First, I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then, I was dying to finish college and start working.
And then, I was dying to marry and have children.
And then, I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school.
And then, I was dying to retire.
And now, I am dying …
and suddenly, I realize I forgot to live.
Do you ever get caught up in your dreams for the future and feel stuck in the reality of your right now? You know that your right now is good, really good. You have so much to be thankful for. You recognize that others would give anything to live the life that you now have. And yet, all you can do is dream and hope and long for what seems like this far off distant future that you desire.
You try to follow the advice of the experts and live in the present. You make long gratitude lists to remind yourself of how good you have it. You focus your attention on your blessings and the experiences of now, but it seems to only last for a short time before you are distracted again by your dreams. If only you could make the future come faster. If only you could guarantee that this future in your dreams would actually happen.
And you know the reality is that you won’t ever get to the future of your dreams if you don’t put the focus and the work in the here and now. But its just so hard with these current life circumstances. You are busy and stressed and things are so tight and difficult. If only you had this future life it would just make everything so much better. But you can’t get to future life without pushing through the hard of now.
I’m a big believer in goals. I think it is great to be future focused and have a plan for where we want to go in life. It is important to always be growing, improving ourselves, and moving forward in this journey of life. And so we look to the future and dream of what we might be able to do with the days ahead of us.
And this is good.
Until you get stuck there.
The point of dreaming of our future and setting our goals is to provide us with guidance for the here and now. Our dreams and goals give us the information we need in order to know what we should do with today. We look at tomorrow not to live tomorrow today, but to guide us into becoming the person that tomorrow needs us to be.
The truth that we all know is that tomorrow is not promised. We may never achieve the goals and dreams we have for ourselves. We may passionately believe that God has placed these dreams inside of our hearts and still never achieve them on this side of eternity. The only thing we have is this very moment.
To live, to breathe, to smile, to laugh, to enjoy this moment in time and savor it for all it is worth. And it is worth so much. Even when conditions aren’t perfect. Even when our heart longs for something different. Even when our circumstances are difficult and painful. We have this blessed moment of life. A gift from our loving Creator.
I do not claim to be an expert in this. I struggle daily with my desire to live in my head. In my head, I can see this beautiful future that I’m dreaming of and it looks so pretty and fun and so much easier than my trials today. But I know that this dreaming is useless. This dreaming does nothing for my today. Dreaming without action is simply wasted time.
So here are ways we can use our dreams to fuel us into action and living fully present in the moments of today.
1. Seek God first always, in all things, at all times.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT
Our entire purpose on this Earth is to seek God. This is it. Whatever dreams and goals and hopes you have are secondary. All of the gifts and people and possessions you experience on this earth are a nice touch, but they are not the point. The entire reason that God made us, in His image, is so that we would seek Him, reach for Him, and find Him.
If this is not your one aim and your one goal, you are entirely missing the point of your existence.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” Acts 17:24-28 NIV
Related: When you feel like you’re failing at everything
2. Recognize that there is a time for planning and dreaming.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT
Dreaming and planning is not wrong and in fact, the Bible directs us to plan ahead.
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Luke 14:28-30 NLT
But once you’ve planned, once you’ve dreamed and scheduled and counted the cost, you release your plans to our Sovereign God who holds all things and controls all things. For His plans are perfect. His ways are higher. His thoughts are not like our thoughts. So we release our hopes and dreams to him, recognizing that it is only through His will and His power that we will achieve anything.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT
Related: How to respond when life doesn’t go as planned
3. Trust in God’s Sovereignty and Goodness
If you listen to and pay attention to successful people you will likely hear a common theme when they talk about their “before” and “after”, especially successful Christian people. Usually, you will hear them say something along the lines of “God exceeded my expectations,” “God’s plans were much bigger than I would have ever dreamed,” “I would have never planned my life this way, but it is better than I ever imagined it could be.”
God has a habit of blowing our minds. God has a knack for lavishing unconditional love and faithfulness upon His people. God’s ways are bigger, better, higher, and wiser.
