Choosing to Dream, Unknown Futures, and the Faithfulness of God

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When you have chronic pain, dreams and desires are a dangerous practice. Sometimes I wonder if I am shooting myself in the foot, just by wanting things in life that may or may not happen.

I had my counseling supervision today, and I shared some of my hopes for the future with my supervisor. The things I want are good things. I want to be counsel people and be the person who walks next to them in suffering, confusion, and pain. And I don’t think about this in a general sense; I have specific, practical dreams of where I want my counseling practice to go over the next few years.

But good dreams aren’t enough when you have chronic pain. It doesn’t matter whether you want to offer things to the world that are beneficial and valuable. Chronic pain doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care.

“I have so many things I want to do, and not enough time,” I told her.

But, I didn’t really mean that I don’t have enough time. I meant I don’t have enough energy. I meant I can’t walk far enough, sit or stand long enough, focus and function enough to do all the things I want to do.

As I was sharing, I found myself stop and slow down and only share half of the things that are actually on my mind for the future.

I stopped because I wondered if I should dream and plan when life is so uncertain.

Should I grab hold of these desires and speak them aloud when my limitations may make them an impossibility?

Should I make plans when relapse is possible?

And as much as I want to hold back, I have to answer yes to both of these questions. Even if it means trying and failing. Even if it means hoping and falling flat on my face. In the end, I have to be able to say that I at least tried.

There is a part of my that can’t let go. I physically can’t stop hoping and praying that these things will happen. I am not the type of person who pushes myself until I drop. I am exceedingly careful about self-care. I also am not one to believe  that I can do anything I set my mind to or that there could never come a time when I would have to give up my dreams and focus only on my health. But, for now, I have to move forward, even if only at the pace of a turtle.

I daydream about the day that I will get my license. But then I stop and consider the possibility that this goal could be derailed.

It feels like a confusing possibility, because I consider God’s faithfulness up to this point, all the doors that he has opened to allow me to make it this far. Would he bring me this far just to let me fail?

I think about my new job that I started in December. Less than a week passed between the day I decided to start job searching and the day I was offered a job that was a perfect fit.  I sent out a resume Saturday, interviewed the next Wednesday, and was offered and accepted the job that evening. It had everything I needed, every single one of the seemingly ridiculous necessities I was searching for. It was a gift, and I know it was from God.

I think about several years before that when my counseling internship unexpectedly fell through. My school gave me a week to find a new one, when the first one had taken me four months to find. I sat reading a counseling book in Starbucks that week, and the woman sitting across from me asked me if I needed an internship. Is this actually happening? I think about that day and that woman, and I will always see it as a reminder from God that nothing is too much for him. There is no barrier to great that he can’t make it fall if he says so.

If my plan is his plan, then I will succeed.

But who is to say that my plan is his? How am I to know?

A part of me thinks that God wouldn’t bring me this far just to let me fail. But another part of me thinks that God never promised I would get all of the things I want. I can only wait, do the best with what I have been given, and see where he takes me.

And in the meantime I am trying to live in the present. I am trying to care for my clients well and love the people around me as I am able. I am trying to take care of my body and give it what it needs. I am trying to protect myself from burn out and reduce stress. I am remembering that I still have a long way to go between now and licensure, and in the meantime, it’s all about taking things one day at a time and doing what I can with each moment I have been given.

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12 Comments

  1. That’s really all that any of us can do. We do the best that we can with what God has given us and leave the rest in his hands. Thank you for sharing the ways that God has worked in your life in the past and your faith for the future. Blessings!

  2. Last week I attended a lecture given by Amy Baker, author of Picture Perfect. If you want to hear the recording for the lecture, here you go: http://crosswaync.org/media.php?pageID=36

    One of her points was that success simply means doing, thinking and behaving in such a way that we give God glory. Failure is the exact opposite – not giving God the glory, or seeking approval for ourselves instead of displaying the glory of God as His own.

    I’ve had to give up jobs countless times myself now. My career, in fact, for which I worked very hard. But if I look at it biblically, it’s actually NOT failure. Joseph was a stuck-up son and brother, then a slave, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, a prisoner, a sorta-king, then in the end, the most awesome son and brother than anybody has every wanted. God was behind it all, whether it appeared to be success or failure.

    I have had the optimism beaten out of me by chronic pain. Yet I do feel hopeful when I remember that I can succeed in God’s economy and by His power, as I give Him glory and praise. In the search for meaning in my suffering, I can pitch my tent here.

    1. I completely agree, Sarah, with this definition of success. There have been times when I have had to step back from all of my dreams and plans, and come back to this truth that working and doing more is not what makes us successful. This has been such an important truth for me. When I have felt like a failure in my career, I have found Psalm 84:10 helpful: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” I change it for myself and think – I would rather have chronic pain with God, not being able to live out my wishes and dreams, than to live without God. It does comfort me.
      I think I am in a slightly different place now than I have been in the past – I am trying to be faithful within my limitations, and figure out where those limitations are and how my desires to glorify God through work fit within them.

    1. I’m sorry you are in the same place, but thank you for sharing. I think it must be a common struggle for those of us with chronic pain and illness.

  3. Thank you for honestly sharing and discussing this. I think I had to let go of planning for a few years and only live in the present, but I have picked planning and dreaming back up once again. I think dreaming and hoping are positive and imperative, even if we are let down. For me, it’s easier to dream for things further into my future instead of something in the nearer future. I hope in your future you are able to expand your practice as I know you will be the guiding light to you clients you strive to be.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Mary. I agree that it is easier to plan for things further down the road. I am in that exact same place. Day to day I get a bit lost. Thank you so much for all of your continual encouragement <3

      1. I think for planners and goal-setters like us, it’s especially difficult. It’s just how we are created.
        Your encouragement means so much to me as well! Gentle hugs xo

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