The journey of learning to interpret dreams from God: What gets easier with experience, and why you can never stop learning!
Are you just setting out on the journey of dream interpretation?
Are you on the way, but finding the journey a struggle?
This article reflects back on my journey to bring encouragement. It examines the things we can improve a with practice, why dream interpretation can still be a struggle at times, and why it’s worth pressing on.
I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.
If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.
- The journey of learning to interpret dreams
- Things that get easier with practice
- Why we can never stop learning
- Real dream example
- Conclusion: A journey worth taking
The journey of learning to interpret dreams
Nearly two years ago, I wrote my first post about biblical dream interpretation, where I compared the journey of learning to intepret dreams to that of climbing a mountain. In this post I am revisiting the analogy to encourage you to press on – even when it’s a struggle.
The journey of learning to interpret dreams can be compared to that of climbing a mountain.
I am writing as someone who has been climbing this dream mountain for years – to encourage those of you who are just setting out!
Dreams are a big shift in thinking
Believing that God speaks through dreams can be a big shift in thinking.
When we first start taking note of our dreams they can appear to be very confusing, and even crazy. It can feel like too much effort to think about them. And if we start trying to understand them, we can get disheartened though the mistakes that we make, from the seeming lack of progress, and from just not feeling good enough.
I have experienced all those stages myself.
15 years ago I decided to start the journey, and I have had many setbacks and made countless mistakes. However the further I pursued understanding, the more I realised that God really was speaking to me though my dreams – all the time! It was one of the most precious discoveries of my life.
Discovering God was constantly speaking through my dreams was one of the most precious discoveries of my life.
Does dream interpretation get easier?
When I started out, I assumed that understanding dreams would get easier as time went on – and in many ways it has: It is true that my skill has improved greatly. But despite that, I can still struggle to interpret dreams – at least initially.
As I approach the two-year anniversary of this blog, I have been reflecting on things I have learned, and areas where I have improved – plus things that will always remain a challenge.
I hope it will help you to count the cost and take a realistic view of the challenges ahead. But I also hope it will encourage you to know that struggles are normal, that there is a reason for them – and that it’s worth persevering!
Things that get easier with practice
There are some things that we can improve on with practice as we learn to interpret dreams, for example:
- Understanding symbolic language
- Applying dreams to real life
- Understanding God’s heart and ways
1) Understanding symbolic language
Dreams are usually metaphorical and can be described as being like night parables. It takes a while to get used to the symbolic language when we are new to them. But this is something that we can learn and improve at.
I have built up a vast wealth of experience of the symbolic language of dreams. I have had so many dreams and had to think about so many different symbols that it gives me a great head start when interpreting dreams.
You can do the same thing. Over time, you can build up your own personal dream dictionary, and keep a record of the things you have learnt about the meaning of symbols.
For example, you can learn:
- Which dream elements are fairly universal in their meaning
- The biblical meaning of many symbols
- Potential meanings of frequently occurring symbols
- Common meanings of peoples’ names, colours and numbers
- Personal meanings of many symbols
If you do this, then when you look at a new dream you will already have a better grasp of the imagery and the message it conveys. You will start to recognise symbols that have been used before.
However, it is important to keep an open mind, because the meaning of dreams symbols can vary from dream to dream – even in your own dreams! So it helps to build up an awareness of the variety of meanings that symbols can have. This becomes like a tool kit that you can draw from when you encounter than element in a future dream.
Having a baseline knowledge of various potential meanings of common symbols can speed up the interpretation process – and act as a personal dream symbol tool kit.
All of this can often speed up the interpretation process.
2) Applying dreams to real life
One of the hardest parts of dream interpretation is understanding how the dream relates to our life. We can understand the parable or illustration, but the challenge is identifying the aspect of real life that mirrors that parable.
