What does this word bring to mind for you?
Undoubtedly, for those professing to be Christians or those who grew up in the church, Jesus crossed your mind.
For others, perhaps it was a significant role model—a parent or grandparent who brought you where you are today. Maybe it has even been a dream or hope for the future, not a person, that you consider to have rescued you from a dark time.
All that being said, I imagine that the title of this article may have seemed a bit harsh—especially in a culture where following your dreams seems to be the anthem of the age. It’s more important than anything else, many would say, to be true to yourself and to your heart’s desires.
So what do I mean when I say that your dreams can’t save you?
Future Hopes and Temporary Satisfaction
It’s far too often that we view our journey as a series of steps rather than one cohesive whole—meaning, we’re always holding goals out before ourselves, telling ourselves that when we’ve reached these goals, we will have “made it.”
For example, the average single young man or woman greatly desires companionship—a boyfriend or girlfriend that will hopefully become a husband or wife someday. And so they wait, thinking their real life will start once they’ve obtained this.
But what happens when they attain this? Next, they desire a house. Then a child. Then a dog. On and on and on it goes. The details of the story may change, but the moral remains the same; we always feel as though we are in a “training stage” in life—always looking forward to the next thing, telling ourselves that when we’ve achieved so and so, we’ll be satisfied.
Looking forward to things and setting goals are not at all bad things—the problem comes when all your hope, and love, and affections are placed in that which you are waiting for. Our dreams, whatever they may be, begin to be that sacred “thing” that will deliver you from a place of mediocrity and unfulfillment to a place of greatness and fulfillment.
However, nothing on this earth can fill the void that is within each one of us. No creature, no house, no dream can fix what is broken in every one of us.
But you don’t understand—my child (wife, boyfriend, etc.) is EVERYTHING to me. He has given me purpose, he motivates me to be a better person.
That may be so right now. But some day that little boy will grow up. One day he will no longer depend on you. In fact, if he follows the path of almost every other teenager who ever lived he may not even like you, for a while (and all the parents of teens said “amen”). What happens when he moves out and you are back on your own again? Of course, he will visit and call, but he will have his own life to take care of—what will become of yours?
The same can be said of any example. Any married couple who is being honest will tell you that their spouse did not “complete” them. Though I believe marriage can be an incredibly joyful adventure, I am also confident that rather than saving you from your errors and inner problems it will actually expose them (Go ask any married couple you know and see if this rings true).
The fact of the matter is, anytime we place the full weight of our love, affections, or hopes in anything other than God, expecting that they, rather than Jesus, will save us, we set ourselves up for heartbreak and life-long striving.
Puritan Henry Scougal puts it like this:
Again, as divine love doth advance and elevate the soul, so it is that alone which can make it happy. The highest and most ravishing pleasures, the most solid and substantial delights that human nature is capable of, are those which arise from the endearments of a well-placed and successful affection.
That which embitters love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or affection and gratitude to requite it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our trouble. To all these evils are they exposed, whose chief supreme affection is placed on creatures like themselves; but the love of God delivers us from them all.
In other words, our wrongly placed affections end up leading us far astray, into misery and turmoil rather than fulfillment, which can come from the love of God alone. Scougal makes the case that not only does the love of God deliver us from the turmoil of misplaced affections leading to a broken heart; in his love alone can we find “the highest and most ravishing pleasures, the most solid and substantial delights that human nature is capable of.”
The Root of the Problem
Here’s the thing—the same problem lies within each and every one of us. It’s not lack of companionship or anything else. It’s not merely that we are selfish or greedy, though these things are nasty fruits of the problem. Our problem is not whatever temporal, transient thing we may believe it is—our problem is sin.
Each and every one of us who lives is born with a natural inclination towards wrong-doing.
Don’t believe me?
Leave a child in a room with a piece of cake, tell them not to eat it, and see what happens. You may protest that this is not a fair scenario, as we’ve set them up for failure. However, we need not look only to this situation to prove the point. Find a parent of a young child and ask them two questions—one, has their child ever lied, stolen something, or done wrong to another person? Two, did the parent teach them to do this?
Indeed, the Bible teaches us this truth, confirming what we see naturally. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity [immorality], and in sin did my mother conceive me.” When our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned, they cast the rest of us into sin along with them. They, being our representatives, willfully separated themselves and us from God by choosing to sin, tainting human nature with the stain of sin.
Therefore, we are not sinners because we sin, but rather, we sin because we are sinners.
But thank God for his love—where we unceasingly strive to fix ourselves through doing “good things” or through a relationship, or through a dream we may have, God has looked upon us in love and mercy and has provided a way that saves us.
I’m sure we have all heard John 3:16 at some point—whether it be in Sunday School as a child, at a sporting event, or elsewhere. But unfortunately, I think we often miss the power of it. We hear it and think, “Oh, that’s nice. God loves me and saved me,” and we continue trying to fill the void within us with jobs or relationships, thinking that they will deliver us from our state of unfulfillment.
Not only do we disbelieve in Jesus and what he’s done, but we consider it not enough and go on to try to save ourselves. Let’s take a closer look at the verse with a fresh perspective… “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will never die, but have eternal life.”
If you believe that your problem is your lack of any earthly thing, then this verse makes little sense. If our problem is that we believe we should be married but currently are not, then Jesus’ sacrifice in taking the punishment for our sins is a side effect, and enjoying eternal life with him is a “nice bonus.”
But when we realize that every one of us is broken by sin, separated from God, and that Jesus has died for that very problem, taking the full weight of its punishment upon himself, then our hope begins to rise and our hearts begin to sing praise to the one who has delivered us from our seemingly hopeless situation.Dreams can’t save you from sin. Family can’t fix your fractured soul. A spouse or children can’t mend your broken heart. But Jesus can do all of these things. Click To Tweet
All this is not at all to say that dreams and aspirations for the future are a bad thing—they are not, in and of themselves. They become poison when we believe that they will rescue us.
Dreams can’t save you from sin. Family can’t fix your fractured soul. A spouse or children can’t mend your broken heart.
But Jesus can do all of these things.
He paid the highest price to do all of these things. All you have to do is believe in him, turning away from your own efforts at fixing yourself and trusting that not only is he more than capable, he is also willing and desirous to do so. Turn to Jesus and find life.
Your dreams can’t save you…but Jesus can.