Dreams and our spiritual life
A certain man relates his dream to his family members as “God” showing him an acronym PC which for him means Plant Church. Meanwhile, the man had a mighty warehouse where he stores grain and cereal products either from his farms or from neighbouring farmers for the rainy days. He went ahead, established a church, and became a pastor. After three years, instead of flourishing, he drastically declined in all spheres of life. He became upset and cantankerous to God. Finally, he went back to God in prayer and asked God why He did revealed that he should “Plant Church” but the church could not flourish? However, God told him that PC did not meant “Plant Church” but Plant Corn. Why corn? Because he had a gigantic warehouse and there were signs for an impending famish situation that his cultivation of corn could ameliorate. Be careful, for dreams have misled many and I hope and pray you may not be one of them, amen.
Dreams are “Attempts to obtain insight into the future from the stream of thoughts and fancies that flow through the mind during sleep.” As human beings and Christians to be specific, we are always in need of information to guide our communication, hence the need for divine revelation. To this end, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, (Jesus Christ)” (Heb. 1:1-2). This leads to the various stages of divine revelation and communication:
- Nature: God spoke with people through wonders of Nature (Wisdom 13:5).
- Urim (Num. 27:21) and Dreams (Jer. 23:25-32): People had self-revelation of God.
- Prophets: as people developed, they gradually dropped the two lower forms of communication stated above, to a superior method, namely, through the spoke-persons of God, the prophets, (Heb. 1:1).
- Jesus Christ: the development in the act of speaking with God or hearing from God reached its zenith in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh (Jn. 1:1,14; Heb. 1:2). Most authentic and will last forever.
We can see that God follows us according to our capabilities and development and He has communicated Himself to us in the various means outlined above but sometimes He refuses to use any of these methods of communication that is nature, dreams and prophets. For instance in 1Sam. 28:6, Saul inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by the prophets. Since our emphasis is on dreams, it is pertinent to note that there are two categories of dreams – natural dreams and supernatural dreams. The first are the recurrent dreams that we have every night. They are ordinary and common. On a serious note, they may be signals of our psychological states (patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions) or our health and mental states (malaria or neurosis). While the latter which comes sometimes with visions, are rare and comes with specific purposes, for example, the dreams given to St. Joseph to take Our Lady home as his wife (Matt. 1:20ff) and that of the “wise men from the East” (Matt. 2:12).
From the foregoing, God’s self-revelation communicates to us hierarchy of truths concerning the stages of divine revelation. Dreams were inferior to prophets and prophets were inferior to Jesus Christ. Dreams in the O.T. were mostly given to pagans for the overall purpose of showing Yahweh as the one true God of the Israelites and superior to the pagan gods, (Jdg. 13:7). Dreams are not bad, nevertheless, we must be careful with them and to this effect, the position of the Church is very clear as she has beautifully categorised all forms of revelation into two as Public Revelation (OT & NT) and Private Revelation (dreams, vision, trance, messages from visionaries). We are all to accept without doubt Public Revelation because they are a necessity for all of us and their content of God’s Self-Revelation is definite, authentic and unique. When we read and meditate on the Word of God, we do so with the highest degree of certainty. However, for private revelation that is dreams, visions, messages from visionaries, we are not obliged to accept them whole-heartedly because they are not as certain as public revelation. If we have to accept them, then we must consider three things: (1) the message must not be contrary to our faith or morals; (2) it could be made public; and (3) we are to accept the message with prudence. In case of any doubt seek for guidance through spiritual direction and/or psycho-spiritual counselling. God bless you.
Fr. John-Mary Atep.