I have been intentionally avoiding this topic for weeks.
Because in all honesty, it hits close to home.
If you are not familiar with my story, I was 14 when my life changed forever.
As a Freshman in high school, I became sick with an illness that causes episodes of collapsing and temporary paralysis in my arms and legs. I missed half my junior and senior years of high school. Doctors told my parents to pull me out of school and not let me out of bed for more than 45 minutes at a time. At one point, I spent an entire week in the hospital unable to walk.
When I graduated high school, I tried going to university only to medically withdrawal before midterms even came around. So, I set off to completing my associates degree online at home. I worked hard to get my degree and get good grades so I could get attend my college of choice: Southeastern University. Not only did I work hard academically, but I became physically disciplined in strengthening my body with daily workout routines and clean eating.
Even though I still did not have a diagnosis after 6 years, I believed I was finally learning what worked for my body and what didn’t. After having 9 months without episodes and then being generally stable in the following months, I was finally ready to take the next step in pursuing what I believed to be God’s calling on my life: missions.
He opened up every possible door. And I was ready to sprint through them.
4 months ago, I eagerly pulled up to the campus of my new home.
Filled with a variety of mixed emotions, I unpacked, moved into my dorm and began to settle into the rhythms of this new life. I waited so long to sit in a lecture. I waited so long to learn about missions and begin preparing for a life of ministry.
And let me tell you…I loved every single moment of each lecture. I loved the chapel services, the atmosphere, having roommates, meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas. I love engaging with people and I could finally do that now that I lived on campus instead of spending most of my days for the last 4 years home alone.
I was jumping into this new life feet first: making plans to study abroad, building relationships, and going to football games.
With 2 months left in the semester, my body failed.
I began having episodes at least once or more everyday for over a week. I could hardly walk. Before I knew it, I found myself in the back of an ambulance and using a wheelchair to get around. Not being cleared by my doctors to return to school, I have set out to complete the semester at home.
Trust me when I say that this wasn’t the college experience I was looking for.
My body failing me meant so much more than not being able to return to campus. It meant having to realize I was not physically well enough to travel internationally and serve in missions the way I always imagined. It meant I might have to give up what I waited so long to study. It meant I would have to return home and spend my time during the days alone again.
It meant not having the strength to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. It meant facing the realization that I am the sickest I have been in the entire 6 years I’ve struggled with this mysterious disorder. It meant kissing independence goodbye and having to rely on others for most things. It meant more doctors, more testing, and more heartache. It meant getting messy and not having everything together.
As I wrestled with all of this, there are a few questions that came up in my heart:
If God opened up every possible door, why did it not work?
Why would God call me to something that I cannot physically do?
If I am trying to honor God and do good things, why would He take it away?
Are my dreams invalidated because of my current circumstances?
Why am I sharing all of this with you?
Because if your broken heart is a result of shattered dreams, you may have similar questions. As I struggled and wrestled with these questions, I learned 4 lessons that I hope can be an encouragement to you today.
1. Look at your dreams from a new perspective.
Look at your dreams from a new perspective. Click To Tweet
So often, we get caught up in what we think our dreams should have looked like. For me, I always envisioned myself somewhere working among unreached people groups to translate the Bible into their heart language, provide care and education. I have always believed that God has called me to missions, and I still do.
Do I believe God could place me in a foreign country for the purpose of missions? Absolutely. He’s done it 11 times. But I also believe that if I had not approached this dream and this calling from His perspective, I would have missed the glaring truth that missions is so much more than going and living among another people in a foreign country. Missions should be the ground between our two feet. My two feet are planted in my home right now…in my bed.
But by approaching the dream and calling of missions from a new perspective, He showed me that I can make ripples in the nations without leaving my bed. He has used this little blog to reach people in over 123 countries.
I say all of that to point to the fact that God took this dream that He planted in my heart and fulfilled (and continues to fulfill it) it in ways I never dreamed possible. I was very humbly reminded that health is not a prerequisite for participating in the Great Commission. I don’t need to be healthy for God to use me and do incredible things in my life.
