Chasing Your Dreams Amidst Your Personal Nightmares

Dreams can be achieved when people overcome their strongholds. In life, we all experience a constant battle between our faith in God and the fears that constantly attempt to tyrannize our thoughts and actions. Disappointments can undermine hope and create despair as we feverishly search for light in this dark and dreary world. Similar to soldiers in warfare, courage is needed to both boldly and calmly wait to experience God’s power in response to these potentially heartbreaking obstacles. We can all experience this courage since “God is the brave man’s hope.”

God places dreams in the souls of every human. Behind these fantasies may be the desire to succeed, to overcome, or most importantly, to improve human living. Whether it may involve a desire to attain and keep a challenging job, to find the right mate after previous broken relationships, to have a child reach their full potential, to maintain financial stability against the odds, to persevere another day over cancer, or to find inner peace amidst personal limitations, aspirations often inspire individual actions toward some goal. The greatest dream is to help enable those seeking freedom to find both a living and an eternal hope from God. He does this by enabling us to attain all of the smaller dreams which comprises the specific purpose for each of our lives.

When chasing dreams, we often experience disappointments when the outcomes of our attempts toward achieving goals don’t meet our expectations. Many times, during these situations, we feel pain, “an unpleasant sensation” resulting from the consequences of bad life events. During these fear-producing situations where we actually experience or expect the future feelings of pain to occur, we respond by the “fight or flight” reflex. In too many incidences, people have conditioned themselves to “flight” rather than to “fight” when facing fear and pain. This action is not necessarily bad, because many times the appropriate response is to “run and hide”. However, there are certain circumstances when we apply this behavior when we should “fight” the event, rather than always “running away from our problems”. Once learned, this “flight” behavior is hard to change. However, in order to reach personal purposes, this issue needs to be addressed by “dream-chasers”.

Strongholds are fears that put human minds into bondage, as it controls the way people think, act, or feel. Because of strongholds, many individuals fail to chase their God-given dreams. A single, divorced mother of two chooses not to start or go further in a relationship because of the rejected and abusive past caused by her previous husbands. A 23-year male adult who longs for a better job decides not to since he was repeatedly told as a child that he was incompetent. A middle-aged drug addict who desires to break the habit but cannot because he feels he cannot endure the pain involved with his recent daughter’s loss to cancer. Or a struggling, insecure Christian who habitually expects negative consequences from God because of her fear of being condemned, even though she knows of God’s grace. Another example entails “a God-chosen leader” who isn’t because of his knowledge of his disability.  These individuals are in bondage, as their personal strongholds dictate their future, similar to how a bully has control over those he bullies.

Strongholds can also hold back those dreamers who choose to “fight” as they strive to achieve their aspirations. “Chasing dreams” involves a moment-by-moment, life-long journey where an individuals starts at one position and gradually travels toward the next by properly reacting to situations and obstacles they face in the struggle called life. Perceived negative potential consequences of a situation can create intense anxiety in a person as fear overshadows the possibilities of something positive happening. This anxiety often causes us to overestimate the power of the obstacles we face in life as we underestimate the abilities that God has given to us. Our obstacles become “giants” in response to the “dwarves” we perceive ourselves as. The net result is that these “giants” overpower us “dwarves” as the fear of failure prevents us from feeling we are in control of the situations we face. Through faith in God’s unlimited capabilities, humans can defeat these “imaginary giants”.

Strongholds are created by Satan to keep us dreamers from achieving the dreams that God has given to us. All humans are engaged in a war, a fight between who is going to be in charge of each of our lives: God or Satan. It is also a battle in our minds between faith and fear or hope and hopelessness. When God’s dreams for our lives get achieved, it is hurtful in Satan’s attempt toward world domination. Consequently, the devil works diligently, strategically, and deceitfully to create strongholds in each of our minds. These strongholds can only be conquered through the power of Christ.

According to Georges Clemenceau, “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.” In each of our minds, when facing troublesome, painful disappointments, the perception of  these “catastrophes” battle our human will for control. During each of these situations, one of two combatants is going to be victorious. If our strongholds continuously win, the chances of our God-given dreams being achieved become very slim. If we are victorious, we increasingly mature as we strive toward the next challenge.

When we lose a battle versus our strongholds, it doesn’t mean that we are completely defeated. Albert Einstein was “predicted to be a failure.” Thomas Edison’s childhood teacher once told him “he was too stupid to learn anything.”  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Famous Pablo Picasso, at age ten, stopped attending school as he was hardly able to read or write. Abraham Lincoln, who during his life struggled with bipolar disorder, entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and left as a private. According to his voice teacher, “the famous tenor Caruso could not sing at all.” A newspaper editor once fired Walt Disney because “he lacked good ideas”. These successful “dream-seekers” refused to be controlled by their strongholds as they learned from their failures.

 According to B.C. Forbes, “History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.” People can overcome adversity if they keep on trying after being defeated by their strongholds. As Norman Vincent Peale once stated, “Never talk defeat. Use words like hope, belief, faith, victory.” 

In Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he . . .” When individuals view situations positively, good thinks are more apt to happen; negative thoughts encourage the presence of bad life events. In his book “Your Best Life Now”, Joel Osteen reinforces this concept: “If you dwell on positive thoughts, your life will move in that direction; if you continually think negative thoughts, you will live a negative life. If you expect defeat, failure, or mediocrity, your subconscious mind will make sure that you lose, fail, or sabotage every attempt to push above average.” Perceptions have a major influence upon the success or failure in achieving one’s dreams.  

Hope is required to overcome strongholds. It is the “belief that positive outcomes will occur regardless of how negative the situation”. Without hope, according to Erich Fromm, “the heart would break”. Unfortunately, after facing so many life defeats, many are afraid to have hope, in fear they must again endure the pain involved with experiencing disappointments. 

To have hope, one must have faith. According to Charles Stanley, faith is the “assured reliance on God: a confident dependence on the character, ability, strength, and truth of God and his promises.” It is one thing to believe a bridge is stable enough to hold you. It’s another to trust it enough to cross it. To keep on trying when faith is struggling, courage is demanded.

Anais Nin once stated, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Courage can be defined as the capacity to “overcome danger, misfortune, and fear” as we confront the strongholds that scare us. According to someone, “courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” In our own strength, we have insufficient power to “master” the strongholds we face. But in God’s power, we can.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, it tells us to “be strong and courageous” and “not to be afraid of them! For “the Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” According to Psalms 33:20, “We depend on the Lord alone to save us. Only He can help us, protecting us like a shield.” Because of this, “our hearts are filled with joy” as we are helped by Him (Psalms 28:7)..Psalms 34:17 reinforces this point: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.”

Dreams can be achieved when we abide in the spirit. In John 15:5, it talks about how Jesus is the “Vine” and we are the “branches”: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Individuals who “remain in Jesus” have been given the power to achieve their God-given aspirations and to conquer their fears. According to Psalms 60:12, “With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes.”

When we abide in the spirit, we receive God’s power to overcome our strongholds. When we don’t, we are vulnerable to them as we fight them in our own strength. To abide in the spirit, we must have fellowship with God. This requires communication with and faith in God. Reconciliation with Him after sinning is also demanded. Unfortunately, in our imperfect lives, we often disconnect ourselves from God’s power.

Ruth Gordon once said, “Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.” Similar to how a sergeant molds his assembly into warriors, God slowly uses life struggles to train us into competent, talented, purpose-achieving, stronghold-overcoming soldiers of Christ. For this to occur, we must pass each test of increasing difficulty that He gives us.

As stated before, all humans face a war against their strongholds. Throughout these times, in this interdependent society, Christians should reciprocally encourage and motivate other Christians when possible. This is one of God’s purposes for each of us. As we do this, people should not become a “stumbling block” to another. The consequence of these actions creates distrust while worsening the predicaments people already currently experience from their strongholds. When this occurs, Christians should immediately seek and receive forgiveness from each other.

During the American Revolution, I strongly believe the reason why our founding fathers was able to secure American freedom was because they conquered their personal strongholds as well as England. This would not have happened without their reliance upon first God, and then upon each other during these stressful times. They supported each other as they strived to benefit rather than to hurt one another. Individual dreams were met which enabled the organization’s overall mission to be achieved: freedom. Because of them, Americans today have freedom.

In our fight against the devil, sinners can experience freedom from both sin and from their strongholds if each of our God-given dreams get achieved. Christ’s dream came true, giving all hope. If we let God fulfill our purposes, others can also have freedom: whether it be a living or eternal hope. Having our dreams come true requires having faith, courage, and hope in a life where events don’t make sense, where the consequences of failure is sometimes enormous, and when there is often no evidence that one’s personal dreams are even being remotely met in this unfair world. For this to occur, in this dark and dreary world, God’s light needs to be shined toward all those dreamers scared of their strongholds, so dreams can come true. This results from abiding in the spirit.

Tobias Smollett once said, “Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall.”  When we pursue God’s dream for our lives, we must realize that disappointments are common in occurrence, and that pain is inevitable. But, according to Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Vincent Van Gogh once asked, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” It would be a life of no freedom as dreams become unfulfilled. Condemnation would overcome grace as nobody would mention the name of Jesus.  Hope would succumb to fear because people would not experience God’s power. Finally, hate would have victory over compassion in humans since many would not understand what it means to forgive. For the sake of human freedom, Christians must “fight” (rather than “flight”) to keep their dreams alive.

John Fitzgerald once said, “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”  Many times we never realize what we can endure until we try. ” Every time you fall, with failure, or drop with disappointment, get up stronger, so when the next obstacle comes, you’ll fight harder. (unknown)”  When we struggle and feel like give up, remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  Each time we face difficulties, we are confronted with a decision of what is going to be in control: faith in God or fear from our strongholds. As someone once said: “It’s time to stop being gripped by fear and to start gripping God.” God has given each of us a dream and the power to pursue it. It is our choice what we are going to do with it.

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