Of all the psalms that David wrote, my favorite is Psalm 126.

When the Lord returned the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

I love this psalm because it speaks of dreaming and laughing and praising God for doing great things for me. I like the assurance that although the tears come sometimes, I know that there will be songs of joy when my dreams are achieved. These dreams are not third-stage sleep, but my aspirations, which I can reach, with the help of God.

I believe God inspires my dreams. As a child, I dreamed of traveling all over the world, a dream fulfilled when my husband was offered a job overseas.

If I am striving for what God wants me to have, then I can reach those desires without fighting for them. My dreams or ambitions change with age and with circumstances. Still, in Psalm 37, David tells me that God grants the desires of my heart if I delight in the Lord.

I studied the life of Joseph, the Old Testament dreamer, to learn how he worked his way through some difficult times before his dreams were achieved. I tried to adapt that for me as I reach for my dreams. Seven ideas stand out in Genesis 37 that, with guidelines, give me hope.

1. Know that God loves me.

In verse 3, Joseph received a coat from his father Jacob. The coat represented the love Jacob had for his favorite son, Joseph, who knew that his father would rescue him whenever he needed help, because he was his favorite.

I, too, acknowledge that God, my heavenly Father, loves me. I must never be afraid of God or think that He is angry with me. If I have done anything wrong, I need to settle it with Him. He can give favor and love to me and never run out.

My parents and four older siblings showed their love to me and made me feel safe and cherished at home. I also had a church family that showed love to me as they mentored me. For years, I savored that love, but it was not enough. I needed God’s love and His grace. Now I know that my efforts for perfection depend on the blood of Jesus and nothing else. Just like Naaman, the blood of Jesus is my Jordan River. That is all I need, no matter how extensive the catalog of my sins. So long as I honestly admit my failures, confess them, and apply the Word of God, I can walk in perfection, purified from all sin, and be in God’s favor, and He will go with me to the end of all my dreams. I know that God, my heavenly Father, loves me.

2. Be sure my dreams have a heavenly connection.

In verse five, Joseph’s first dream was of a wheat field where harvest bundles were bowing to him. That meant he would eventually have power over others, and that was an earthly or worldly desire. Whatever my dream or goal, God has a place for me on this earth. But if all I have is an earthly dream such as money, power, or beauty, it is not all that God wants for me.

In verse nine, Joseph dreamed again, this time about the sun, moon, and stars bowing to him. That was a heavenly dream in which he connected with God.

I wanted to be a writer, but I had nothing published until I put my dreams on the altar to God and made a heavenly connection. When I asked God what He wanted me to do, He led me to the local newspaper where He made that wish come true. For ten years, I wrote a weekly column for that paper, expressing my personal views about experiences I had, and trying to teach the lessons I learned from those experiences. Those articles included God and His work, and I gave all the glory to Him.

Ephesians 3:20 promises me that “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” God can do it, and all I need to do is place my trust in Him. My job is to trust, not direct the action or question what God does. With a heavenly connection, I include God’s will in my dreams.

3. Go back through pain if necessary.

In verse 12, Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem to check on his brothers. Shechem is where an evil man raped Joseph’s sister, Dinah. It must have been painful for Joseph to go back there, because of all the memories. Even so, he obeyed his father.

Before I reach my desires, God may send me back through an area of pain. If I keep remembering or obsessing about previous pain, that is not a good thing. But if I go back and let God heal me, then I can take the past and not let it have power over me any longer.

When my two children told me about their divorces, there was much suffering for all concerned. Months later, although it was painful, I was able to forgive and be civil with the ones who had caused the hurt.

I learned that to make it through and be healed is only possible with God’s help. I have to accept that life changes and I am not always in control of what happens, but I can control how I react to circumstances.

4. Some down time may be necessary.

In verse 17, a man told Joseph that his brothers had gone to Dothan, the place of empty wells. Joseph walked in that direction, not knowing what was coming his way. When he arrived, his brothers threw him into an empty well.

While Joseph was in his down time in that well, God was working on him and increasing his value. Joseph was thrown into the well without a thought of his worth, but when the merchants came by, his price was weighed in silver.

Down time for me will be a time of trial. God allows it for good as He works on me to increase my value. Job in 23:10 said, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold.” God will also teach me during that time that I should not rely on external things or people to lead me into my dream, but to depend on Him. That is how He refines me, and makes me more like Jesus when I come out of that down time.

