Biblical tools: Knowing God’s heart, and the meaning of dreams

Do you wish you could know the true meaning of your dreams?

These days there are so many places offering dream interpretation advice that it can be hard to know where to start.

But help is at hand! In this series we have been looking at some good biblical principles for understanding dreams.

This article examines how knowing God’s heart is vital for finding the true interpretation, and includes real dream examples.

The real point of a dream

During this series we have explored many useful biblical tools that can help us understand dreams. We have looked at the symbolic language; we have discussed dream symbols: and we have learned how to find the context.

But even if we understand the symbolism, and can see how the dream relates to our life, how do we know that we have understood the point of the dream? What is the real message behind it?

A good dream interpretation is more than just an explanation of symbols; it should carry a practical message of hope that helps us in our life journey.

The same God

I believe that the God of the bible is the same God who speaks to us in dreams. I think Joseph, of biblical fame, summed it up when he said, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God?’ (Genesis 40:8).

If our dreams are coming from God, then we need to know His heart in order to correctly understand them. For example, if we believe that God is a harsh taskmaster, we will always interpret corrective dreams as rebukes or criticism, rather than the loving guidance and help that they really are.

The bible recounts God’s interactions with mankind over thousands of years – and this, I believe, is its greatest value to us as dream interpreters. If, through the bible, we can get to know God, His character, and His ways a little better, then we are more likely to correctly discern what He is saying today.

If we know God’s heart, His character and His ways, then we are more likely to correctly discern what He is saying today.

An example from the bible

The Old Testament prophets are among my favourite bible books. Amos (author of the book with that name) was just a humble farmer from a rural area. He wasn’t a prophet by trade, but then God called him to go up to the big city to give the leaders an urgent warning!

His speech is rather like that of a roaring lion – warning of an impending army that will come and bring devastation to the kingdom of Israel. This sounds very much like the ranting of an angry God. But then you realise that this is a actually the final warning of many – like a parent saying ‘this is your last warning’, hoping that their child will finally listen. God’s love and patience has delayed this eventuality for a very long time.

And through the pictures that God gives to Amos, we realise that this is actually the kindest option for Israel. For an army will overthrow the corrupt leaders (both religious and political) who have oppressed and  exploited the people. God has actually heard the cries of those being oppressed and is answering out of love and compassion. Other options, such as fire or pestilence, would impact the poor but leave the corrupt rulers untouched.

We can read in Amos 7:1-9 to see how God explains this to Amos:

  • 7:1-3 A locust swarm would devastate the poor of the land.
  • 7:4-6 A fire would also devastate the poor farmers and the land.
  • 7:7-9 Rather God is going to send an army (the sword). The corrupt rulers (religious and political), would be removed, rather than the poor people.

It is so easy to read this book and misunderstand the heart behind it. In the same way it is very easy to misunderstand the heart behind our dreams if we don’t know God.

God reveals His heart to us

The whole point of God speaking to Amos and giving him pictures, was so he could help explain to the people of Israel what God’s heart was for them in all that was happening.

In the same way, God speaks to us in dreams because He wants us to understand what His heart is for us, and why things are happening in our life.

This is a most precious thing: that God wants to relate to us and engage with us in this way. He doesn’t keep us in the dark unnecessarily: He involves us in the conversation.

Sometimes when I have a dream that seems corrective,  I start to think that God is criticising me, or that my situation is hopeless.  In reality, that’s not the case – I have just forgotten what is true.  If I then re-evaluate those dreams according to what I already know to be true, I can find the real meaning, and understand why God has allowed me to see those things.

