By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
If you’re grieving the deaths of any relatives or friends, you may see them in your dreams and wonder how to interpret your experience. How should Christians interpret dreaming about the dead? Let’s explore dream interpretations for these wondrous experiences.
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Is it Normal to Dream about Dead Loved Ones?
Dreaming about loved ones after they pass away is common. If you’ve done so, you don’t need to worry that such dreams aren’t normal. Those dreams may occur around the same time as when people die. Many stories of dreams about the dead involve family and friends saying goodbye to their living loved ones as their souls are moving on to heaven. Or dreams about late loved ones may occur months or years after the people in them have passed away. In addition to departed people, departed pets sometimes appear in dreams. Anyone with whom you’ve been connected in a loving relationship may appear in your dreams.
Sometimes dreams about the dead simply involve your mind processing your thoughts and feelings about the loved ones you’re missing. Grieving is a challenging process that involves wrestling with difficult thoughts and emotions. In grief, it’s helpful to seek help from the Holy Spirit to renew your mind. Romans 12:2 urges: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” If you’ve invited the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, the Spirit will do so at all times – both when you’re awake and when you’re asleep. Jesus says in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit acts as a counselor and “will teach you all things.” Through dreams about the dead, the Holy Spirit may deliver important messages that can help you find closure, healing, peace, and encouragement.
Sometimes dreaming about the dead involves dream visitations, where late loved ones communicate important messages to you, with God’s permission. God may allow such communication to take place if doing so will serve a good purpose for you spiritually.
In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I tell the story of a dream visitation from my mother. Years had passed since Mom’s death, but I still missed her every day, so I asked God to send her the simple message that I was thinking of her with lots of love. I dreamed about Mom on the same evening when I had prayed for God to give her that message. Mom, whose body had been ravaged by cancer before she died, appeared as a healthy young adult. A radiant light emanated from her, and I could feel her joy. Mom and I met in a setting that looked like a busy airport. Then Mom spoke to me telepathically – directly mind-to-mind. She told me that she was learning a lot in heaven and was grateful for how active she could be there. Mom laughed as she told me that heaven is far different from the cartoon depictions of it, which showed bored people sitting around passively on clouds. We talked through telepathy for a few minutes before Mom said she had to go, but she would be supporting me in prayer from heaven for the rest of my earthly life. When we said our goodbyes with expressions of love, I felt loving energy roll over me like a powerful wave. Mom exited by ascending an escalator, which she told me represented her soul’s learning process in heaven.
That dream was so clear, vivid, and impactful that it seemed more real than a regular dream. If you experience a dream about communicating with your departed loved ones that feels especially strong, God may have blessed you with a dream visitation.
How Should Christians Interpret Dreams about the Dead?
Christians should interpret dreams about the dead as we would interpret any type of dream – by relying on God’s guidance to figure out the true meaning, and the best ways to respond.
It’s important to record the details of any dream you have about your late loved ones. That way, you can reflect on the dream and pray about it, to learn whatever God wants to teach you spiritually through the experience. Immediately after you wake up, write down whatever details you can remember. Start with whatever you recall first, and then work backward to see if you can remember any other details. In the case of a dream visitation, it should be easy to remember your dream clearly.
Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you interpret the dream’s message accurately. Prayerfully consider the personal or universal symbolism of the images and words in your dream. Did your departed loved one communicate with you – and if so, what was the message? What can your dream’s setting and action tell you? Were there certain colors, shapes, or numbers that have special meaning for you? How might God be using the dream to help you heal from your grief, deepen your trust in him, and move forward with peace and even joy?
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Leave the Communicating to God
I believe the dream conversation I had with my mother was a gift from God, in answer to my prayer. I’ll always be grateful for the wonder and encouragement God allowed me to encounter through that dream. But if God hadn’t allowed that dream to happen, I wouldn’t have tried to contact Mom on my own. Attempting to communicate with our loved ones who have passed away should only happen through God’s care and supervision. If we try to force such contact to happen ourselves, we could be opening spiritual doors for any type of spirit – including evil spirits – to walk through. God warns us in Leviticus 19:31: “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 also cautions: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, practices divination or conjury, interprets omens, practices sorcery, casts spells, consults a medium or spiritist, or inquiries of the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD.”
God always has a specific purpose for whatever he allows to happen in our lives. As God assures us in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We never need to try to contact the dead apart from God’s help. “When men tell you to consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who whisper and mutter, shouldn’t a people consult their God instead? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” Isaiah 8:19-20 points out. Christians should only go to God when we would like to communicate with loved ones who have passed away. Through prayer, we have direct access to the One who is in charge of everyone’s souls, and who has our best interests in mind. That’s an amazingly valuable gift that we shouldn’t take for granted.
If we need to hear a message from any of our departed loved ones through a dream, God will work that out for us. But if not, we can simply pray for God to send them whatever messages we would like to send on our end and trust the Bible’s promise that they are watching over us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
No matter what our dreams about the dead are like, we can trust God to help us interpret them accurately and respond to them in ways that help us grow spiritually.
Why Christians Can Have Peace Regarding the Dead and Death
As Christians, we can have complete peace regarding the dead and death, because we have God’s assurance that heaven is real. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We can count on God’s promise that we’ll go there to be with him after we die – and that all of our loved ones who trust him will also go to heaven.
Psalm 23, which people often read at funerals, highlights God’s presence with us even through death. Verse 4 proclaims: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Ultimately, we can be at peace when grieving departed loved ones because absolutely nothing in death nor life can separate us from God’s love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
God will comfort you in your grief. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). One of the ways God may comfort you as you mourn loved ones is by allowing you to dream about them. Don’t worry if you experience dreams about the dead. Instead, thank God for the gift of them and ask the Holy Spirit to help you interpret them. Dreaming about loved ones who have passed away can help heal your grief and strengthen your faith.
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