I am seeking clarity of the bible position about dreams. I have had dreams that have come true and some that have not. I have had dreams that I would deem supernatural and encounters that I can’t explain or articulate in human or worldly terms. As I read the bible, I am finding myself is a state of confusion. I am trying to reconcile how to address or be at peace with my dreams. The old testament forbids the use of those that claim to interpret dreams. I also forbids speaking of dreams lest we speak falsehood. However, the bible also says that God came to some in dreams. I have read comments and articles that say, when God shows up in a dream, one will know but David, for example, had dreams before he truly knew he was anointed. The bible also says that our battles are not in the physical world but in the spiritual world. Therefore being in a sleep state, I would infer, as being suspended is a spiritual realm. So are my dreams a movie of brain activity or Is my true self in a spiritual battlefield? If my true self, how do I address the dreams?
Very interesting question @Namia,
I will answer this from a personal perspective and try to address some of your questions.
Yes, dreams are in a sense a ‘movie’ of your brain activity when you are asleep. These have been studied fairly extensively in sleep studies and there are phases in your sleep when you dream and phases when you do not. However, the important question is this - what is the source of those dreams (or brain activity) when you are asleep? The most common source of dreams is your own waking experience - that is, dreams are a reflection of what you are going through. If you had a frightening experience, you may have nightmares, or if you are busy and tired, you may have dreams pertaining to your work and so on. I would call such dreams common or ‘trivial’ dreams.
On the other hand, another source of dreams is supernatural. It is a special way in which God communicates with you. I would call such dreams ‘significant’ dreams, because they are often very different from the trivial dreams that occur commonly and have a particular reason or significance.
So yes, dreams can be a special communication to you to help you or warn you. Regarding your ‘true self’ - both your sleeping state and awake state are your true selves. One is not truer than the other, both are sacred and God can communicate with us in both states - whether we are asleep or awake.
Why do I say that dreams can be supernatural in origin. Again I will begin with my personal perspective and then take the discussion forward.
I have had dreams play a significant role in my life and the testimonies of my friends is similar. My wife had significant infertility issues and when we were married both of us never expected to have a child. Three years down the line, two of our friends had a similar dream a few days apart - that we were going to have a child. They mentioned this to a common friend of ours. So the next day, when my wife went to this common friend (who is a doctor) with a medical problem, the fist thing she did was to do an ultrasound scan and my wife realised that she was 6 months pregnant!
A good friend of mine was also shown in a dream that he was going to have a son and even the face of the child was shown in his dream. Now he is a qualified surgeon in a large academic centre and he would be the last person I would say was impressionable.
An older friend of mine, a wonderful brother in the Lord and a doctor, was working in a hostile remote region when he was warned in a dream that he would be arrested on false charges. And he was arrested the next day, but he was prepared legally and therefore got away without much damage.
In the Bible, dreams have been a way in which God has communicated with his people. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee, the old testament Joseph had several dreams that foretold his future. Even today, there are numerous non-christians, especially in muslim dominated regions have had dreams of Christ which played a major role in coming to saving faith.
So how does one differentiate a ‘trivial’ dream from a ‘significant’ dream, how do we separate the common from the supernatural type?
There is no hard and fast way to do this and no resource will help you - I have tried. I would say just this - the dreamer will know if the dream is from God or not. Yes, you may be mistaken on occasion but in most cases, you will be able to know if the dream is supernatural in origin or not. Even a narcissistic unbeliever like Nebuchadnezzar knew that a certain set of dreams were out of the ordinary and he stopped at nothing to ensure that they were interpreted.
I would also add that a dream from God is often different in nature - they are often very vivid and the details are not easily lost to memory. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. I have had some ‘significant’ dreams which are 20 years old, which have been hugely helpful in making sense of my life when everything was going wrong, and even today, I can remember the fine details of those dreams.
