If I said the words “I have a dream,” would you know exactly what I was talking about? Even if you aren’t into politics, you’ve probably heard about that famous speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, when he presented his dream for racial equality and freedom at a civil rights march in Washington, DC.
King’s dream for equality has not yet been fully realized, but the expression of his dream and the addition of many similar expressions certainly have made a dent in social and political injustice, fueling change for at least some among society’s minorities. How far that dream will spread rests upon our shoulders.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., I believe that our Creator God has a dream. His delivery, unlike that of King, is perpetually before us in the way He created the world to function. But before I get ahead of myself, allow me to take you on a quick thought experiment.
Imagine a world where there’s no death or even the possibility of death. How do you feel about that? Well, at this point, your conclusion depends on a lot of other things, so let’s add a bit more detail. Imagine that in this hypothetical world everything around you is calibrated to flourish. It’s crafted to bring you pleasure from every possible sensory angle. Now how do you feel about this new world? Would you like to exist in a place like that? Eternal pleasure without pain? Of course you would! Because, believe it or not, you have a dream too!
As a legacy from our Creator, you and I have an inherent desire to exist in this flourishing, pain-free world. Like a child asking, “Are we there yet?” on a long road trip, we have a certain restlessness built into our subconscious, causing us to long for something more, something better than the world we live in.
The fact is, that’s precisely God’s dream too! You may be thinking, What a ridiculous notion. He doesn’t need dreams! If He’s God, He can do whatever He pleases.
But before you dismiss this idea entirely, take one step back from that thought to ask yourself this question: If God doesn’t have this dream for all living things, does that mean He’s satisfied with the current suffering and evil in this world and willing to see it continue? I think you’ll find yourself hopeful at the very least and maybe even certain at best that, that if He
exists at all, our Creator God has better thoughts for us than that!
The biblical book of Genesis records how God created a garden. This garden was unlike any garden you’ve ever seen. It was more like the postcard paradise that we try to paint in our thoughts: a wide expanse with a perfect climate that fosters perfect trees with perfect flowers and perfect fruit. Brilliantly colored birds fly through the air, and animals of all varieties are scattered throughout the place. And everything lives harmoniously together. At least that’s how, I like to imagine it, based on the story in Genesis 1 and 2.
Can you picture it in your mind’s eye? Better yet, can you smell it, taste it, and feel it? That would have to be one amazing garden, wouldn’t it?
So what if the book of Genesis continued with the words, “And after He made all of these things, God created humanity and caused death to slowly undo all His work, bringing thousands of years of suffering.” Does that sound compatible with the beginning of our story? My answer is an emphatic no, and I’m sure yours is too! I would go so far as to say that if God were like that, you wouldn’t want to believe in Him, and certainly neither of us would want to live forever in a predatory, decaying universe until it eventually snuffed itself out.
However, there’s good news. The picture of God that I’ve presented—someone who’s quite willing for death and suffering to continue; someone who turns his back on his creation while it destroys itself—is definitely not compatible with the biblical worldview. Pain and decay were not God’s original intent for our world, and it’s not His dream for our world today. The Bible says that God intended for us to live forever in the garden paradise that I described a moment ago.
However, to make that place a truly perfect paradise, He gave His creation perfect freedom—even the freedom to defy Him if they so chose. And sadly, that’s exactly what they did.
broken hearts, broken world
My dad died shortly before my fourteenth birthday. He didn’t die in his sleep or in some terrible road accident. He chose to end his own life because of his sorrows. After his relationship with my mom broke down, Dad became incredibly depressed. But he was one of those quiet ones who don’t ask for help. Obviously, he felt he couldn’t take the heartache any longer. I imagine that to him, this was just a way out of all the pain, sorrow, and regret that weighed on his mind every day.
Barely into my teens, I wasn’t able to understand why he thought suicide was necessary. The loss that my family and I experienced at that time was immense, and to this day, we’re suffering the consequences of his decision.
Death is a harsh reality. But, as evidenced by my dad’s experience, sometimes pain, heartache, and particularly shame can appear even worse. But a world where people didn’t have the freedom to choose and experience true joy and true love would be even worse than the worst pain that can be experienced—as terrible as that is. That would be the worst reality of all!
My dad’s story isn’t exceptional. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, based on a survey of 46,190 adults who were 18 years old or older, found that 3.7 percent of the US population—that’s 8.3 million people—had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. That’s a shocking statistic! And according to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people around the world die due to suicide every year. And then there’s the far larger number of those who live with anxiety or depression every day, day after day, but don’t go to the extreme of taking their own lives.
Life is tough for a lot of people! And it’s clear that, at times, it seems like all hope is gone. So it’s more than likely that you—yes you—are battling something today; or at the very least, you know someone who is.
And as someone who understands this heartache, I would like to provide you with some hope.
Circling right back to the start, what if God’s dream has been hijacked by free moral agents who sometimes make poor choices that lead to heartache, crime, disease, and ultimately death? You know, people who mess up just like you and me. What if this was never part of God’s plan? “Then God looks powerless,” some would say. But what if His apparent inaction is because He’s stubbornly persistent with His dream for the intelligent beings He creates to be both totally free and truly happy? Then I’d say that God is incredibly beautiful!
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story: Thousands of years ago—perhaps millions of years ago—God created a vast number of intelligent beings in a place we call heaven, and He endowed them with freedom of choice, including even the freedom to rebel against Him and reject His law of love. And one of them, whom we know as Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12–14, KJV), chose to rebel against Him. Not only that, Lucifer induced a vast number of his angel friends to also rebel against God.
Then God created the planet we call Earth and placed two individuals in it whom we know as Adam and Eve, and He gave them the ability to reproduce themselves over and over again. And He also gave them freedom of choice. Unfortunately, Lucifer, now Satan, got them to join him in his rebellion against God. That’s why pain, sorrow, suffering, and death exist in our world to this day.
Thus, the Bible presents us with a God who did not prescribe death but rather One who took the death penalty for humanity’s rebellion on Himself, paid the death penalty for them, and then resurrected Himself from the dead. The biblical book of Hebrews says that “by his [ Jesus’] death he [broke] the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and [set] free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
According to this perspective, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our fear of death can be taken away! We can be free from worry about the future because “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]” (1 Corinthians 15:20). If death isn’t part of God’s dream and through Jesus its power over us is only like a taking a nap, we can say with the apostle Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (verse 55).
I have a dream! A dream that you and I will live without regrets. A dream that we will trust in God’s stubborn dream. A dream that we will be intentional about not hurting one another and that, when we do mess up, we will have the courage to seek restitution—a dream for relational equality and freedom. I have a dream that we will live our lives believing that death will one day be defeated forever.
How about you?
David Brown writes from Queensland, Australia, where he cohosts the AusTableTalk.com.au podcast