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What To Do in a Season of Dying Dreams?

I just stayed at an Airbnb this past weekend. It was a beautiful place on a river just 25 minutes from my home. We had a great time. But you couldn’t help feel bad for the owner and for Airbnb. The whole world has changed since Covid. Airbnb used to be riding a wave of success. Now they are strug…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I just stayed at an Airbnb this past weekend. It was a beautiful place on a river just 25 minutes from my home. We had a great time. But you couldn’t help feel bad for the owner and for Airbnb. The whole world has changed since Covid. Airbnb used to be riding a wave of success. Now they are struggling to survive.

So many people’s dreams have shattered. 15 years ago, I had a dream of taking young people on a Matthew 10 trip around the world. I called it the World Race. And I just knew it was going to change lives.

When the virus began to spread, we had to bring nearly 600 young people home within a week’s time. And since you can’t get on planes, that dream I had seems to be dying. What should I do? And what should any of us do who have a dream that seems to be dying now? Here are three thoughts:

1. Don’t let bitterness take root

Nothing leaves shrapnel in a soul like a dream that has died. A couple has a dream of raising children, but then they can’t get pregnant. It’s so natural to raise an angry fist at heaven and say, “Why, God?” 

How many of us have nurtured a seed of a dream, watered it with time and attention, only to see it die? 

Maybe it was just the dream of a relationship. When you hope so much for a relationship and see it fall apart, it’s been easy for shrapnel to lodge in the soul.

The thing about shrapnel, I’m told, is that it can move around inside you. If it finds its way to your heart and blocks the flow of blood, it can kill you.

As searing as the pain of a shattered dream can be, letting the resulting grief fester until it becomes bitterness can be worse still.  The shrapnel needs to be dug out, the grief properly observed; words of forgiveness need to be spoken.

Too many of us are walking around with shrapnel in our souls.  Dig it out before it goes to your heart. 

2. Don’t stop dreaming

Dreams are fragile, gossamer things. They are prone to breaking. Martin Luther King famously declared, “I have a dream!” Yet if you look at his dream today, you see how far from reality it seems.

The good news is that dreams also come true. They give our lives purpose and fire our passion. Just because your last dream has fallen on hard times doesn’t mean that your next dream won’t be even better!

The world needs our dreams. It needs new ways of living in a time when our newsfeed keeps giving us a steady stream of negativity. God is a dreamer and he wants to share his dream of a better world with us. If anybody should be optimistic during this season of retrenchment, it is those of us who know God and believe in his dreams.

3. Pursue new dreams

As I look back at some of the hardest times in my life, I see that I often mis-read the tea leaves. There I was in the midst of pursuing a dream and catastrophe happened! A few times I was fired. It felt like betrayal. It felt depressing. 

But in hindsight I see that God was in the middle of it – redeeming the pain, making room for new dreams. He was clearing space in my heart for something else. 

At present I’ve got a couple of new dreams I’m pursuing. Global U is a school for young entrepreneurs. We started it two years ago and this past year was a big success. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the prospects are exciting.

And last month my son started a new business – a food truck. He launches next week. Seeing him make Cheese Louise a success is a dream that I suddenly have time for. I get to be a part because I chose to not stop dreaming.

How about you? What dreams do you have that seem like they’re dying? Whatever happens, let me encourage you – this period of loss is not a signal that you should stop dreaming.

God loves dreamers. He gives dreams to his children to turn into reality. Jesus challenged his disciples: “Have faith!” He wants us to see a better world and make that world a reality.

His challenge to live a life of faith rings in my ears. I pray it does for you as well.

Comments (10)

  • Michael L Headley

    Great encouraging words brother. In the movie Rudy, Rudys best friend stated to Rudy in the midst of a life altering choice, “dreams are what makes life tolerable”. Appealing to the soul after engaging in the ways God engulfs us and surrounds us, dreams keep me focused and pressing forward in faith believing! Thanks for the articulate clarity backed by personal experience that you always bring in your writing! Blessings buddy.

  • Thanks Seth.

    I have not stopped dreaming. You were there in the beginning when I was dreaming these wild dreams for trafficked women, and you were and still are such an encouragement to follow God’s kingdom dreams inside of me. God is doing such amazing things for girls trapped in the sex trade. Revival has visited our girls and wondrous stories are being written right this minute while I write. Heaven is coming down and girls are getting wrecked with Jesus. It’s a glorious thing. God is so wonderful!

    At 62, I’m still foolishly dreaming impossible things. Oh, thank you for all you have been to me. Jesus is so good.

    Bless you man.


  • You are a great dreamer, Kenny! Your dream of rescuing the young women of Angeles City is a beautiful one. I want to hear the stories that are being written in this season!

  • Seth,
    We have navigated decades together of “dream making” and “dream deaths” but with the foundation of unshakable, covenant friendship. I’m so grateful.

  • I’ve just been reading some of your other blogs since this one. I have a question for you, because I’ve been quickened by themes like identity and trusting God with our dreams and our dreams being God’s dreams in us. I’m wondering whether it’s your sense that our dreams ever really die, vs that the form of them may change. For example the dream of short-term missions and waking up the American church seems to me the same core dream as sprouted in the form of the World Race, and while the end goal of a Global U term might look different than the World Race, that seems to be another form of the core dream that lives in you. So what I’m wondering, as I’m sitting with God with all this today, is whether the dream that I thought had died really needs to die and released and a new one asked for or looked for or fabricated, or whether I should look into the core of the dream that was compelling and ask God to make it live again in another form. Do you have any thoughts about this, whether dreams really die or change, or whether it’s that a particular form of them may die or a new one be given?

    I’m reminded now about how Moses wanted liberation for his people, and his first form of that was killing an oppressor – but later the dream God gave him, that felt too big for him, was really maybe a different form of the same kernel that was planted in him early.

  • I love your deep thoughts!

    Yes – the dream doesn’t die. If it’s a dream of God, perhaps it gets adopted or stewarded by others. But usually it will change shape.

    What gets confusing is this shape-changing process where the stewardship of the dream may shift from one generation to the next. For example, I think Jesus was praying his dream of a unified church in John 17.

    The temptation is to look at the Church in national terms, but God sees his Church worldwide. So, looking at the Church in the US, we might be discouraged by the declining numbers and especially the downward slope of youth involvement in church.

    But the Church internationally is doing just fine – exploding in many countries. Countries like Iran or Afghanistan that used to be enemies are now epicenters of revival.

    Young people will always need to be discipled and will need to be activated as the World Race has activated young people in the past. If the wineskin of the World Race outlives its usefulness, then other wineskins will rise up to help the dream of God to live.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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