It is often difficult to be absolutely sure about a dream that you had, whether it was from God or not. If you are confused, I would just advise you to simply let it rest. Pray and ask God about it and He will reveal it to you in the way that needs to be revealed. Years down the line, when you look back, you will realise and understand if the dream indeed was from God or if it was just something insignificant. I would suggest you write down the details of your dreams so the details are not lost to memory. This will help you in more ways than one. Generally I have found that dreams from God to his family are those that are helpful, encouraging the believer or warning him/her about imminent danger. In my case, my dreams were very helpful as I went through very difficult struggles - they were a comforting reminder that God’s hand is still on me and that He knows what I am going through.
Dreams are just one way in which God communicates with us. His main channel of communication is through the written word and through our prayers. Dreams are an uncommon way that occurs occasionally. They have a purpose, they have a Biblical mandate and basis but they are not the most important in the life of a believer. Dreams are spiritual but not more spiritual than your ordinary awake life, they are not more spiritual than the word of God and the fellowship we share with fellow believers. Let us therefore not dwell too deep into them and get into unnecessary confusion. If you don’t understand them, just let them be. Pray about them and God will show you.
I would suggest we shouldn’t place pressure on ourselves to remember dreams in case it was from God, or to try and decipher a dream on the off-chance it was from God. As Tony said, if it’s really something from God, He’ll make sure you hear it. Likewise, if you miss something that God said to you in your dream, it’s ok. Hearing from God should not cause concern or confusion. If this happens, I think it’s more a distraction from your faith than anything. The main way we should hear from God is through reading the Bible. Sometimes, however, God chooses to communicate in other ways for His glory. I don’t believe this threatens the closed canon of Scripture. Dreams are merely used to encourage, warn or comfort us or those close to us. I’d encourage you to be open to God speaking through dreams but place too high a priority on it. This is something I’ve had to learn myself.
I really liked the examples of dreams given above. One thing I often think about are the testimonies of Muslims who have dreams of Jesus revealing himself as God and Saviour. The subsequent conversions to Christianity from these dreams are incredible, if dangerous for these individuals. This shows the power of a dream when God really intends to use it.
You may find this thread below helpful to read. There, I give examples of how God has used dreams to speak to me, and some useful boundaries to bear in mind:
Above all, keep reading the Bible, and using these study times to develop intimacy with your loving Father. I think this will be a place of peace and comfort for you if dreams are causing you any confusion at this time.
Thank you Tony for your response and for sharing your experiences with dreams. My dreams have definitely shifted as I have matured and are now more succinct as I have become rooted in walk / journey with God. I can pin point where I was in my journey based on a dream. I can also recall the first dream I had in detail. I was around 6 years old. In my experience, growing up in the Church, there has been an aversion and sometimes condemnation when I inquired or discussed my dreams. Unfortunately and lately fortunately for me, I remember majority of my dreams. I have sort guidance from many places and found that in religion, as a Christian and later a Muslim revert, the rebuke was the same. “Don’t not tell me your dreams” or “Go pray to God cause dreams were from Satan”. When I made the decision to move away for institutional religion and became spiritual - rooted in God, I was able to ask questions and get some fitting clarity. I have always felt an insufficiency in the responses I got since the door was always shut but the dreams always nagged at me. Since my journey has brought me back to Christianity, I have found a lack of a safe space (perhaps it is my fears for past experiences) to discuss due to a lack of knowledge in this area. You are right about one thing, due to how long I have been dreaming, God maybe the only one that has the answers I seek so will turn to me for clarity and discernment. I deeply appreciate your time and response.
@artownsend There was a lot of content to cover in that thread and it was useful. I am grateful. Interestingly enough, now when I dream, I am able to know what to ask of God and the bible gives guidance about have addresses a lot of tough subjects that have held me in bondage. I don’t remember 50% of my dreams and it don’t bother me cause I surrendered to God. Those that I remember are answered by the bible. You and @tonyabthomas are right, I somehow know when it is God or the state of my mind or the deceiver. I have noticed I am truly resting (sleeping). I am finding peace with my gift and grateful to have it now. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your guidance.