Do your dreams seem long and confusing? Are you having trouble knowing where to start? Or maybe you have so many dreams that you are feeling overwhelmed?
I’ve been there too. I have hundreds (thousands, even) of dreams written down; some of them are easy to understand, and some seem incomprehensible! But I do have a strategy to help get me started – and you can too!
I have discovered that the process of interpreting dreams has many similarities to studying the bible. In this article we will explore how the biblical tool of ‘starting with the clear parts’ can also help us make sense of our dreams.
What’s the difficulty?
History and experience tell us that it is very easy to take an obscure part of the bible and make a whole doctrine out of it. That is one of the reasons why we have so many denominations and cults, each with different theological viewpoints.
Some of the reasons that we could misunderstand the bible are:
- We are not reading the text in the original language.
- The original words can often be translated in different ways, so are open to interpretation.
- We are reading with a 21st century mindset, which may have been different to the cultural understanding at the time of writing.
Starting with the clear parts
Because of those reasons, I was taught to use some safeguards, to prevent myself misunderstanding a passage. For example:
- Always read in context (see Biblical tools: Consider the context of a dream).
- Start with the clear parts.
It is the second point that we will explore in this article.
What that means in practice is this: if you are researching a topic, start with the passages that are clear and simple to understand. After that, you can go onto the more difficult passages. In the same way, if you are stuck, or trying to understand a confusing passage, it is helpful to look for another passage where that subject is explained more clearly. Then use that as a reference point for understanding the difficult one.
An example from the bible
A well known example can be found in Mark’s gospel. This is quite a hotly debated example – but that’s why I picked it – to illustrate a point.
Mark 3:28-29 “Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
At face value, Jesus seems to be saying that there is one sin that is unforgiveable – that if you do this one thing then you can never be forgiven, even if you repent. Obviously, this has struck fear into many people, who live life terrified that they might do this one thing. But let’s apply the principle:
- Considering clearer parts: Do you get the impression, from the rest of the bible, that there is any sin which is too much for the blood of Jesus to cover? The bible as a whole is very clear that Jesus’ death and resurrection was powerful enough for everything, even the whole cosmos (John 3:16). Therefore, I suggest that this passage cannot be saying that!
This passage is addressing the varying opinions about who Jesus was. Although many people were following Jesus, many were rejecting him, and some were even accusing Him of doing all His miracles by the power of Satan. In that context, it seems to me that those people would really struggle to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and experience the benefit of the forgiveness that He brought. They just wouldn’t accept it because of their beliefs – it’s not that it wasn’t on offer.
You may agree or disagree with me about this passage – and that’s the whole point! But my main conclusion is this, and I think we can all agree:
If someone is a new believer in Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t advise starting with that verse! There are plenty of other verses about God’s love, grace and forgiveness, which should provide us with a solid foundation.
How does this relate to dreams?
Dreams usually come in batches. In other words, we often have a number of dreams, or scenes within dreams, all on the same subject, but looking at it from different angles. This is very similar to the idea of having lots of bible passages looking at the same subject in different ways.
If we start with the confusing dreams, the ones that we can only half remember, or ones that are muted, then we could come up with an interpretation that was never God’s intention for us!
So I usually look for something that I can understand easily first, and use that as a reference point to help me interpret the rest.
Remember that dreams are like parables: they are illustrations giving insight into different areas of our life. The key is to spot something that is fairly clear. With a metaphorically-thinking mindset, look for some of the following in your dreams:
- Look for simple and clear dreams, with a message you can easily understand.
- Look for vivid, brightly coloured dreams, because those are usually from God.
- Look for illustrations that obviously mirror a life situation.
- Within long dreams, look for scenes like the above three, that you can start with.
Once you have understood the meaning of the more clear dreams, then the following can help:
- Write down the dream messages that you understand, and the things you have heard God speak to you about clearly (both through dreams and in other ways). Keep those things easily accessible so you have them as a record and a reference point.
