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What to Do When Your Dreams Stall: 5 Steps to Take When You've Given Up

Originally published Monday, 07 July 2014.

{photo by SandraHeskaKing}

I get asked this question almost every time I'm interviewed about my new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Why is it so hard to rest, if we know it's good for us?

This is what everyone wonders.

And this is what I say:  it's easier not to think about rest.

It's easier to go, go, go.

It's easier to say yes, yes yes. 

No one gets upset, no one gets disappointed and maybe there seems to be fewer conflicts -- at the moment. But, deep inside, the person who pays the price for putting ourselves last is... us.  We somehow erroneously feel if we choose to take care of ourselves, we are rejecting God and our usefulness to Him.

Another reason we avoid the quiet is this:  we don't know what we'd do with ourselves if we had extra time to just be. It's such a foreign concept, if we're used to defining our value by how much we can do -- versus how much intimacy we experience with God.

How can we give of ourselves to God and to others, if we don't even know ourselves? Our God-given dreams hold one of the special keys to our hearts. 

Today, I'd like to share an article I wrote for Relevant Magazine: What To Do When Your Dreams Stall:  5 Steps to Take When You've Given Up, that became one of top trending published posts that week.

When we make space for quiet and rest, we nurture our God-given dreams -- even the ones we're discouraged to give up.


She told me that I was selfish to try to be a writer.

My mother said other people can afford to go off to become a journalist, but God gave me gifts for a reason. Not so I can do whatever I wanted. Writing was good hobby, but it doesn't pay the bills or move us out of our low-income housing.

So, I shoved my applications to Boston U and Columbia into the garbage can.

I applied to become a computer science and engineering major and stayed close to home. I never told anyone about my broken dreams because it always felt like I was being ungrateful for the opportunities I was given to get an education.

I let go of my dream of becoming a writer. I lived separated from my heart.

I eventually found healing, but only after I took the painful path to re-awaken the dreams I tried to deny my whole life.

Maybe you too have given up on the dreams you felt called to when you were younger. Maybe you’re discouraged and think it just isn’t meant to be. I had to learn the hard way that God-given dreams are worth pursuing, even when it’s difficult. 

Here are a few things to do when your dreams stall.

1) Make space for you. Confide in God. It's soul wearying to constantly hide your dreams. To deny our desires and the pain of loss. We feel guilty for not moving on and beat ourselves for not being thankful. Instead, Jesus whispers –

“Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Confide in God about how you really feel. Make space to ask the hard questions. When your soul is free to be real, you can receive the comfort and strength from God to dream again.

2)  Feed your soul instead of ignoring it. We often think of the action-figure Jesus but the Bible tells us –

“Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do. We need spiritual whitespace to feed our dreams. Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's poeima -- poetry translated as "workmanship" -- created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Are our lives more like art or cluttered advertisement?

3. Make Rest Your Ambition Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. Rest is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God (Rom.15:20, 2 Cor.5:9)

"We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life." 1 Thess. 4:10–11

Downtime puts us in touch with our passion instead of numbing ourselves by managing our inboxes, Facebook updates, TV or achievement-oriented productivity. Rest rejuvenated our dreams with creativity, deep relationships and adventure.

4.  Cast Your Net On The Other Side It’s too late, you tell yourself. You’ve moved on and gained strength by helping others.  But Jesus sees the nets you’ve left. Jesus says --

“Cast the net on the [other] side of the boat and you will find a catch” (John 21:6).

Jesus sees the empty nets.  Put out where it is deeper and let down your nets. It’s not too late. Try something radically different.  Maybe even the opposite direction you've been heading.

5.  Journey To Find the Open Door You're ready to give up. But no matter how long the journey or how broken you feel your story has become, none of it can change who God made you to be. The door to your dreams God has intended for you can never be lost, closed or destroyed by anyone or anything.

I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." Revelations 3:8

Sometimes, it's easy to give yourself away, when you no longer carry any hope for the dreams you once held.

Sometimes it takes more faith to revisit dreams that have stalled than asking for faith to forget about them.

I went on to finish my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace and find my voice.  

I hope you will take the journey to recover yours with God too.


Tell us about your journey -- your dreams?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment.  Your voice helps each of us to find God in ours.


 For inspiration to explore new ways to rejunvenate intimacy with God and find your voice, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, listing Bonnie Gray as one of the Top 6 notable new religion authors.  This memoir-driven guidebook book for rest is for anyone longing to create space in life for God and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart's home. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestseller author of Unglued

Bonnie Gray is the soulful writer behind FaithBarista.com serving up shots of faith for the daily grind.  She is a contributor at DaySpring (in)courage, her work spotighted by Christianity Today and nationally syndicated through McClatchy-Tribune News Services. After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Blog Tour Series -- {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.