By Michael Wiebe
I first read Shattered Dreams over fifteen years ago (around 2005). That book, along with others by Larry Crabb, impacted me significantly.
I began growing in my conviction of the perspective described in the book: the subtlety of self obsession and the essence of joy in God-obsession. I was increasingly convinced of the centrality of our first-thing priority regardless of our second-thing circumstances. In countless conversations I had shared these counterintuitive thoughts with others who were struggling with various tribulations – troubled marriages, tragic circumstances, health crises, or financial disasters. I have no idea how many copies of Shattered Dreams I gave to others, convinced of the benefit of the book.
But I sometimes questioned my qualification for offering such counsel. I asked myself, “Who am I to suggest such hard advice to those in circumstances beyond my imagination?” A rich marriage of almost forty years, a close-knit family, good health, a nice home, financial stability – all of these second thing blessings were realities in my life. I thoroughly enjoyed them in grateful thanks for God’s provision. I was not facing the affliction that others knew intimately.
Then the phone call came that confirmed the biopsy results. The cancer appeared to be in the early stages. But it was cancer. I was faced with the new question, “Do I really believe what I have been telling others? Can I face a life-threatening condition with anticipation that enables endurance?” Even if the surgery was successful, there were very real possibilities of consequences that would affect the rest of my life. Would the anticipation of knowing God better enable my own endurance through the loss of some aspects of the comfortable life I enjoyed?
I decided to look at Shattered Dreams again. It had been many months since I had read it. Would the anticipation of “better dreams” sound hollow as I faced the possibility of my own shattered dreams? Looking back now through my well-marked copy, I find a note in the margin, the date of my cancer diagnosis. The annotation marks this passage: “We are not defined by the things we suffer” (p. 27). Other marked passages reminded me that my identity was not (and is not) defined by any second-thing blessings, but by my first-thing relationship with the Living God.
Reading Shattered Dreams had prepared me well before my cancer diagnosis. Re-reading Shattered Dreams refreshed my convictions when the shattering diagnosis came over ten years ago. I have continued to go back to the book to be reminded of the realities of God’s better dreams.