What to Do with Shattered Dreams

It was a dream years in the making. Several years of planning, hoping, waiting . . . a move across the country . . . months spent studying and training, followed by another four months as an intern . . . when finally, all the hard work and dedication paid off for Leah. She got the job and was living the dream with a bright future ahead of her.

Less than a month later, it all came crashing down overnight. A medical test to check out a persistent, painful condition revealed a severe allergy that makes it impossible for Leah to keep a job in her field. She hasn’t even finished paying off school, and she’s already forced to look for a new line of work.

Leah described her experience to me as “rather crushing.” I can only imagine what it must feel like to invest all that time, energy, and money into something only to have it taken away from you in a moment.

When Your Options Are Bleak

Have you faced a tragic experience like Leah’s?
What do you do with your shattered dreams?
How do you find hope when you’ve been bitterly disappointed?

Many believers before us asked similar questions in the midst of pain and confusion:

  • “How long, O Lord?”
  • “Why have you forgotten me?”
  • “Why is my soul discouraged?”

This theme of feeling let down or abandoned is common throughout the Bible, particularly in the Psalms.

Psalm 89 was penned during a time when the nation of Israel was defeated and captured by their enemies. The Israelites, including the writer of this psalm, were exiles in a pagan, foreign land, far from the comforts of home. It is in this context that the psalmist asks despairingly of the Lord, “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? . . . Lord, where is your steadfast love of old?” (vv. 46, 49).

I really appreciate that there are raw, vulnerable passages like this one in the Bible. They remind me to be honest and humble in my prayers. It also brings comfort knowing that, like the psalmist, feeling discouraged or disheartened doesn’t mean I’ve completely lost sight of the truth. It just means I need the reminder God is still there and He hears me.

I think that’s why it’s important to note that encased around these doubting questions are reiterations of God’s unfailing character. Even as the psalmist is despairing his current situation (and I must agree, it was pretty dire!), he makes a point to recall the goodness and faithfulness of his God:

I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations (v. 1).

Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? (vv. 6–7).

Blessed be the LORD forever! (v. 52).

A Story of Hope

This past Thanksgiving God gifted me with a taste of His steadfast love for me. I ran a 5K for the first time in my life. The entire 3.1 miles! I’m not a runner, so I never imagined I would run any race for any length of time but especially not after the last two-and-a-half years battling a debilitating disease.

This time a year ago I was hardly able to get out of bed or even take a shower, and yet there I was running for thirty-six minutes straight! Jogging across the finish line, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithfulness and sustaining grace.

We don’t always like or understand the path God has us on. There are still days I wake up without much energy or am kept awake at night due to physical pain. Leah is still looking for a new job. But when I asked her how she is coping with the disappointment, this was her hope-filled reply: “I don’t let those frustrating, negative thoughts rule me. I allow myself to grieve, but then I try to look for the silver lining and thank God for those.”

The Lord never once stops walking with us, comforting us, and strengthening us to run and not grow weary. Leah went on to say, “God hasn’t forgotten me. This is all part of His big picture. Sometimes the big picture has painful turns, but that doesn’t mean He has abandoned me.”

Friend, I don’t know what you’re going through or what disappointment you’re facing, but one day you’ll run your race. I have full confidence of this because I have full confidence in the loving, unchanging character of our God.

God does answer prayer (Jer. 33:3). He does do all things well. He is faithful and kind, generously giving more than we can imagine or comprehend (Eph. 3:20–21). God is good and He is for you.

Whether you’re reeling from the pain of loss or abandonment, waiting for a major breakthrough, or dealing with any kind of disappointment, please don’t despair. Continue to wait on God and trust in His character. Cling to God’s Word, and look to Jesus as living proof of His steadfast love. In Him alone is where you will find hope.

Looking for even more encouragement in your disappointments? We’re excited about Revive Our Hearts latest Women of the Bible study, Elizabeth: Dealing with Disappointment. This six-session study will anchor your heart in God’s Truth and help you to face the joys and trials of the year ahead with confidence in the Lord’s care. Learn more about the study here.

About Author

Leanna Shepard

Leanna began serving on staff with Revive Our Hearts in the summer of 2014. Though originally from Arkansas and now residing in Michigan, her citizenship is in heaven, having been adopted as daughter of the King at age ten. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.