Have you ever had a dream, and I don’t mean a good dream, but a raw, perverse, nasty, “I’d like to forget that as quickly as possible” kind of a dream? If not, that’s probably a good thing; but keep reading because this article isn’t just about what to do about sinful dreams. Rather, it is about identifying things our hearts may be crying out for and that God wants to provide.
Dreams can alert us that God wants to address something percolating in our hearts, something stemming from an unmet need of the soul. And no, despite a lot of hyperbole about “a man’s needs,” sex is not a need no matter how much we’d like to imagine it may be.
(Frankly, a topic for another day is the fact that many struggle because they’ve elevated sex to something they feel they can’t live without and have never died to self in this area and given their sexuality fully over to God.)
Our Dreams and Fantasies Point to Something
Our dreams and fantasies are warning signs that should cause us to stop and realize something much deeper is crying out for attention–something only God can heal and satisfy.
You may think, “If you knew my last dream like that, God definitely won’t provide that!” You’re right, but where did that dream come from? Where does any sexual fantasy originate? Every fantasy (not just sexual fantasies) comes either from a wound (as we’ve written about in the past) or from a need in your soul that isn’t being met.
These fantasies or dreams can start a dialogue between us and God to discover the deeper thing we’re lacking in our life and relationship with God. God makes a profound promise in Philippians 4:19, “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We have both physical needs, such as the need for food and shelter, but we also have emotional needs, like the need for love, purpose, human interaction, etc.
When a need isn’t being met, our soul begins to alert us. For example, at God’s leading, I’ve fasted from food for periods of time. One such time after fasting for a week, guess what happened? I got hungry. Every night, I dreamt of food. I even hallucinated about eating a platter of buffalo wings. The need for food wasn’t met, and it found expression in dreams and fantasy.
While physical desire may trigger a pornographic or lustful dream, there is a difference between this and a food dream. Once God heals your soul of its wounds and needs, speaking from experience, you can go months without sexual gratification and never have a pornographic dream.
These dreams and fantasies reveal clues that God needs to address a need or a wound in our soul.
Needs differ from wounds. With a wound, God must first heal the area of hurt that has arisen from what I call the God-wound–a misconception about God’s character that hinders us from receiving His life. For example, if we suffered any type of emotional, physical or religious abuse from a parent or pastor who shaped our view of God, we may subconsciously believe that God’s nature is like theirs. We will create an emotional wall of “protection” between ourselves and who we wrongly believe God to be; and consequently, seek what only He can give elsewhere in sin and vice. A need, on the other hand, may or may not have an associated wound keeping us from receiving what we need from God, but rather is most often a simple breakdown in relationship with God that is keeping us from receiving His provision in some way.
Things Swept Under the Rug Get Dirty
Not taking the time we need with Him to work through something can create an unmet emotional need that manifests as fantasy. In my life, if I would start having perverse dreams, my struggle against lust would grow exponentially more difficult until my willpower would crumble and I’d gratify my sinful desires. I was having “one of those” kind of weeks when God finally taught me how to use the struggle, like He had taught me with other fantasies, as an invitation to start a conversation with Father God, who is rich in understanding, never standoffish when we’re struggling, but who invites us to boldly come to His throne of grace to find help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).
Also, just because we had a disgusting dream doesn’t mean we are disgusting to God. Beloved, always remember, you aren’t a disappointment to Him. Even when you’ve blown it the worst, even when you don’t understand your sin, He does. Where this thing comes from may be a mystery to you but it isn’t to Him, and He doesn’t expect us to figure it out on our own or to sanctify ourselves. He is the sanctifier. He is faithful and will accomplish His work in us if we will just come to Him. When we’re at our worst, He’s at His best with a perfect love that overcomes our imperfections. His perfect sacrifice in Christ is all we need to restore us to positional-perfection that we may come on His merits, not in ours.
So despite feeling “slimed” by my dreams and thoughts, I simply confessed the sin and came to Abba Father saying, “Lord! Where did that come from?”
I wish I could say revelation comes instantly for me. It doesn’t. Or with a booming voice out of Heaven. It doesn’t. But after some time meditating before the Lord, the “still, small voice” of the Spirit began to ask me what was going on in my life at the time.
I remembered something I’d worked hard on and felt was God-led hadn’t been well received. What did I do? Did I take that pain, frustration, confusion, rejection, and disappointment to God? No. I buried it and pretended it didn’t affect me. Moved on. Out of sight, out of mind.
Those emotions simmered until they finally found a voice in a perverse fantasy whose heart cry was, “You will like, no, love what I’m giving you. You will beg me for more and love me for it.” The correlation seemed so simple once God showed it to me. Instead of allowing God to meet my need, it eventually came to the surface as a perverse fantasy.
After I discovered where this dream originated, I could now repent of the deeper issue in addition to the surface manifestation:
“Father forgive me. I have issues. I need the truth and the healing that only You can give. I should have processed this with You from the start instead of burying my emotions. For that matter, how many other times before this have I not come to You? Thank You for allowing me to go through this so that You could heal me. Now speak to my heart and show me how You feel about me.”
God loves relationship. He’s happy to answer these kinds of prayers if we’ll just spend time with Him. I can tell you in that time of prayer, He filled me with such affirmation and His pride for me that not only did it heal the wound from that event, I’ve never struggled with that fantasy since or the disappointments I used to face when people would reject me or the things I’ve worked hard on.
When God meets your needs, the counterfeits become truly cheap. He invites you to cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 4:7). We were never meant to carry all the stresses of life alone. We weren’t made to repress and forget them or toughen up. We were made for ongoing communion with God, a real relationship.
How many of our fantasies would be easily reconciled if we’d just take time with God?
We think we don’t have time, but how much time do we sink into these counterfeits and sins that never really satisfy? How much time do we spend stewing over life’s traumas and stresses? We spend more time in sin than it takes to get real freedom. Consequently, we live a lower quality of life with less time as we self-medicate our needs and wounds with sin and vice.
How long will we love foolishness and hate knowledge, asks the Spirit of Wisdom in Proverbs 1? If we take time with God, He promises He will heal us. No one who abides in Him (spends time with Him) continues in sin (1 John 3:6).
Where to Get Our Needs Truly Met
Not every need can be met through prayer, however. For example, you have a calling on your life and God has equipped you with passions that relate to your calling and destiny. You need to live with passion. You need to have purpose and to do what you are made to do. You need it as badly as a bird needs to sing and fly. You aren’t complete without being and doing the things that make you uniquely you.
However, we live in a culture of counterfeits. We can watch TV and movies that, in a span of hours, will move our souls through a gamut of emotions that synthesize romance, passion, destiny, justice, purpose and the list goes on and on. We can play games where we gain pseudo-achievement, conquer enemies, and build empires and worlds to our liking– thus robbing our souls of the need for actual achievement.
We need to give love and to receive love, connection, human comfort, acceptance. Lust and pornography can create a “fast-food” counterfeit, a quick-fix for these needs. Part of the reason we struggle with a closeted life of lust is that we aren’t really living the real life we’ve been given.
God can meet these needs by showing us what’s missing in our lives–and if it is a need that He can’t meet directly through prayer alone, He can give a strategy to have that need met in a healthy way and thus equip you for a truly satisfying, fun, passionate, and abundant life, ministry, and calling.
The list of needs God can meet is endless and as varied as each individual’s personal experiences. But if you’d like more information on how to “pray-through” heart needs or heal wounds that keep us bound to lust, The Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder dedicates several chapters to this as well as many other essential truths to help a person more than simply manage or cope with lust, but to actually find real, lasting freedom from lust and pornographic addiction. Visit mightymanministries.com for more information.