Now, none of this is a promise of a perfect life. None of this is a promise that we will be rich and prosperous without a care in the world. In fact, we are promised the exact opposite. We know there will be trials. We are certain that there will be hard times. And earthly riches should never be our aim.
But we can be certain that God is good. And that His plans for us are good. And when things look doubtful, dark, or downright scary, we can trust that He has our back and He will lead us through each and every storm. Safe, secure, successful.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Related: Thy Will Be Done
4. Do the Work.
We have our dreams and goals for a reason. I absolutely believe that God places dreams and goals in our hearts to lead us into the places He desires for us to go. The more we draw close to Him and seek His face the more closely our dreams will align with His plans. They may not look exactly alike and the end result might be very different than we imagined because His way of thinking tends to be far beyond our human capabilities, but our initial dreams are a gift to guide us into the work He wants us to do.
And that is the important part. We have work to do. No dream or goal was ever achieved sitting around and just “waiting on God”. God doesn’t usually move until you do. God rewards our faithfulness with results.
Remember the story of Joseph. As a young child, Joseph had a dream that He would be a leader and a ruler over his entire family. And then he was sold into slavery. And then wrongfully imprisoned. Until finally years and years and years later, he became the ruler he knew he was supposed to be. But the important piece of the story is Joseph’s faithfulness to do the work, no matter where he found himself.
The Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph so he succeeded in everything he did. Both Potiphar and the jail warden put Joseph in charge of everything in their authority. Joseph did the work and then God blessed the work and used that work to lead Joseph into the next stage of His calling. God could not have helped Joseph succeed in everything he did if Joseph just sat around dreaming and wishing about the life he was “supposed to be living”. Joseph had to do first and then God blessed it.
5. Make the Next Right Decision.
Our dreams can be exciting, but they can also be overwhelming. We have a burning passion inside our hearts to faithfully do what we believe God is calling us to do, but the task ahead of us looks far greater than our strengths and abilities.
How am I supposed to get from here to there? I’m not strong enough for this. I don’t know how. I don’t see all the steps, what if I mess up or make the wrong decision? What if I fail? What if I misunderstood God’s calling?
Friend, we don’t have to have it all figured out. And we certainly don’t need to worry about failure. The Creator and King of the entire universe has got your back. There is no problem He cannot solve. There is no mistake He cannot repair. There is no wrong decision He can’t make right.
You seek Him to lead you, trust Him to help you, and make the next right decision. You don’t have to see the whole path. You don’t need a clear vision of the future. You don’t even need the strength to make it to the next hour. You have this moment. Make a choice for this moment and get to work. When the next moment comes, make your next choice. And if you don’t know, you ask God, and trust in His lead. But all you worry about is the next right step.
This is how we live in the present. We dream of and plan for the future, but then we release our dreaming and hold onto today. This moment. This beautiful gift.
What will you do with this moment right now? How will you faithfully use this day, in the midst of your in-between, in the middle of your “not the circumstances I had hoped for”, what will you do to trust God with your dreams and faithfully follow what He is calling you to do for this day?
“Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” Luke 9:62 MSG
Today’s Action Step
Seek God first. Spend some time alone with God in prayer, listen for His voice, read His word, and search for the peace about your situation that only He can give. Then move forward with the work that you know He is calling you to do. Make the next decision and get to work.
Leave a comment with the one thing you will do to make the next right decision in pursuing your God-given dreams.
My friend Julie from HallwayInitiative.com recently released an ebook called A Place Prepared: Finding Peace in God’s Perfect Plan. In this book, Julie walks us through the countless trials and struggles she faced as a young adult including financial hardships, relationship struggles, and serious medical issues for several of her family members. Throughout her stories, she weaves the message of hope and peace we can find through our Savior. Her ability to notice God’s faithfulness in each season of life will move you to begin to look out for the ways God is working in your life to show His glory and goodness. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to be reminded that God will always go before us and prepare us for whatever circumstance we will face in the road ahead. You can purchase your digital copy of A Place Prepared by clicking this link.