“All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’ Thus his father bewailed him” (Genesis 37:35 NRSV).
I have learned that there are many phases of grief. Many of you are familiar with the traditional stages—shock, bargaining, denial, and acceptance to name a few. But, I’ve discovered another level. It is mourning the death of your dreams. It is the sadness that comes when you realize all of the dreams you and your loved one planned for the future will never come to pass. You’re not mourning the person per se, but the plans you had for one another.
I think the summer triggered this wave of grief for me. I am planning our outings, and the first was a trip to the beach. As we drove through the scenic farmlands of Delaware on our way to Rehoboth Beach, I thought about the house my husband and I planned to buy in our old age. We wanted to live someplace remote, far away from the hustle of the city. We wanted to spend our last days in rocking chairs on our front porch.
As I drove through the towns, I thought to myself, “Gabe would like that house. Gabe would have loved it here.” Then I realized we would never have our little house in the country. Our dreams, along with my husband, were gone.
I imagine Jacob (also called Israel in Genesis 37) knew what it was like to let go of his dreams. Joseph was his beloved son, and when Jacob’s other sons came to tell him Joseph was gone, Jacob had to say goodbye to the dreams and future he planned for Joseph (Genesis 37:34-35). Visions of a wife, children, and home for Joseph would never come to pass. Jacob would have to let Joseph and his dreams for his favorite son go. I guess that’s why he refused to be comforted. It was too much to handle.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV).
The Bible warns us about holding on too tightly to our plans. Most of the time, things don’t work out exactly the way we planned. There are a number of things in my life that didn’t work out the way I planned, but in hindsight, they always worked together for my good (Romans 8:28). For example, when I was in college, I failed most of my business courses. I was determined to enter Corporate America after graduation. The business school rejected my application, but the English department sought me out. The Lord used the rejection to reroute me to majoring in English. It didn’t feel good at the time, but God used the circumstance to order my steps. Ironically, or not, I hate working in corporate environments, and I am passionate about writing.
My experience walking with the Lord is why I am apt to trust God in this season. The great Author and Creator is weaving a beautiful tapestry of my life, and I have to trust that when it is finished, it will be better than what I had imagined for myself. Even if I have to shed a few tears along the way. The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above that which we can ask or think. We have to believe that His plans are greater than our plans.
It is not easy to say goodbye to your dreams. However, if you’re in a circumstance similar to mine, I know God will empower us to let go of old dreams and will give us the courage to dream new ones.
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