God’s character revealed

Here are a few pointers that I have learned from reading the bible over many years, to help us keep on the straight and narrow regarding dream interpretation:

  • God is love. This is the foundation for everything. If the interpretation doesn’t seem loving, then it’s not carrying God’s heart, and is not the true interpretation. 1 John 4:8
  • God is compassionate. He understands our weaknesses. He sometimes points them out to give us the motivation to overcome them, not to demoralise us. Hebrews 4:15
  • God has good plans for us. He desires the best for us, so anything He shows us is to help us be fulfilled and find our destiny. Even the harsh or scary dreams are to get us to take notice for our own good (like in Amos). Jeremiah 29:11
  • God lovingly disciplines us. Any correction we receive is so that we can be set free, restored and transformed for the better. Proverbs 3:12
  • God always gives hope. If the interpretation seems negative or hopeless then we’ve missed the point – we need to look at the dream again to find the hope. Even in correction, we find hope for change. And if the dream seems to be revealing a difficult situation, we find hope from knowing that God sees and understands, and it will be ok in the end. Romans 15:13

I sometimes think that love and hope are like two bookends of dream interpretation. God’s love is the starting point, and hope is the result.

But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Real dream example

I had these two dreams recently. Try to picture the scenes in your imagination and walk through the explanation with me:

Dream 1: Falling off the rollercoaster

I saw a girl on a rollercoaster. She was strapped to something like a little yellow sledge. There was a loop-the-loop very near the start. She set off, and did really well. I saw her just get the top of the loop, then she lost momentum, and fell off, all the way down. It was a long drop. She bounced a few times. The sledge protected her head, but I saw her just lying there in shock.

Initial thoughts

The girl: I was observing this dream, and the girl seemed to be the focus. However I understood her to be reflecting myself, and the dream was about me.

Yellow: God usually uses yellow to represent my mind: i.e. my understanding or thoughts.

The loop-the-loop: Picturing the girl going along and then falling off the loop, I assumed that there was something that I wasn’t going to manage to do. I would be doing well and then fail dramatically. This was quite demoralising, as you can imagine. I felt pretty worried. I have started writing a blog and sharing on Pinterest this year, and some of my other dreams were making me think that I might have written something I shouldn’t have, or that I’d gone wrong somehow. Or maybe the whole thing would lose momentum and I’d have to stop.

Dream 2: Snakes in my dream journal

I dreamed that Tony, a teacher from Streams UK gave me a message: He had seen snakes coming out of my dream journal.

Explanation

Tony was one of the people who taught me to interpret dreams, so his appearance in my dream was a voice of authority from God, speaking the truth.

Snakes usually represent lies.

The meaning of this second dream was very clear. I had believed a wrong idea about what my dreams were saying.

In the light of this I revisited my recent dreams, including the rollercoaster dream. Suddenly I saw it differently. I saw that the main point wasn’t that I didn’t make it. Rather, the point was that I was completely upside down in my understanding! My thinking was ‘loopy’, which is an expression to mean mad or silly. It was a wordplay. See Puns and wordplay in Dreams.

This dream was letting me know that my thinking was upside down, leading to confusion and paralysis. I was then able to review my other dreams and identify where I had misunderstood them. It wasn’t that I had written something wrong at all. I was able to find the real meaning.

I should have realised from my initial feelings of anxiety, failure and hopelessness that they weren’t coming from God.

The true meaning of the rollercoaster dream gave me confidence to rethink my understanding and eventually see clearly. It was God’s kindness, letting me know that I had misunderstood. In the end it gave me hope and restored my peace. That’s our God!

The interpretations summarised

Dream 1: I had got something ‘upside down’, and should rethink my understanding.

Dream 2: This wrong idea was coming from my interpretation of recent dreams. It was time to revisit my dream journal to find the real message.

Conclusion

The bible is a wonderful testimony of God’s love for mankind over thousands of years, and provides us with a wealth of examples that we can learn from.

So if you know the bible, then you already have a head start when it comes to dream interpretation. And if you are walking in relationship with God, then you are well on the way to being able to detect His heart shining through your dreams!

And it’s never too late to start! Spending time getting to know God is an investment that you will never regret. Only then will you be able to hear and receive the true message in your dreams.

Why not make a start today?

I hope you have enjoyed this series on Biblical Tools for Dream Interpretation.

If you would like to get to know God but don’t know where to start, please leave a comment, or get in touch and I’ll be pleased to help!

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