When we step back, we get to watch God show up in mighty ways!
We must step back and ask God what His purpose is for our dreams. We must ask for His perspective.
2. Don’t let your current circumstances dictate your God-sized dreams.
Don't let your circumstances dictate your God sized dreams!Click To Tweet
I have no idea what your circumstances are. I’m not going to pretend I understand what you are going through. Your story is different than mine and filled with different pains than mine. But what I do know is that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your circumstance may seem impossible right now, but He is the God of the impossible!
He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider and Jehovah Rafa, our Healer. He split the sea for Moses and the Israelites. God created nations from Sarah’s barren womb. He used a Shepherd boy to win a war. Our God set fire to the wet wood of Elijah. He provided food in the wilderness, gave sight to the blind, caused the paralyzed man to walk again and brought sound to deaf ears.
Tell me again what is impossible for our God?
Do not let whatever you are going through right now keep you from seeking out the power and the strength of God. He can show up in your impossible circumstance in a way you never even imagined.
3. Give yourself permission to dream new dreams.
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Whenever it became apparent that I was not getting better, my family and I decided it would be best for me to take a semester off to focus on my health. And honestly, I was a little devastated. This picture I had of going to college and becoming a missionary seemed to evaporate into thin air. And let me tell you, this girl was not a happy camper.
It seemed like God had opened up every single possible door and cleared every obstacle for me to go to school. And now, it kinda feels like I slammed my finger in the door as it quickly shut, you know what I mean?
I think in a lot of ways, God used this semester to give me permission to dream new dreams.
He helped me reimagine what living for Him should look like; what missions can look like. My professors taught me about building relationships with others, loving people, and sharing Jesus in the context I find myself in right now. A life of ministry and missions should not be confined to only the church walls on Wednesdays and Sundays.
It should be a lifestyle, not simply an occupation. I’m not giving up on this calling and dream He has given me. I am prayerfully allowing Him to lead me and help me dream new dreams and come up with different ways to share Jesus with the world, even if I can’t go right now. At the end of the day, we are called to follow Jesus. And sometimes, Jesus may lead us to another country.
I realize that with dreaming new dreams sometimes comes pain.
The brutal truth is that sometimes, life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. And it hurts. It hurts a lot. Maybe someone you loved recently passed away, maybe you lost your job or you also became sick. Our once exciting dreams become things that are haunting reminders of all the things we think we will never be able to do again.
I won’t be able to fall in love again.
I won’t be able to walk again.
I won’t be able to ever have children.
I won’t be able to graduate college.
And we loose the desire to ever dream again.
I used to think that I would be letting everyone down if I didn’t live up to this picture I had in my head. But I am here to tell you friends that God can make new and beautiful things from our brokenness. Let Him take the wheel and help you look at your dreams from a new perspective. Maybe, just maybe He will do more than you could have ever asked or imagined.
4. No dream should come before Jesus
No dream should come before Jesus.Click To Tweet
My dream of living amongst unreached people and loving a foreign nation doesn’t seem to be a selfish dream. From the outside, it seems like a noble aspiration and something to maybe even be admired. But there was a point when I had to truly examine my heart.
Why did I want to serve as a full-time missionary? I believed that I had a calling of missions, but what would my response be if it didn’t turn out like I always thought it would? Was this dream sitting on the throne of my heart, or was Jesus? Was I more devoted to going than I was to abiding in Him? Was my hope placed in this dream playing out or was my hope rooted in grounded in the Lover of my soul, the one who never changes and will never leave?
Y’all. Our hope should be found in Jesus. Not in our dreams.
Am I saying you should stop dreaming? Absolutely not. Dream on… (I couldn’t help it) But your identity and hopes should begin and end with Jesus.
I don’t know what your dreams look like.
But I do know that the brokenness you feel is nothing too big for our God to restore.
Need more encouragement?