food for thought today as I struggle on letting go of a dream I once had. Perhaps today I will simply rest and listen for what God wants to say to me.
Blessings!

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray replied to Amy Hannaford's comment

even in the letting go, listen for the Voice that whispers the seed of the dream that is God in *you*. only you can give that one voice that represents Him in this world. thanks, Amy.

Leigh Wagner

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Leigh Wagner commented…

I began college in nursing because it was practical. Then I changed majors to follow my heart and majored in psychology and history hoping to eventually work with young adults. I went on to get a graduate degree to teach social studies in high school. I love what I do. Now here's the kicker: I'm 70,000 dollars in debt myself. 120,000 dollars if you count in my husband's debt. He also followed his dream and became an archaeologist. Neither of our fields pay nearly enough to justify this debt. Now we live in a 400 sq. foot studio apartment and have generally given up on the idea of ever being able to start a family. Following your dreams really only works if you have the money to pay for it. I truly believe we could have been happy had we been more practical and pursued fields that would have paid enough to justify school debt. We were young and romantic and thought that things would work themselves out. I often wish I had stuck with nursing and my husband wishes he had stuck with physical therapy. We love what we do but sometimes that isn't enough - it doesn't pay the bills. I wish our parents had told us that.

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray replied to Leigh Wagner's comment

Hi Leigh, there are a lot of realities of taking the journey to pursue one's dreams. This blog post is an encouragement to those who wonder if it's still possible but there are many junctures along our stories. May you continue to write new chapters in the story you're living & find some meaning behind all the struggles you & your husband are walking through. Thank you for sharing!

Aléx Kail

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Aléx Kail commented…

Growing up I wanted to be a full-time musician. I started playing in the school band, joined chorus, played in several garage bands. Most of these endeavors were me playing drums. Hidden deep in my passion was wanting to play guitar and sing. My guitar playing friend taught me the basics of playing and I kept going with it, but never did anything public.

After giving up on my dream after high school and pursuing a safe career in computer science, my love and passion for music was rekindled 6 years after getting married when my wife and I joined a new church and we were both able to get involved musically, me playing drums. Years passed, and I eventually found my way back to the guitar and ultimately was able to lead worship with, you guessed it, my guitar and a microphone. My wife and I were literally starting to "live" the dream. We grew musically, spiritually, and music was a constant in our home.

In 2010 we accepted the call to part-time worship ministry at a local church. Our dream was coming true. So very true. We started at the turn of the new year. A few months later I lost my voice. It came back and went away again. Later my breathing was compromised and my voice was permanently lost. I had a throat biopsy and was diagnosed with a rare disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Even more rare was that it attacked my vocal cords. It was too late, the damage had been done.

Eventually I got better (meaning the disease was made quiet through induction therapy), however because of the damage scar tissue formed and my airway closed off to 5% of normal size. I had throat reconstruction surgery to give me better breathing, but only at 50%. I take a lot of medicine and constantly struggle to do everyday things that I once took for granted. We ultimately had to resign our position after 9 months, 6 of those I was very sick.

So I say all of this to say, my dream is dead. I was so faithful that I truly thought God was going to bring me through because surely He wouldn't let my dream die. But, here I am over three years later, and I can barely speak and barely breathe normally. Also my joints hurt from the medicine so it's difficult to even play my guitar, much less drums.

So, my dead dreams aren't a result of not trying or feeling like they aren't possible, it's due to being spiritually dead because they are quite literally impossible to achieve...short of a divine miracle, which I no longer have belief in.

Sorry to be such a bummer, but sometimes circumstances DO get in the way of one's dreams. I'm thankful that I am still with my wife and two daughters, but it's a daily struggle to think that God really cares about my dreams.

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray replied to Aléx Kail's comment

Hi Alex, I'm so glad that you shared your story here. And it's not a bummer. Because it's the courageous story you are living right now and it is painful and it is real. This blog post doesn't do justice to the death of a thousand dreams that we've had to live through. And when it is dying, there is nothing but the anger and grief of nothingness. I want you to know that in all the falling apart you're having to go through, your voice -- the one who sings, who worships, who loves the feel of your fingers on the string as the guitar hums against your body -- the one who loves feeling the words come from your soul and resonate into the air -- God loves and hears that voice inside you. And his heart is breaking for all the sorrow of this broken journey you have to endure and the physical pain. I am praying that God will give you a glimmer of that knowing of His anguished heart for your broken dreams. And that He'll bring you on a journey of healing your heart and feeding your soul that sings. That voice that sings cannot be destroyed by surgery or by vocal silence. And I wonder how God will still use your voice. I know He will. Because your heart is too beautiful for it to remain hidden. I hope you will get a chance to read my book because this short post on dreams does not convey the broken journey I've had to journey through to unexpectedly find my dead dreams resurrect in the most painful but beautiful way. And through the reading, you will discover if someone broken like me can find hope, you can too. Blessings,Alex. You are God's poem and song.

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