My husband was sent to Thailand for a year soon after we were married. That was a down time for me. During those months, I had to learn how to do things that I had not been entrusted with before. It was a time of stretching for me, and my worth increased because of it. When he came home and I got out of that down time, I could tell how, not in my own competence, but in God’s competence, I had been refined. Down time does not last forever.

5. Energy is required to resist any attack against my dream.

In verse 23, Joseph’s brothers threw him into an empty well. Hated and rejected, Joseph felt their attack.

I can never aspire to something better or greater without meeting some resistance. That is the price of admission. People will not always agree with my dreams or proposals. I have to remember not to quit, but to stand firm and move forward. Persevering and determined, I know that if God wants the dream for me, then I can succeed.

A week before our wedding, my fiancee was sent on temporary duty to Vietnam. I believed my dreams had ended and that he would not return. He did come back, however, and I learned that the exertion of prayer had been time well spent.

God’s timing is always in time, on time, every time. God always provides what is needed. He has the answer ready before I know I have a problem. While Abraham was going up the mountain to offer Isaac, God had the ram ready at the top of the mountain.

In the same way, when I use my energy to resist the feelings of rejection, I can trust God. I have to control my energy, though, to keep from running ahead of Him. He will help me get my longings or show me what better dreams He has for me.

6. Give God praise to overcome any enemy.

In verse 18, Joseph’s brothers spotted him off in the distance. By the time he reached them, they had cooked up a plot. Pulling out their knives, they said, “Here comes the dreamer. Let’s kill him.” However, the oldest brother, Reuben, wanted them to put Joseph in a pit so he could come back later and rescue Joseph. But Reuben’s sin with his father’s concubine had caused him to lose his birthright, and his brothers did not respect him.

Judah, the second oldest, then became the leader. The name “Judah” means “praise.” In verse 26, Judah, meaning “praise,” said, “No, let’s sell him to the merchants because killing him won’t help us and after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” So instead they sold him into slavery. “Praise” helped Joseph when others wanted to kill him. “Praise” helped Joseph overcome the enemy.

There are times when I feel as though others want to kill my wishes. When my children rebel or church planning committee members reject my suggestions, I have to remember the power of praise. A threat may be coming, but my praise must not be killed. The praise comes between me and the attack. I should never underestimate that power because it will help my dream come true.

Paul says, “In everything, give thanks,” and so I do. I do not thank God for everything, but I praise Him for giving me dreams and for showing me how to love as He loves.

Psalm 71:14 and 15 say, “But I will hope continually and will yet praise thee more and more. For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” When I praise God for something Ihope He will do, I need to remember that God wants me to put all my hopes in Him, trust Him only, instead of trying to get what I want. His plans are always better than mine, so, I just keep praising God and believing that He will bring to pass the very best for me, whether it is what I want or not.

7. Give the dream away.

In chapters 40 and 41 of Genesis, Joseph shared his dreams with the butler, baker, and Pharaoh. Then his dreams came true.

I have to share my dreams because Scripture tells me I must. Achieving some of them has increased my faith in God. However, sometimes I do forget that God loves me; I forget to look for that heavenly connection; I forget that going back through the pain will heal me if I can just let it go; I forget that down time will not last forever; and, I forget to praise God the way I should. Sometimes I do not have the energy to resist those thoughts and imaginations of my heart that are not in God’s will, but come from Satan instead.

Studying the life of Joseph has taught me that I must wait on God. I must never run ahead and look over my shoulder to tell Him, “Hurry and catch up with me!” That never works. It is like riding a tandem bike — if I try to steer, I cause an accident every time, but so long as I let Him ride in front, He takes me places I never knew about.

I believe that my living and my dying will be much better because of my dreams and aspirations. I pray that everyone will have dreams realized, days filled with joy and laughter, and times of sharing those dreams with others.

Of course, my ultimate dream is to live in Heaven with Jesus for all eternity. That dream is assured because it is a victory that has already been won. God’s grace assures me that someday I will enter that world where there is no pain, tears, or sorrow, and I will see the face of God.

If I had no dreams beyond today or faith in tomorrow, then my present life would be useless. But, because I believe in Eternity and I know I will have victory, I know this dream will come true. That puts a smile on my face, and more dreams in my heart.

The wonderful God I know gives me faith in His power to help me climb to greater heights and reach the most impossible aspiration. And as the 126th Psalm reminds me, that makes my seeds worth sowing, my tears worth shedding, my songs of joy worth singing, and my dreams worth dreaming.