Shattered Dreams, A Review

First off Shattered Dreams as a title is a little dramatic. The title betrays the book’s true audience.

If you have any stoicism or are just a realistic average North American, you read a title like this and write yourself out of the application because your “shattered dreams” don’t count. You aren’t allowed to be disappointed in a life filled with so much comfort. And you really don’t have the right to complain about the fact that you are entirely discontented in your career. Also you most certainly have to repel the feeling of jealousy that creeps in when people announce their connectedness to God in church. And please don’t wonder where God is in your pain when obviously “he is right in front of you in the form of a warm bed and a meal.”

Larry Crabb writes to all those wondering what God is doing and why he is silent in the face of any disappointment. Crabb is brilliantly pastoral throughout the entire book, providing comfort and relief without forgoing the application of unyielding truth. Initially Crabb empathizes with the reader, normalizing the silence of God in the midst of pain. Crabb writes “It’s hard to escape an awful conclusion: Like the nurse who never responds no matter how hard we push that little button next to our hospital bed, God is not coming to help.  He is unresponsive to our pain.” However, Crabb quickly begins to undermine the deep roots of our hopelessness, mainly, that Christian’s often misunderstand why we are alive at all. As only a counselor can, Crabb respectfully undermines the content of our dreams.

Shattered-Dreams-Larry-CrabbThe questions that are posed unravel the basic assumptions we place upon God that have left us wondering why He is not delivering.  Crabb writes, “We (Christian) long to feel alive, to sense passion and romance and freedom. We want the good time of enjoying godly kids, of making a difference in people’s lives, of involvement with close friends, of experiencing God’s peace. So we invent “Biblical” strategies for seeing to it that our dreams come true.  We call them models of godly parenting and disciplines of spiritual living and principles of financial stewardship–all designed to give us a legitimately good time.”

Our desire is to escape suffering through our constant rescuers: security, comfort, family, knowledge or adventure. Crabb explains, “the person on the secular journey is doing well when he gets over a tough patch and stops crying so much, when he regains hope that life offers many pleasures and learns to manage its challenges well. A troubled heart on the secular journey views this life as disappointing and feels a guilt that shreds self-confidence. A healthy secular heart likes living here and feels good about how effectively that life is being lived.“

Is there a Solution to our Suffering?

Crabb provides no solution for escaping suffering, rather he points to the story of Ruth to explain our need to shift our deepest desires from contentedness in the good things of this life to finding joy in the presence of God.

Naomi lost her husband, her sons, and had no grandchildren. As a middle-aged widow she had to travel back to her homeland with no money in order to beg for food. Her story of redemption involves the provision of some of her earthly needs, but not the restoration of her dream to live happily with her husband, sons, and grandchildren. Instead, much of her pain and loss continued, but through her suffering her hope was shifted and she found joy in sensing God’s presence and knowing the certainty that He had called her to be apart of his sovereign plan. Unsurprisingly, like the story of Naomi, it seems the formula for hope comes with a regular dose of suffering. Crabb provides no spiritual discipline, book, or verse to some how jettison us to the hope Naomi lived in at the end of Ruth.

Instead Crabb provides simple truths on how to view brokenness. First, the Gospel is not supposed to make our lives easier, but it will make our lives more full of the presence of God. Second, when God seems most absent he is doing his most important work. Third, the shattered dreams provide an opportunity to know God in a way that blessing and ease cannot.

Personal Reflections on Shattered Dreams

As Crabb puts it “when you hurt, hurt. Hurt openly in the presence of God. Hurt openly in the presence of the few who provide you with safe community.”

The truth is that western culture has made prolonged suffering socially unacceptable. But trying to avoid your pain or numb your desire will destroy your ability to experience joy. Avoiding suffering by muting unrequited desires suppresses our ability to relate to God.   Instead, regard suffering as way to discover your desire for God. Then understand what the core of your longing really is.

Crabb provides a helpful tool to discover the focus of our deepest desires. Honestly ask yourself the following two series of questions:

  1. Who is God, the God we Desire to Know?
    1. The holy God of passionate wrath?
    2. The fatherly God of strict standards?
    3. The helpful God of useful principles?
  2. Who are we, as people longing to enjoy God?
    1. Arrogant people who deserve eternal misery?
    2. Scoldably selfish people who really ought to do better?
    3. Understandable strugglers who deserve to be understood and helped?

In response to these questions Crabb writes, “when arrogant people who know they deserve eternal misery tremble before a holy God of passionate wrath, they discovery grace. They encounter the depths of God’s kindness and love, a kindness and love they find nowhere else.”

Official Product Description of Shattered Dreams

“Shattered dreams,” writes Dr. Larry Crabb, “are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream.”

To help you understand this neglected truth in the deepest and most helpful way, author and counselor Larry Crabb has written a wise, hopeful, honest, and realistic examination of life’s difficulties and tragedies. He wraps insights around the bold story of Naomi in the Bible’s book of Ruth.

As Crabb retells and illuminates this sometimes disturbing and often profoundly touching story, we are shown how God stripped Naomi of happiness in order to prepare her for joy. And we gain an unforgettable picture of how God uses shattered dreams to release better dreams and a more fulfilling life for those He loves.

Shattered dreams have the power to change our lives for good. Forever.

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