Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy
By Larry Crabb
How would you define the journey of your life? Some would share the happy moments – their wedding day, the birth of their children, the promotions, the successes. Others would share the sorrows – the loss of a loved one, the child who has turned away, the dreaded diagnosis, the pain. How do we view those seasons in life where things are hard and pain is real, and even though we pray, God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers with relief?
Shattered Dreams answers the question, “What does it mean to hope in God as we continue to live in a world where good dreams shatter and God seems to do nothing about it?” (p. 31).Larry Crabb, author of numerous books including Inside Out, suggests that our search for God is an inward quest. The Fall caused an earthquake in all of our lives. We are left with rubble and dirt. The only way to get to God is by searching through all the sin and removing the pieces through brokenness and repentance. Somehow, we expect this process (which takes our whole lives) to be easy. We buy into Satan’s lie that we deserve to be successful and blessed because we love God and are committed to serving Him. So when things fall apart, and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help us, we begin to question Him.
Crabb uses the book of Ruth from the Bible to illustrate the behind-the-scenes involvement of God. (If you haven’t read the story recently, I recommend that you read it again—it’s only four chapters.) Naomi’s journey is a vivid picture of shattered dreams. She has experienced the loss of her husband and both of her sons, as well as a famine that forced her to move away from home and live in a foreign country for more than ten years. Naomi returns home a woman who is bitter at God. He has caused or allowed these horrible things to happen in her life. She returns to Bethlehem with Ruth “as the barley harvest was beginning” (Ruth 1:22). In chapter 2, “as it turns out” Ruth begins to harvest grain in the field that belonged to her single, rich relative (v. 3). Crabb reminds us that in all of our lives, God is working even when we are unaware—not to give us a life that is free from suffering, but to bring us to a point of hope and joy.
He suggests three lessons of brokenness. Lesson one is that God is not interested in making our lives easier. He wants to make our lives better. “We still have such a hard time realizing that what’s good is not always best, suffering still has a function. As nothing else can, it moves us away from demanding what’s good…toward desiring what’s better…until heaven provides what’s best” (p. 35).
Lesson two is illustrated in the life of Naomi. When God seems most absent from us, He is doing His most important work. “We need rather to realize that He vanishes from our sight to do what He could not do if we could see Him” (p. 158). Lesson three is that it isn’t always good to be blessed with the good things in life. Hard times give us a chance to know God. “Feeling good is not the goal. When we feel bad, we have the opportunity to do battle against the enemy within that keeps us from entering the Presence of God with no greater passion than to glorify Him” (p. 161).
I personally wouldn’t say that I am in the midst of a shattered dream, although I am watching lots of people around me struggle with cancer, failing marriages, job losses, and so much more. Unfortunately, though, I find myself living in the secular world too often. I like living here on earth and I feel pretty good about the effectiveness of my life. Larry believes that God calls us to live a spiritual life that “involves sensing an appetite that is never fully satisfied…and a longing to experience God deeply enough to keep moving toward Him no matter what happens” (p.125).
I have felt God speaking to me through this book, telling me that too often I hold to the belief that “easy means good” and “hard means bad.” My prayer life reflects this idea. I pray for things to go well or at least smoothly, and I pray for healing and easy recovery. We pray for safety and success. I don’t often pray to experience God and discover His will for my life—in any way that He would chose to reveal himself. After reading this book, I am rethinking how I talk to people about their struggles. I am praying for people in the midst of hard times a little differently. I am viewing pain in my life with a different perspective.
The path to joy is a path through shattered dreams. That is the lesson of Shattered Dreams and Naomi. And maybe you and me, too.
Published by WaterBrook Press
Review by Christy CarmeanISBN:1-57856-452-2