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Shattered Dreams

The story of Daniel James has been in the news this last week. The 23-year old rugby player was injured when a scrum collapsed on him during training. He dislocated his spine and was paralysed from the waist down. Unhappy with his “second-class existence”, as his mother termed it, he travelled to Switzerland in September to an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland where he ended his life.

The whole issue of assisted suicide is one fraught with emotions. Only the hardest of hearts could watch someone suffer and not wish to see an end to their suffering. So, although suicide is never the answer, I wish to tread carefully amongst the hurt.

The problem in this case is not simply one of suffering but of perspective. Hear Daniel’s mother again: “He was not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence”. The first half of that sentence is the key, not the second half—“He was not prepared”.

All he had hoped for had been snatched away from him. The dreams he had of playing the sport he felt he had been made for were shattered. What was there to live for? He wasn’t prepared to live for less than what he had dreamt.

This is a bigger issue than simply Daniel James. It’s bigger than the issue of assisted suicide. It’s for all of us, and how we cope with life.

The problem is not living, it’s the goal we have for living. If we take our lives and build them around something—an activity, a person, a relationship, or a dream—when that dream does not materialise we have to face the question: What will we do now that our hopes have gone?

Are we prepared to keep going? Or will we give up?

Our world has interwoven our identity almost inextricably in with what we do. And if we do not succeed at doing it, then we are nobodies. The young man who weaves his identity around his girlfriend; the business man who gets his identity from his success; the woman who gets her sense of worth from her children; the young girl who gets her acceptance from her peer group or her looks.

What drives you? Where do you get your identity from? What do you do when that thing from which you get your identity fails you? Where do you turn?

None of these things are built to carry that sort of expectation. If we build our hopes on something or someone we run the risk of not being prepared for failure. We may never reach the stage of contemplating suicide, or perhaps we may, but we need to build our lives around something that can carry our expectations whatever comes.

I know of only one such option. Every hope, dream or aspiration will condemn us if we fail it, and everything we look to will hurt us if it fails us. There is only one secure place to build your life around—one who will not fail you, but will give strength to cope when life falls apart. And when you fail him he offers to die for you. Almighty God is the one who can carry the weight of that expectation.

There is more to life than the here and now. It is those who have their perspective located outside of the here and now who will be best able to cope with the disappointments of the now.

Perhaps you are struggling with pain, physical or emotional, or with the disappointment of shattered dreams, which make life unbearable, let me encourage you to put your trust in Jesus, to build your life around him. In him you will find strength, meaning, purpose and significance that enables you to cope amidst the hurt. Please contact us if you would like to talk.