02 May 2014
How God redeems broken dreams
“Our broken dreams won’t be redeemed through finding silver-linings alone, but by following the way of Jesus.”
A cool afternoon in November. Beloved authors Adrian and Bridget Plass are showing my wife Merryn and me around the Yorkshire Dales. After a walk to Malham Cove we head back to the car, Merryn and Bridget striding ahead while Adrian and I trail behind.
“I was sorry to hear what you’d been through when we last spoke,” Adrian says. “How are you both doing now?”
“On the whole,” I say, “we’re a lot better. We still feel the loss at times, but I guess we’re trying to focus on the up-side of our situation, and the opportunities it brings.”
Much has happened since Adrian and I last spoke a year ago. Back then Merryn and I had been enduring the darkest moment of our lives. After 10 years spent trying to start a family—through special diets, courses of fertility-boosting supplements, healing prayer, numerous rounds of IVF treatment, a two-year wait on the Australian adoption list, followed by more IVF—we had brought our dream of having a child to an end. Merryn had been devastated. When an opportunity at Oxford University opened for her, we’d relocated to the UK for her to start again.
“I can understand that,” Adrian says, replying to my status update. “But focussing on the opportunities of being childless will only take you so far.”
We walk a little further before Adrian explains what he means.
“We ran a retreat at Scargill House once,” he says. “We called it Positively Single. The aim was to help single people feel better about their situation—to look at the up-side, as you put it—and how they have more time, freedom, opportunity to travel, and things like that. Well, as soon as the first participants arrived it was clear they weren’t feeling very positive about their singleness, no matter what opportunities it brought.
“I was scheduled to preach that weekend and decided to speak about Jesus hanging on the cross. I called the talk Positively Crucified? You see, no matter how hard we try, we cannot put a positive spin on the crucifixion. It was a dark, barbaric event— there was no up-side. And Jesus didn’t try to find one. Instead, he did something else entirely.”
“Go on,” I say.
“Have you ever noticed how many people Jesus ministered to as he hung on the cross?”
Adrian continues. “He ministered to his mother...”
“You mean, putting her in John’s care?” I clarify.1
“That’s right. And he ministered to the thief crucified next to him...”
“Who asked Jesus to remember him,” I say, tracking along.2
“He ministered to the people who crucified him...”
‘“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”’3
“He ministered to the Roman centurion...”
“Who came to believe in him.”4
“And he ministered to us,” Adrian says, “forgiving our sins through his sacrifice. All of this was done in the middle of his suffering, before his resurrection.
“My message to those singles was this: Yes, there may be some benefits in being single, but you will also find it difficult and lonely. But out of your suffering will come opportunities to minister to people in ways you otherwise never could.”
Later that evening Adrian and I sit in his lounge room talking about the publishing world—the subject of another broken dream. In relocating to the UK I had relinquished a national radio ministry in Australia, and a publishing history. Being unknown here, British publishers were showing little interest in my book projects.
“Have you considered writing your story into a book?” Adrian says unexpectedly.
“What do you mean?” I say. “Like a memoir? No, I...”
“I think it could help a lot of people.”
I didn’t know it then but in a few weeks’ time I would take his advice and begin writing our story into a book. A large American publisher would then release it, and my inbox full with readers’ emails.
Our hoped-for baby never came. Perhaps for you it’s a hoped-for healing, career or spouse that hasn’t materialised. While there may be some ‘up-side’ to each, our broken dreams won’t be redeemed through finding silver-linings alone, but by following the way of Jesus.
Who turns his crucifixion into a mission field. And recycles his suffering into service.
This is the unique, paradoxical way our God redeems our broken dreams.
Sheridan Voysey is a UK-based writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings chronicles his and his wife’s journey to start life afresh after ten years of infertility.
1 John 19:26,27
2 Luke 23:39–43
3 Luke 23:33,34
4 Luke 23:47; Matthew 27:54