Understanding the Difference Between Dreams and Fantasies


Chasing fantasies can be financially ruinous, but pursuing your dreams can bring incredible fulfillment. So, how do you know the difference?

Last week, we talked about the danger of running after fantasies and how it leads us to poverty. If we let our fantasies set the course of our lives, we become slaves to them, and end up in trouble.

One of the difficult parts of applying this wisdom is figuring out the difference between dreams and fantasies. These two things can seem very similar in our hearts and minds, but they have very different impacts on our lives — dreams inspire us to achieve great things, while fantasies only lead us astray.

Fortunately, wisdom and insight help us to separate the good from the bad in our thought lives.

The whole discussion about fantasy stemmed from a study of Proverbs 28:19, which tells us that “those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.”

We’re going to use another proverb to help make sense of the fantasies and dreams in our hearts. Proverbs 20:5 talks about the role of wisdom in figuring out our most private thoughts:

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.

This verse can seem a little bit vague and abstract, but here’s what it’s really saying: Humans are incredibly complex creatures, and our hearts and minds can be deep and confusing places. If we use wisdom and insight, though, we can make sense of our inner selves and draw the best of our thoughts and dreams to the surface.

When it comes to dreams and fantasies, these thoughts are often mixed together in the depths of our hearts. In order to discern which are helpful and which are harmful, we need to apply the standard of wisdom to them.

If you’re trying to make sense of your ambitions, here are four tests to determine whether your thoughts are inspiring dreams or dangerous fantasies.

1) Does it line up with God’s word?

The Bible is always the first standard against which we judge anything, and it’s helpful in discerning dreams from fantasies. If the things you aspire to run contrary to scripture, they’re not dreams from God.

This can manifest in several ways. Some fantasies (such as sexual fantasies) involve behaviors that are obviously sinful. Others may not be outright immoral, but they are probably unwise. Either way, these are things that we should stay away from.

Great dreams, on the other hand, will always be compatible with the things taught in scripture.

2) Does it line up with your talents?

We touched on this idea in our previous article about fantasies: Sometimes the things that we daydream about don’t have any correlation with the things that we are actually gifted in. When that happens, those things are probably unhelpful fantasies.

God gives us each specific gifts and talents for us to use in His service. If your ambitions involve using these gifts and talents, then they are probably good dreams. But if the things you’re running after are outside of your giftings, you’re likely to end up frustrated.

3) Can you build it step by step?

One of the hallmarks of fantasy is that it tends to exist outside of the realm of reality. And in reality, we can’t build something big without first starting with something small.

If you have big plans, but no idea how to start small in order to get there, you’re probably dealing with fantasy. If, on the other hand, you can lay out a plan and a strategy that will help you go step-by-step from small beginnings to big success, you stand a good chance of turning that dream into a reality.

4) Does it help others?

In the end, fantasies are almost always about ourselves. We daydream about them because we’re enticed by the way that they make us feel. Fantasy is inherently selfish.

A God-given dream, on the other hand, will likely have less to do with you and more to do with the people that He wants you to help. God put us here to help other people, and the things that He calls us to do always benefit the people around us.

God gives us dreams to inspire us to make the most of our lives, while the enemy uses fantasies to distract us from the things that we should be doing and entice us into trouble. Using wisdom and insight, you can differentiate dreams and fantasies and start making your life count for all that it should.


Photo by Rolands Lakis. Used under Creative Commons License.

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