Thankfully, this is a skill that can be improved with practice. For example, I have found that I have improved at the following aspects:
- Identifying real-life parallels to the dream action
- Identifying real-life feelings that are the same as the feelings in the dream
- Knowing what certain types of dreams are commonly about
- Knowing how God has used similar dreams in the past
- Having realistic expectations about the timing of dream messages
I have found that many dreams around the same time relate to the same life situation. Therefore, once we have made a real-life connection with one dream, it is much easier to see how other dreams relate to the same life area.
Over time, we build up a number of ‘ongoing conversations’, which are topics that God has been speaking to us about regularly. It is much quicker to understand our dream messages when we are following a thread like that.
We can also become wise to the type of thing certain dreams could be about, as we see how the symbolic language relates in practice.
With experience, we become used to the type of thing certain dreams could be about.
The more dreams we interpret, the more our thinking becomes tuned into real-life analogies, and the more we can draw links from similar dreams in the past to relate to the dream in hand
3) Understanding God’s heart in dreams
The bible has always been an important way for me to hear from God and is essential as a foundation to understanding dreams from God. You can read more about that in ‘5 spiritual foundations for receiving dreams from God’.
But, as time has gone on, my relationship with God has also greatly deepened though engaging in conversation with Him about dreams. For example, I have learnt:
- The type of things He says in dreams
- The type of subjects He likes to address in dreams
- How His heart of love is the foundation of all the dreams He gives
- How the true dream interpretation always gives hope
- The patterns and cycles of how He speaks
This personal experience makes it easier to see why God might have given a certain dream, and quicker to reach an interpretation. In essence, we become tuned into God’s voice, and the type of thing He addresses in dreams!
We become tuned into the voice of God and the type of thing He addresses in dreams.
We can also improve at hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit – and recognising the nudges He gives us whilst we are thinking about a dream. This also greatly speeds up the interpretation process!
Why we can never stop learning
So overall, we do improve at interpreting dreams with practice. However, the challenges do continue; here are some reasons why:
- Dream interpretation is a relationship with God
- Our spiritual life is a transformation process
- Every dream is like a fresh challenge
Dream interpretation is a relationship with God
I believe dreams are communications from God – and are a means to a deeper ongoing relationship with Him. If we remember that dreams are coming from a real Living God who wants to relate to us, it makes more sense of the journey!
If we remember that dreams are coming from a real Living God who wants to relate to us, it makes more sense of the journey!
God’s ways are so much higher that our ways, so sometimes it takes a while to comprehend what He is trying to communicate to us – through a dream or otherwise. It can be so different from what we were expecting that it takes a while to grasp the message.
- Isaiah 55:9, NASB “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Also, God is continually drawing us to Himself, and He uses dreams to help this process.
At times, I tend to slip into treating dreams like an intellectual exercise – maybe like a crossword puzzle to solve each morning. I get into complicated symbols and meanings – and then get frustrated when I can’t understand. Other times, I am focused on understanding the message so I can quickly get back to my life with the benefit of that knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with doing these things. But, whenever I become complacent in my own understanding– or become works focused, God quietly raises the difficulty until I have no option but to seek Him for help. It turns out that God values our relationship with Him.
- Song of Solomon 1:4, NASB Draw me after you and let’s run together!
We have no option but to let God be God! He might choose not to reveal the meaning of a dream until a later time! If that is the case, then however hard we puzzle over a dream – we won’t understand until God reveals it.
Our spiritual life is a transformation process
The Christian life is a transformation process, where we are being guided and moulded into the image God had in mind when He created us!
- 2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…
God uses dreams to change our thinking, and in my experience, this is always going to be challenging! It involves me failing to understand the dream message until my thinking has sufficiently shifted to grasp what it means!
On the positive side, what an amazing tool dreams are for bring in about this transformation! If we persevere and keep seeking God about the meaning, He will eventually enable us to change. And because dreams engage our emotions as well as our minds, those shifts can be powerful and long-lasting. The fruit in our lives is worth the effort. The growth is in the journey.
