A Sea of Broken Dreams

“I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Isaiah 65:19

As I look at the landscape in our country today, especially when it comes to race in America, what I see is a sea of broken dreams. For those people who look at their life with regret and pain, this post is for you. Usually, I leave the good part for the clincher, but I want you to hear this upfront: God can restore your broken past, and He helps you overcome your broken dreams.

Broken Dreams 

The story is told about a man named Jack who showed tremendous potential as a pastor. From the time he became a Jesus follower as a teenager, Jack had been used by God in some dynamic ways. If you took a look at his life growing up, he was not the type of person you would have voted as the “Most Likely to Succeed.” His problem was that he didn’t come from a good family. Jack was not particularly popular in school. He wasn’t blessed with athletic abilities nor was Jack good-looking. In other words, nothing about Jack stood out. Nothing separated him from his peers.

But isn’t Jack just the kind of person God would use to give Himself glory? Jack was effective in ministry. He helped people come to faith in the risen Christ. He helped people discover their unique place in God’s kingdom, and those believers, in turn, helped disciple other new Christians. Jack helped people grow in their faith walk. He was a good public speaker. He had strong organizational skills and showed potential for a great life-changing ministry. Things can’t be that easy, can they?

One day, when Jack was 21 years old, he went to the doctor complaining of chest pain. He was admitted to the hospital, and within a few days, he died. It seemed impossible, but it was true. Jack’s death represented a multitude of broken dreams. He had hoped to accomplish so much in life; now those dreams were gone forever. But listen to the words of Scripture.

God Makes This Promise . . .

No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. Isaiah 65:20

Death causes us to experience the pain of broken dreams. It has an ugly way of causing unspeakable pain. But God can restore our hope. God proved through the resurrection of Jesus that death is not an end but a pathway to eternity. God promises that death is not the end; it is the beginning of a journey. Broken dreams are caused not only by an untimely death but also by an unfulfilled life—and God offers us hope here also.

As I see the pain in our urban communities, oftentimes young lives cut short by violence, I think of Jack. What could that young person have been? Or the dreams of a talented athlete cut short by a career-ending knee injury. What will he do now? The urban areas I served were littered with people who had awesome dreams of making a better life for themselves and their families. Some people see failure; I see brokenness. 

The Auction of Broken Dreams

This illustration is shared in an eSermons newsletter: “In his book Horns and Halos, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton tells about one of the weirdest auction sales in history; and it was held in Washington, D.C., in 1926, where 150,000 patented models of old inventions were declared obsolete and placed on the auction block for public auction.

“Prospective buyers and on-lookers chuckled as item after item was put up for bids, such as a bed-bug buster or an illuminated cat that was designed to scare away mice. Then there was a device to prevent snoring. It consisted of a trumpet that reached from the mouth to the ear and was designed to awaken the snorer and not the neighbors. Then there was the adjustable pulpit that could be raised or lowered according to the height of the preacher.

“Needless to say, this auction of old patent models was worth at least 150,000 laughs; but if we would look into this situation a little deeper, we would discover that these 150,000 old patent models also represent 150,000 broken dreams. They represented a mountain of disappointments.” (eSermons.com, December 16, 2007).

They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of My people be, and My chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. Isaiah 65:22

When you read these words, think of the hundreds of thousands of slaves who spent their lives living in poverty while building the wealth of others. They never had the opportunity to enjoy the labor of their own hands. There are hundreds of thousands of people who live in frustration. So many people are working hard every day, but never really getting anywhere. Their lives are characterized by shattered hopes and broken dreams, and only God can restore them.

That’s what He does—He takes things that are broken and puts them back together again. Don’t lose heart. God has promised to bind up the brokenhearted and restore those whose dreams have been dashed. He does that through the restorative ministry of Jesus Christ.

Scripture: ESV®

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Written by

Keith Haney

Rev. B. Keith Haney is Assistant to the President for Missions, Human Care, and Stewardship of Iowa District West. He has been an ordained pastor for twenty-seven years and has served multi-ethnic urban congregations in Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. He is the author of numerous devotionals, including One Nation under God: Healing Racial Divides in America. He is married to Miriam (Bickel) Haney, and they have six children and one grandchild.

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