- Remember what is already revealed about God in the bible. And also remember that He is always loving and brings hope.
- Move onto more confusing dreams after you have understood the clear ones.
I have learnt to hold onto the things that God has clearly spoken to me about. I write them down and review them regularly. Otherwise I tend to forget, and the jump to wrong conclusions and misunderstand my new dreams.
Other possible dream sources
Less clear dreams could be from various sources, and they can seem negative or scary. There are various options:
- Monochrome (or obviously black and white) dreams can be from a negative spiritual source.
- Muted and confusing dreams can be from our own soul: our own mind, will and emotions.
- Some dreams can be triggered by our physical body, for example if we are feverish.
- Dark dreams could still be from God, or contain elements that are from God, so keep an open mind until you have had time to consider them properly.
I have come to the realisation that all dreams are helpful if we talk to God about them, and ask Him where they are coming from – including the dark and less clear ones. But it has taken me many years to feel confident about interpreting the latter. Mostly I use them as confirmation and further insight, rather than ones to base decisions on.
Starting with dark, muted or confusing dreams is not a good idea if you are new to dream interpretation – unless you have help. I only recommend doing so if:
- You have plenty of clearer dreams as a reference point.
- You have an ongoing relationship with God.
- You have a good grasp of God’s character from reading the bible.
A real dream example
A number of years ago one of my co-elders at our church had the following dream:
Dream: Black and white flags at church
We were all putting up flags around the church. We had all gathered to celebrate closing down the church – and moving to somewhere else. They were black and white flags. The white was on the top because God was in this. It wasn’t sad at all because we knew we would be coming back.
This dream was very clear! My friend didn’t know about the symbolism in dreams at the time, but she did know the meaning of the dream, as it was revealed to her within the dream itself. My knowledge of colours in dreams confirmed her interpretation:
- White as a dream symbol can represent the Holy Spirit.
- Black can represent mystery, as in something not yet revealed.
At a similar time, I also had a vivid dream about the same subject. Therefore two of us heard exactly the same thing from God, and it was very clear. We would need to close the church for a while, and although the future was not yet revealed, we would come back in due time. God was in this!
Around that time I had many dreams on the same subject. Most of them were not so clear, but helped me understand the purpose in doing this, the timing, and many other things. Having those clear dreams was my frame of reference.
Here is a list of a few dreams from my journal. Many of my dreams at that time were confusing and unclear, until I assumed they could be about closing the church. After that they started making sense:
|A big new house for our family||We would be joining a bigger church.|
|I saw a tree being cut down||My leadership role would be ending for a while.|
|Our church being redecorated||Through this transition our church would be changed.|
|We needed a safety net||Our big new church family would be a place of safety|
|We were serving at a bar||In our old church we were just entertaining people!|
|Rocket launch into space||Promise that a new church would launch in future.|
|Our family getting changed||Our church family would be transformed through the process.|
Those are just a fraction of the dreams I had on the subject. None of them would have made sense if I didn’t know the big picture of what was coming. But because of the clear dreams, all of these other dreams made sense and encouraged me.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by lots of dreams, start by looking for dreams that are clear and bright, for ones that seem important, or for ones that you can understand in terms of life application.
Then use those dreams as a starting point. They can be a frame of reference for interpreting the less clear dreams if you have the time.
Always keep the big picture in mind of what’s going on in your life, and what God has already spoken to you through the bible and other ways too.
The main thing is – just make a start!
More articles in the biblical tools series
Introduction: Why the bible can help us understand dreams
- Examples of dreams
(includes a list of dreams)
- Dreams as parables
- Symbolic language in dreams
- Dream symbols and the law of first mention
- Puns and wordplay in dreams
- The bible as a dream dictionary
- Considering the context of a dream
- Start with the clear parts in your dreams
- Working around a Greek mindset
- Knowing God’s heart