5 Tests to Discern if a Dream Is from God

Dr. Audrey Davidheiser

Crosswalk Contributing Writer
Updated Dec 26, 2023
5 Tests to Discern if a Dream Is from God

God isn’t obligated to bankroll or bless any objective He doesn’t call us to do. Let’s make sure we don’t squander our resources to go after our own whims.

Did your dream come from God?

I’m not referring to activities that occur within REM sleep. Instead, I’d like to chat with you about any desire, aspiration, or goal you’d love to pursue. 

The timing is always apropos to brush off past disappointments and start afresh.

But before you commit this year—or a small fortune—to actualize your dream, it’s prudent to pause and ponder the above question. God isn’t obligated to bankroll or bless any objective He doesn’t call us to do. Let’s make sure we don’t squander our resources to go after our own whims.

At least three sources can inspire dreams.

Number one, God. He has tucked dreams into the heart of humanity since the dawn of time. This was the case for Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons (Genesis 37:5-9). 

But dreams can also be your own. Maybe your family tree boasts famous artists, which explains why you desire to make it big with your watercolors. Or perhaps you came from a long line of pastors and missionaries, making you itch to do anything but ministry. 

The third possible source of desires is the Enemy. Judas, known throughout history as Jesus’ betrayer, is the best example of this category. The idea behind his betrayal came straight from Satan (Luke 22:3-6).

Who designed your dream? God, yourself, or the Enemy of your soul? 

Test your dream against the following checkpoints for the answer. This list isn’t exclusive. But when your dream passes all five, God is likely the Author of your dream:

1. Feels Impossible

It’s one thing to tell a virile teenager he’ll father so many people they’ll turn into nations. But when the recipient of said message is an elderly man, Abraham, with an equally elderly wife, Sarah, then this dream is so unlikely it can only come from the God of the impossible.

Let me clarify: our less-than-lofty dreams can also originate from God. Not everyone is called to command a worldwide ministry, chair a foundation, or wear an Olympic gold medal. 

Sometimes smaller dreams can serve as a stepping stool before God unleashes a bigger dream in our hearts. It’s as though He’s waiting to see what we do with these smaller dreams first. If we’re faithful with little, He’ll give us much (Luke 16:10), right?

But if the dream you’re nursing makes you wonder how you can even begin to tackle it, good news! Yours may have originated from our genius God.

2. Unreasonable

If God authored your dream, when the impulse comes to you, it can feel weird. Maybe even nonsensical. 

Back in 2017, a social media announcement from a Christian author intrigued me. Her online writing course was open for enrollment. Once I navigated to her website and studied the 411 about her course, I felt led to join.

What for?, my mind asked.

My education and training were centered on psychology. I didn’t minor in English, Communications, or Journalism. It didn’t make sense to pluck a pretty penny for an extracurricular activity that wouldn’t further my psychology practice.

Despite all the convincing reasons not to do it, I’m so glad I signed up.

I’ll tell you more about it later.

3. Lingers

Whether we’re talking about literal dreams—scenes unfolding in the mind while we’re asleep—or figurative ones, as in goals and desires, I’ve noticed a curious common thread.

If God is the Giver, the dream will tend to stick around.

This trait makes sense in light of His own character. God is the epitome of patience. For instance, the book of Judges can be summarized into one theme: God commissioning a slew of judges to safeguard His people from backsliding.

Prior to them, God had to endure 40 years of hearing their ancestors grumble. The ones who experienced a miraculous release from slavery also traveled the desert with doubt, frequently wishing they’d die, testing His patience at every turn (Hebrews 3:7-11).

No wonder God persistently drops the same ideas and desires into our hearts, no matter how many times we swat them away. 

4. Persistent Peace

Don’t mistake this to mean that things will always flow your way or that you can always count on others to surround you with a steady stream of affirmation.

When you’re pursuing a God-given dream, the opposite is often the case. 

If Joseph had to endure years of unjust imprisonment (Genesis 37-41) and Simon Peter had to learn hard lessons before he qualified to become a seasoned apostle, we can expect to confront trials prior to living out our dreams.

But here is what distinguishes God-given dreams from any other. Even when things are challenging, you won’t lack the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). Including if you’re ready to quit because door after door seems to stubbornly shut in your face, making you secretly vow to forget it. No more pitching, painting, practicing. You won’t toss even one more dime into your dream.

There’s no telling how many times these moments have unnerved me—times when I felt tempted to ditch my God-given dream. 

One event stands out among many. While my follower count had been growing at the speed of rainy Los Angeles rush hour traffic, a pastor’s wife received a book deal by a major publishing house—seemingly only because her husband’s death had made the news. 

Please don’t misunderstand me. As a licensed psychologist and practicing Christian, I ached for her. 

And I’m sure she’d rather pick her husband over the contract.

But I’m also a writer in need of a literary agent and a book deal. Where’s the fairness for that widow to gain instant fame—through no effort of her own—while others who strive to improve their skills and clout continue to wait for a breakthrough?

5. Scriptural Support

Even if your dream passes the previous four, if it doesn’t pass this final test, it’s not of God.

For instance, you may long to marry a man, but this desire feels impossible to fulfill. That’s because the man you’re after is already married. 

His wife may be a literal or figurative witch. A real Karen. Or in a coma. But if he is married, no matter how long this desire persists, your dream can’t have come from God. Even if you feel a semblance of peace when his face pops into your mind. 

How can I be so sure? Because God forbids us from coveting another person’s spouse or belongings (Exodus 20:17). 

Your dream can’t be from God if it violates His Word.

Now What?

I wouldn’t dream of writing about anything I haven’t dealt with personally first. No pun intended.

Which is why you’ll never read any article from me about trendy dance moves, DIY hacks, or anything, really, outside the lanes of mental health and spirituality.

But back to our topic. 

I dragged my dream of becoming a published author through all five tests—and it passed every one.

Since enrolling in the course I mentioned earlier, my writing journey has been arduous. 

But the Lord has sustained me with small wins along the way. 

For instance, while the other person’s instant book deal discouraged me, that very same day, I connected with Charisma News. Their decision to publish one of my articles led to more faith-based outlets doing the same.

The Lord has numerous ways to fuel your hope as you faithfully steward the dream He has entrusted into your care.

So, from one dreamer to another, never give up.

(I’ll share why in another article.)

Related Resource - FREE Prayer Podcast: 

Listen to our free prayer podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. You can find all the episodes on LifeAudio.com. Have you ever had a dream and wondered if it was from God or if it was just your imagination? Throughout the Bible, we see God speak to people in their dreams, and I believe He still does today. In this episode, we’ll discuss how to know if a dream is from God so you can learn one more way God speaks to His people today. Just click the play button to listen!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Aja Koska

dr. audrey davidheiser bio photo

Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist, and IFSI-approved clinical consultant. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. If you need her advice, visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com and Instagram @DrAudreyD.