Learning from Dreams

Learning from Dreams

“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while they slumber on their beds . —Job 33:14-15

When we say we need to “sleep on” something, we’re doing more than using a familiar figure of speech. We’re also recognizing a psychological and spiritual truth. Throughout scripture we read of God communicating with people through their dreams, giving them a vision of where they should be going or warning them of dire events to come. Many times the meaning of the dream is clear. In Genesis, for example, we read of God coming to King Abimelech and saying, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.”  The dream confirms what Abimelech most likely knows in his heart. In other instances, though, the significance of the dream is not so immediately clear, and the dreamer has to seek the help of an interpreter—Joseph for the pharaoh, Daniel for Nebuchadnezzar.

Whether we remember them or not, we, too, have a number of dreams every night, each of them capable of giving us insight into ourselves and connecting us with the Divine. We don’t necessarily have to have an interpreter to profit from our dreams, but we do need to learn to pay attention to them. This can be hard, particularly if our sleep is disturbed or we are overly tired, but with desire we can improve. 

A first step we can take to make this process easier is to keep pen and paper next to our bed, enabling us to jot down dreams before we begin the day. If we lack the time to record them thoroughly, a simple outline or a list of phrases will do. Then what? Remembering that our dreams come from several levels within our selves, we might look for “characters” who occur more than once, or issues and feelings that echo those in our waking life. What do these elements say about our own state of mind? Are we moving in a direction that our heart knows is wrong? Do we sense that God is present in our lives in spite of any problems we may have? Dreams can be baffling, but they can also be our teacher. We should listen to them well.  —Susan Hanson

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