Here are two more words we use interchangeably in our present world: hopes and dreams. But if we look in the Scripture, there's quite a difference between the two.
The Bible talks about hopes as an assurance more than as a desire. Our hope is in the Lord, it says, implying that we can rely on Him to be who He says He is. This is very different from our definition of hope, which is so often little more than a wish. At best, it is a feeble grip on what we desire to be the case. Our idea of hope is so much less than God's.
See, hope is something we rest on God's character. We take what we know about Him, we apply it to the situation we're watching unfold around us, and we come to some sort of reasonable expectation of how God is going to respond. That doesn't mean that we "hope" for this or that specific outcome, though we often do; our godly hope is not about what God does or doesn't do. What it means is that we trust God to act according to His character; our godly hope is about who God is.
So it doesn't matter, in the end, if everything works out precisely the way that we wanted it to. What matters, in hope, is whether God is revealed in a way that is consistent with His character. It is in this alone that we hope at all.
Dreams...dreams are a bit of a different story.
When we talk about dreams, we often refer to imaginary worlds where we get to change the variables and pursue a desired outcome. We talk about how things would be if things were different and how we would shape the world around us if given the chance. We talk about our subconscious and all the things we would never dare speak if we were talking about the real world, but somehow, our dreams just don't seem like the real world. This is all psychobabble.
Dreams in the Bible are quite different, and there are plenty of them in there for reference. Joseph had dreams. Pharaoh had dreams. Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. The prophets had dreams. And what's true about all these dreams is that they aren't fantasy worlds; they are promises. They aren't revelations of what could be; they are revelations of what will be. They are glimpses into what God is going to do, what He's already set in motion, how He's intending to act in the world.
See, dreams aren't about us, either. They, too, are about God.
When we dream, we aren't investing ourselves in the world to come; the world to come is investing itself in us. It's planting itself in our hearts. God is showing us what's going on and what He's going to do so that we have something to hold onto. So that we have something to be a part of. When we close our eyes to dream, we open our eyes to God and see something new that we could never have imagined, that we would hardly believe except that we must believe it. It's right there in front of us.
Every once in awhile, I think we have to look at these things. Because hopes and dreams sound like such good, wonderful things. But we've made them all about us, and they never were. We've made our hopes into wishes and our dreams into desires, as if we could be God and control the world. Our hopes and dreams reveal more about us than they do about Him, and that's not how it was meant to be.
Our hope is in the Lord, and our hopes rest on, and reveal, His character. Our dreams, with eyes wide open, look ahead to His promises. Neither is about us. They can't be.
We must hope, for we are built on hope. But let us hope in the Lord. And we must dream, for we are dreamers, but let us dream on Him.