When Dreams Feel Just Out of Reach

The following is a guest post from Dave Arnold. Dave is an an author, speaker, and coach who loves helping people thrive in life and be all that God has called them to be.


dreamsFor years I’ve had the dream of becoming a full-time public speaker. As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved to speak. As a young child, people would tell my mom, “Wow, your son is so verbal.” – a polite way of saying I talk too much.

After I gave my first speech in college, my world changed.

My professor confirmed this and said, “Dave, I think you have a real gift.” From that day on, I loved speaking. In fact, I had many opportunities to speak in college: at chapel, on mission trips, at a summer camp – and I loved it.

In 2002, just two years after my wife and I married, I got a job at a big church as the College and Young Adult Pastor, and I spoke every Saturday night to about 200 twenty-something’s. As great as this was, my sights were set on the big stage – the weekend services where about 10,000 people attended.

My goal was to speak in the main church auditorium, and I was certain the lead pastor, once he discovered my gift, would be knocking on my door for me to speak. After a couple of years, I began to wonder what was taking so long.

That knock never came. Only silence. And then one day I heard a knock on the office door next to mine. It was the lead pastor and he was there to see John, the new Singles Pastor, who started two months back.

I overheard the conversation, and my heart sank when I heard the pastor say, “John, I would like you to speak at a weekend service.”

What!?” I thought. “s only been here two months and I have been here four years!”

And then my chest tightened, I gritted my teeth, and the tears started to flow… I mean, it was Niagara Falls. I couldn’t control it.

Although I was devastated, this experience taught me some valuable lessons. Here’s what I learned.

More work Needed

The truth was, I felt entitled to speak, like I had earned it – or so I thought. But honestly that is pride, and pride is blinding and often isn’t exposed until we are forced to change.

We live in a culture of instants: instant pleasure, instant connections, instant information. And when things don’t work out the way we’d thought or hoped, we are prone to meltdown, or to cry (like I did).

Living out your dream is not instantaneous. It takes time and work and struggle. There are days we feel closer than ever, and other days like throwing in the towel.

Pain and Discomfort Are a Part of Dream-Chasing

dreams 2

“A general rule in creating stories,” writes Donald Miller, “is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change.”

Ouch! But so true. I needed to change. My perspective was off. I needed a good ol’ dose of humility.

Just because we have a natural talent for something – writing, speaking, music, whatever – doesn’t mean we don’t need to work on it. And often working on it means having to face rejection and discomfort.

Great art, I believe, is often forged through pain and discomfort.

You’re Closer Than You Realize 

A closed door does not mean your dream won’t come true or is unattainable; it just means there’s more work to be done, more preparation, more transformation.

After I cried my face off for a bit in my office, I picked myself up and got back to work. And I can honestly say something changed within me that day. I no longer tried to prove myself and get noticed. I no longer measured my value in whether I would speak or not.

I decided to just be myself and do what I needed to do.

Ten years and two kids later, my dream is starting to take shape. I’ve made tons of mistakes, I’ve wanted to give up numerous times… but I’ve kept moving forward. I guess you could say I haven’t given up hope.

And isn’t that the point? To not give up, to keep moving, to keep hope alive. You’re closer than you think. Allow pain and discomfort to make you stronger. Keep believing.

DISCUSSION: How have you dealt with a closed door on your dream? Please share I the comments.

12 thoughts on “When Dreams Feel Just Out of Reach

  1. Seems like those black moments put us into a place where two things happen. We change (either we die or grow, but we don't remain the same). We decide (to sit back or charge ahead with more resolve). Well done and thoughtful piece.

  2. After the tantrum . . . I just started living. Doing each day as it came. A year and a half later God began opening doors as opportunities for me to write. I never dreamed I would be a writer; and even more, I never dreamed I would love it the way I do.
    My recent post Things Christian Shouldn’t Say

  3. A closed door does not mean your dream won’t come true or is unattainable; it just means there’s more work to be done, more preparation, more transformation.

    This was a timely post for me for I am doing my first four session women's retreat in Oct. This is a biggie for me…too big actually which I keep telling the Lord and He keeps telling me to lean on Him, He brought it to me so He will get me through it. I actually love to speak to women, teach women, share one on one with women and have found contentment in being willing to do any or none. And there have been times of none. I felt sometimes like God had put me on the back side of the desert when we went to live in Bolivia, SA. How as my gifts going to shine…how frail of me to even think I need to shine. What I learned there became a platform for future ministry.
    Ministry Is:
    Giving when you feel like keeping
    Praying for others when you need to be prayed for
    Feeding others when your own soul is hungry
    Living truth before people even when you can't see results
    Hurting with other people even your own hurt can't be spoken
    Keeping your word even when it is not convenient
    Being faithful when your flesh wants to run away
    Matt. 28:20
    II Cor. 4:6,11
    It's the last point that got me…being faithful when no one see me being faithful…except…allowing Him to bring my gift to light in His timing, His way.
    Great post brother

    My recent post Deferred Hope/Tree of Life

  4. Closed doors have been tough for me to deal with – often because I felt it was due to my own mistakes rather than just God's sovereign design. I know he uses that for good though – and perhaps the good is teaching me to dust myself off and go at it again.
    My recent post Busy Is Good

    • We learn from mistakes, no question about it. At least, we should. I wear two necklace charms that say, "Never give up" and "Persevere" because I want to be constantly reminded of God's grace and mercy in my live allowing me to continually move forward regardless of mistakes or anything else.

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