When You have Given Up: Lost Dreams and Burnout

What if it has been so long, too long, and you believe or maybe you once believed (past tense); but you stop asking God to fulfill a dream?  

You gave up on something because it was just too painful.  The disappointment was too great.  You take up your cross of disappointment and walk on.  

You have not abandoned God, your faith, or your love for God's people.  You just have stopped praying about something important to you.  You have given up on that thing.  You know that all things are possible for our miracle working God.  You have seen other people get their prayers answered and their desires met, while you stand before God empty handed.  How do you take care of your heart and still serve God in your life?  We live with the paradox of walking with a loving God who is allowing suffering or lack or unfulfilled dreams.

Luke Chapter 1, verses 5 to 25 reads:  During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations.

They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old.

One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.

An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”

The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered why he was in the sanctuary for such a long time. When he came out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he gestured to them and couldn’t speak. When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home. Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.” -Luke 1:5-25

Luke writes that Elizabeth and Zechariah were, "both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations".  The CEV translates the verse as saying that, "Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded".  They were faithful & righteous believers.  Good people.

Luke then tells us that they had no children because they were unable to and that they were very old.  It is implied that they were past the child-bearing years.  It is interesting that Elizabeth means "God's promise", and Zechariah means, "God has remembered".

The angel Gabriel appeared to Zachariah one day, around 3pm, while he was doing his priestly duties in the temple.  Zechariah was scared and after Gabriel said, "don't be afraid", he then said, "your prayers have been answered".  

What prayers?  Zechariah prayed all the time.  He might have been praying when Gabriel showed up.  

Gabriel told him that his wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son.  

Those prayers.  Those prayers that he prayed decades ago.  Those unanswered prayers.  The dream he gave up on.

Gabriel then lays out some instructions and tells him of the great purpose that their son John will  have.  

To this momentous news, Zechariah has a peculiar reply:

He says, "How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old."  

Wrong answer.  Wrong response.  You're asking God's Archangel how can this happen? 

A great miracle was being announced to him by God's Archangel, Gabriel, and he did not get it.  Zechariah's heart had been sick and calcified over.  Zecheriah's burnout had turned to cynicism.

I remember a lady that was looking at a photo of scores of people at the Toronto Airport Vineyard laying down on the carpet and she said, "been there, done that".  That's cynicism.  I wondered what her deep disappointment had been with God.

When someone shares a tender act of faith and we make a sarcastic comment that is rude, maybe we are coming from a place of burnout in our own walk that has not been arrested.

I imagine that as a young couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed to conceive and in disappointment, they prayed and prayed again.  They may have wept together and sought God, laying hold of a promise in their hearts that God would give them a very special son.  But time past and it didn't happen.  

But they remained faithful to God.  Maybe some bitterness crept into Zechariah's heart and he was hardhearted.  Because of his disappointment, he became burned out and cynical about the fulfillment of certain promises in his life.

  • We too can become like Zechariah and get burned out and become hardhearted (cynical) while remaining faithful.  
  • Our dreams or life words and promises take time to develop and come to pass.  
  • God has a good life for us between the times, but we get so frustrated with the lack of fulfillment that we don't enjoy the scenery and all the stops along the way from here to there.  
  • The One who gave you the dream of the mountain will walk with you through the valleys, deserts, streams, and rivers on the way to it.    
  •  God remembers your prayers and your dreams, even when you stop asking, dreaming and longing

"The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this." -1 Thess. 5:24