sad praying woman
We all struggle with failures that keep us from fulfilling our dreams. But with God on your side you can overcome the obstacles. (Charisma archives)

To dream, we must overcome both our own excuses and the barriers that confront us as we move toward our destiny. Some people get stuck on the way because of events in their past or obstacles that seem immovable. Other people are afraid of following their dreams, so they employ avoidance techniques, busy schedules and willful ignorance to try to drown out the voice in their heart that whispers, "You should be following your dream."

I have identified several obstacles that can keep you from following your dream. See if any of them apply to you.

Your past. A person without a future will always return to his or her past. He or she will go back to old friends, old hangouts or old habits, trying to find meaning. But when you are drawn to your past, it is because your dream has stopped drawing you to your future.

Only a dream can give you the booster rockets to escape the gravity of the past. Only a dream gives you daily motivation to go forward, to keep your priorities straight, to help you distinguish between what belongs in the past and what belongs in the future.

Did you know we have God's permission to forget the past? He gives us the option of leaving yesterday behind. To reach our dreams we must learn to practice selective memory--regarding even the good parts of our pasts.

When I was a young man, I left my hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, to pastor a church in Davenport, Iowa. That was a tough assignment. The elders were grumpy and the finances nonexistent.

To keep myself encouraged, I nurtured a strong affection for my old stomping ground, Kansas City. I put my Kansas City Chiefs pennant on the wall. I ate Kansas City steaks.

I always ran home to Kansas City when I had a chance, and I would talk about Kansas City at every opportunity. As a consequence, I was always homesick for Kansas City.

One day God spoke to me and said: "Burn the pennant, quit eating Kansas City steaks, and don't go back and visit anymore. That's all in the past." I obeyed, and that day I began to learn the value of selective memory.

You see, some people never let go of their pasts, so they live in yesterday's memories. These people get their scrapbooks out and take you down memory lane whenever you visit them. It's as if they are in a former era in their minds.

Someone asked me one time if he could see my scrapbook. I told him, "I don't have a scrapbook because I'm too busy making scrap."

Are you stuck in memories of the past? If so, it's time to sit down and identify which ones are holding you back and then selectively "forget" them. Simply refuse to bring them up.

The apostle Paul said, "Forgetting those things which are behind" (Phil. 3:13, NKJV). He was talking about the bad things and the good things in his past. He selectively forgot them because his dream mattered more to him.

Unfinished business. Some people feel incomplete in spite of the many wonderful things in their lives--friends, family, wealth, vacations and retirement security. They have a nagging sense of unfinished business because they have not reached their full capacity by achieving their dreams.

Some people reading these words will feel like crying and might even become desperate, and they won't know exactly why. Such weeping often comes unannounced and for no apparent reason.

Oh, sure, we all get tired at times, but this is something more significant. It springs up from hidden wells of disappointment within you.

Perhaps the tears flow because there is unfinished business in your life. Perhaps in the depths of your soul you know that you are neglecting your dream, missing your moment, putting your purpose in a drawer for a later time that never comes.

The Bible calls this "double-mindedness" and says it will make you unstable in all your ways (see James 1:8). You won't really accomplish anything lasting.

Even though your life may look stable, there is a deep fissure between who you are and who you know you ought to be, and it creates below-the-surface instability. How much disunity do we create in our families and in our own minds because of the untended dreams lying dormant at the bottom of our souls?

If you have a constant, aching sense of unfinished business, you are probably avoiding your dream.

Boredom and self-destruction. When you lose sight of your dream, boredom sets in--deep, pervasive boredom and unsettledness--and in the midst of apparent success it drives you to the hollow pursuit of pleasure and leisure. People begin to drink, have illicit affairs, gamble money away, wrap their lives up in sports and do drugs because they become bored. They have lost touch with their dreams and their future.

Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint." Where there is no God-given dream, people cast off restraint.

In their boredom, they go anywhere and do anything for a thrill. There's nothing to hold them back. Why not have extramarital affairs or spend foolishly?

One time I picked up a young hitchhiker. I don't normally do that, but it was pouring rain, and I felt that maybe this young man needed help, so I pulled over and invited him into the warm car. He seemed bored, directionless and depressed.

I asked where he was going, and he said, "No place in particular." I probed further and asked what his goals in life were. He looked at me and said: "Mister, you don't get it. I'm not going anywhere." He asked to be let out, and away he walked in the rain.

That young man is symbolic of how some live their lives. They walk along the highway with their thumb out, waiting to catch a ride with anyone who will stop. They are bored. They will go anywhere. They don't care.

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