After we shared our dreams with each other, we spent time praying for one another in those dreams—not that every single dream would come true, but that God would provide wisdom in what dreams to pursue, trust in His timing and plan, and comfort in the sorrow of unfulfilled dreams.
It can be a vulnerable thing to share your dreams with another; especially when those dreams are ones so deeply planted in your heart they seem to be your very heart beat, enlivening your zeal and passion, intertwined with your longings and desires, embodying the hope and vision you have for your future… and yet those dreams aren’t coming true.
That dream for me was (and in some ways still is) marriage.
Through my tweens, teens, and early twenties, I always envisioned my future framed in the context of marriage. And I really couldn’t imagine a future without marriage. Because if I did, my future seemed an empty void.
I dreamed, I hoped, I prayed, but year after year, I was still single.
I’ve written before about the discontentment I had in my singleness; how I was looking to wife-and-motherhood to give me joy, worth, and purpose; how I believed singleness was less than marriage.
This all contributed to the belief that if my dream was unfulfilled, I would be unfulfilled. My life would be un-full: empty of purpose, meaning, satisfaction, joy, and beauty.
Part of my learning contentment in my singleness was learning to submit those dreams to God, trust His timing and plan for my life, and believe His goodness and wisdom truly is best.
And this included wrestling with the reality that my dream for marriage and motherhood wasn’t a guarantee; that it might not ever be fulfilled.
This brought me to a place of asking, What now? What do I do with these dreams that aren’t coming true?
Made for More
We live in a world that tells us if we don’t have all we desire, we can’t live a full life. And it points us to things we should desire, promising they will fulfill us: "a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.” (1 Jn. 2:16)
But I believe we’ll always have dreams and desires, and we’ll have dreams and desires that will never be fulfilled in this life, by this world.
Why? Because we’re made for something more.
In John 10, Jesus uses the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep to teach about knowing His voice, trusting His will, and following Him. In verse 10, He says there’s an enemy of the shepherd and sheep—a thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
And we see this enemy doing so through deceit: promising that which is “good for food” (a craving for physical pleasure), “a delight to the eyes” (a craving for everything we see), and “desirable for obtaining wisdom” (pride in our achievements and possessions)—but apart from God’s goodness, beauty, and wisdom (see Gen. 3:1-6). For “these are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 Jn. 2:16)
So these promises may feed our pride and satiate a craving, but ultimately they are empty, and will leave us empty.
Because they don’t bring the fulfillment, the wholeness, the satisfaction they promise. Because they can’t.
Why? Because we’re made for something more.
I Have Come
Marriage and motherhood are good and beautiful. But they are to be a reflection—not a replacement—of something more good and more beautiful: our Triune God and relationship with Him.
In John 10:10, after Jesus warns us about the thief, He goes on to promise those who are knowing, trusting, and following Him, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus doesn’t say, “Once your dreams come true, once your desires are fulfilled, once your longings are satisfied, then you’ll have life to the full.”
No, He says, “I have come…” I just love those words!
Jesus has come to give life full of joy, hope, purpose, and so much more. Not just someday if/when our dreams come true, but today as we live in relationship with Him.
Because the fullness—the fulfillment, the satisfaction, the abundance—of life is not getting all our dreams and desires, but relationship with Jesus.
This is the more for which we were made!
Unfulfilled Dreams, Full Life
So what do we do with our dreams that aren’t coming true? How do we live this full life Jesus has for us when we’re experiencing the sorrow, frustration, confusion, and longing of unfulfilled dreams and desires?
There is One who fulfills those deeper longings of our hearts. Even in our unfulfilled dreams, we can experience the fullness and sufficiency of Jesus as He draws us to Himself—ever closer, ever deeper, ever more intimate.
The full, abundant life Jesus has for us isn’t a destination we arrive at, where all our dreams and desires are fulfilled. Rather, it is a relationship we abide in, where Jesus meets us where we’re at, pursues us in His love, draws us closer to Himself, and grows us in His likeness.