- Romans 12:2, NASB ..be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
Every dream is like a fresh challenge
And finally… each time we are faced with a dream, we still need to go through the interpretation process, and, although it gets quicker, it still takes time.
In our dreams we discover new symbols that we haven’t come across before and need to research or consider. Our life situation can change – and symbols can suddenly change their meaning.
It seems that God has an endless supply of new illustrations to use and unfamiliar elements to engage us with. It can be a challenge – but it also means that dream interpretation never gets boring!
God has an endless supply of new illustrations to use and unfamiliar elements to engage us with!
God has always done this. If you are wondering why He likes to be cryptic and doesn’t just make things easier for us by keeping His communications plain, then check out the biblical examples in Why does God speak in dreams and parables?
Real dream example
I had this dream a number of years ago, soon after I started paying attention to my dreams:
The dream: Pushing through the door
I dreamed that a teacher from Streams Ministries came to our church.
Then I was standing outside the old door of a church building. I tried to push the door open to get in but it wouldn’t move at first. I had to keep pushing and pushing until the door sort of ‘unravelled’ and opened. I went in.
Once inside, I walked through the traditional building, but halfway down the room it morphed into an open space – like being outdoors. As it opened up I could see a lovely lake and green foliage: it was beautiful, bright and appeared sparkling. I gazed at it in wonder, feeling as though I should tell some other people about it. Then I awoke with a sense of awe, feeling that I had been somewhere heavenly.
Some symbols explained:
Streams Ministries: Streams is the ministry of the late John Paul Jackson, where I first learned about dream interpretation. At that time I had just taken a Streams course on understanding dreams (see bible-based dream interpretation resources for details). This teacher coming to my church gave the context for the rest of the dream – it was all about dream interpretation.
The church door: The church represented my spiritual life in relation to understanding my dreams. The door ‘unraveling’ was similar to the idea of solving puzzles and clues, which is all part of the dream interpretation process. The point was I would need to push through and not give up, until the mystery in each dream was unraveled!
The sparkling area: This image gave me the motivation for pressing on with dream interpretation, which would take me to a place beyond natural thinking where I could connect with the spiritual / heavenly realm.
This dream was encouraging me to persevere with interpreting dreams, even though I felt like giving up. The reward would be that I would go beyond the natural realm and gain a heavenly perspective. It also carried the hope that I would be able to help others on this journey (just like I am now).
If you continue the journey and do not give up, you will also gain a heavenly perspective on your life, and discover the amazing treasures in your dreams. Just like me.
Conclusion: A journey worth taking
So, to those just starting out in the world of dreams, I can testify that it is a journey well worth persevering with. Practice is everything.
Like climbing a mountain, there are new views to enjoy at each stage. The journey improves our strength and stamina – and there is a sense of achievement each time we reach a landmark. And once we are well on the way, we will be able to encourage others who are just setting out.
On the journey you will learn so much about yourself, about God’s ways, and how He feels about you. You will discover purpose, direction, and identity, and you will actually encounter the God of love Himself.
- We have discovered that we can improve at understanding symbolic language, applying dreams to real life, and understanding God’s heart in dreams.
- But we have seen that some things will remain a challenge – simply because we are being led, transformed and guided by the God of the universe! He will never stop changing our hearts and minds until we are conformed to the image He had in mind when He created us.
So don’t be daunted at the challenge. A journey starts with a decision to try. Step by step, dream by dream, we learn and climb.
Let us press on towards the goal: To know God more deeply, and to be transformed into His wonderful image – through our dreams.
I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.
The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey with God. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.
It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.
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How to understand dream symbols: 10 questions to help identify their meaning, plus real dream examples.
How God uses dreams to teach us about dream interpretation, and what that looks like – with real dream examples.
How dreams can bridge the gap between bible knowledge and knowing God personally.
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- Overview of dreams in the bible – and their meaning
- Why do we dream about events in advance?