Friday, October 5, 2012

Shattered Dreams in the Quiet Place

It seems inevitable that each and every one of us will at some time in our lives, be touched by the painful experience of a shattered dream. Some people may hold on to a fading dream with tenacious passion, even above reason, until one day that dream lies broken in jagged pieces at their feet. It may be a love that should have lasted for a lifetime, a career that was to be the pinnacle of one's life work, or a financial nest egg that was to be there at retirement to provide a measurable life of ease rather than hardship in the senior years .... gone now, with only the memory of what could have been.

Shattered Dreams are Real

Tragedy touches everyone. Shattered dreams are real and they can leave a person devastated and broken. A man who was very acquainted with the reality of living on the raw edge of a shattered dream was the man Jacob, a character found in the Old Testament. He was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the fraternal twin brother of Esau. He was named Jacob as he came out of the womb with his hand grasping his older twin brother's heel. (Genesis 25:26).

These two brother's were opposite in every way, and their relationship was troubled by a harsh and divisive sibling rivalry.  It culminated in Jacob manipulating both his elder brother, and his father Isaac to obtain a birthright that was not his own (Genesis 28:4), bestowing upon him the promise of The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12: 1-3). This was a sacred rite and blessing reserved for the firstborn son alone. Jacob later fled for fear that his brother Esau would kill him for such treachery. Leaving his childhood home he journeyed into the wilderness, alone and uncertain as to his future. He found himself surrounded by a dry and barren wilderness.

“… Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. He gathered some stones there, and arranged them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.” (Genesis 28:10-11)

The stones that Jacob had used to rest his weary body upon may have symbolized what he might have felt that his life had become ... barren and desolate. His shattered dream became a painful reminder that what he had hoped for had not come without cost. Yet in God’s grace and mercy, those very stones became an altar of worship, as God gave Him a vision of the tomorrow yet to be. 

When a Shattered Dream is given to God

In The Quiet Place, God can begin to teach us that even a shattered dream can be used by Him to teach us something of His mercy and grace that can only be learned when our hearts are truly open and He is given full and complete access.

God's Mercy is Revealed to Jacob
“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. Genesis 28:12-14a)

God's Grace is Extended through Jacob
"All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”(Genesis 28:14b-15)

When a Shattered Dream becomes an Altar of Worship

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God; this is the Gate of Heaven.” (Genesis 28:17)

In life we often discover that what we thought would make us happy and fulfilled is found to leave the heart empty, restless and unsatisfied. How precious it is to discover that what was once a shattered dream can became God’s means to bless us with much more that we could have ever imagined.

“Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called the place Bethel,  though the city used to be called Luz.” (Genesis 28:18-19)

The name Luz comes from the verb luz meaning to turn aside. In the Bible this word is used mostly as a negative, either as a turning away from wisdom (Proverbs 3:21, 4:21) or used to describe being a "twisted" person (Proverbs 3:32, 14:2). It is used also to describe a crooked uneven pathway. The derivative azut means deviation or crookedness. Jacob’s manipulative scheming to gain Esau’s birthright, when given to God for Him to have His way, changed this barren place into a place Jacob called, Bethel…The House of God; the Place where God dwells. Jacob’s sorrowful place became His Quiet Place where God revealed His will to him. 

The name Bethel is a compound of two Hebrew words. The first segment is the word bayet meaning house, household, home or temple. The second segment is the word El, the common abbreviation of the word Elohim. It is the first name given for God in the Bible, "In the beginning God, (Elohim) created the Heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1).

The word beth ha-'elohim, is a designation of the Hebrew word for sanctuary. In a moment of profound personal revelation, Jacob discovered that his desert place became "The House of Yahweh," the place where God does dwell.
It is only when we allow God to dwell in midst of the broken pieces of our shattered dream, that that very place of grievous sorrow, becomes The Quiet Place of the House of God to our soul. It becomes personal and real, when upon the dark lonely pathway through the forest of disillusionment; the night shadows become aglow with the presence of God.

Jacob understood that in a lonely desert place, his shattered dream had become the pathway to a deeper understanding of the will of God for his life.

Give your Shattered Dream to God

Jacob realized that his bed of stones had become an altar of worship, but only as he yielded his heart and broken dreams to the infinite purpose of God. Are you in a struggle with God, wrestling over a shattered dream that needs to be laid at His feet in humble obedience? Give Him the pieces and He will show you the pathway to discovering how only His will can lead to the creation of a new beginning in your life.

“…and Jacob vowed a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.” (Genesis 28:20-21)

Honor God with Obedience and Sacrifice 

Jacob recognized that God wanted him to sacrifice a measure of His provision for him, as a token of trust and obedience that God alone must have His way in Jacob’s life.

“… and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s House, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:22)

When the Pathway to the Future is Unclear

The Quiet Place is where understanding becomes enlightenment, and enlightenment becomes a ministry to others. When the way seemed unclear to Jacob, God would later remind him, to return to this place he called Bethel, where God had taken his shattered dream, and gave him the vision of a promised blessing that lay in store for him. God would remind him to return to worship Him there, in The Quiet Place of the House of God.

“I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.” (Genesis 31:13)

“Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

Where once it was enough to have his father’s Isaac’s blessing, now in the wilderness of his shattered dreams, he had to have God’s blessing. When our dream is no longer as important as His blessing in our lives, then the horizon of the future will not be the central focus of our hopes and dreams, but rather our focus will be His glory and His blessing alone. It is only then that the Quiet Place becomes not merely a place to clear our heads, but a place to clear our heart and hear the whisper of His voice alone.

Letting go of the sorrow of a shattered dream is no easy thing. For Jacob, this lonely desolate time became a testimony to others as to how God alone can take a shattered dream and use it as a pathway into a deeper understanding of God’s will, God’s provision, and God’s blessing. 

 “…and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” (Genesis 35:6)

As we journey through our lives, we may discover that the stones that are embedded in the pathway before us, are the footprints of those whose hearts and dreams were shattered and broken. They were fellow pilgrims upon the path of life that experienced personal tragedy in the loss of a life dream.   

What is important to remember is that the rock strewn path need not be seen as headstones meant to mark the graves of lost hopes, but rather, stepping stones to remind fellow pilgrims to never give up their quest to dream yet again, when sorrow cloaks the day into night. The dawn will bring forth the sunrise of God's promise to each one who mourns the loss of a shattered dream. 

He longs to teach us that the horizon yet ahead of us at this moment in time, is His gift to us, but we must take steps, however faltering, toward what we can sense but cannot see. That is faith with the breath of God giving us wings to fly.

Recommended Resource:

Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy

If God loves me, why does life hurt so much? 

"A new way to live is available to us," writes widely respected author and counselor Larry Crabb, "a way that leads to a joy-filled encounter with Christ, to a life-arousing community with others, and to a powerful transformation of our interior worlds that makes us more like Jesus."

You'll see how God moves you from shattered dreams to better dreams to the highest dream - and the joy that comes from dreaming it.

 "Shattered dreams, "writes Dr. Larry Crabb, "are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit first to awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream."