Hearing God Through Your Dreams

Whether it is celebrities or deceased loved ones showing up in your dreams, Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe explains what these messages may mean.

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- Posted on Sep 25, 2019

A portrait of Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe

Does God still speak to us in dreams today? Scripture points to the answer: yes. God’s never-changing character (Hebrews 13:8) means he continues to meet with us at night, as he did in the times of the Bible, because sometimes it’s the only time our minds are quiet enough to hear him. Just as Jesus spoke in parables, God uses our dreams to convey messages to us. But how can we figure out what he’s trying to tell us? We asked Charity Virkler Kayembe, who has a doctorate in biblical studies and is the author of Hearing God Through Your Dreams, to share what she’s learned.

How significant are dreams to God? Very! If we add up all the Scriptural references to dreams and visions, and all the interpretations and actions that people took because of dreams, it comes to a third of the Bible. In addition, many important events happened while our biblical heroes were sleeping. For instance, Solomon received his legendary gift of wisdom in a dream. And Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, received instruction to take Mary as his wife in a dream. Because God values dreams and visions, we should too.

Why are some dreams literal, while most are symbolic? Some people, like creatives, visionaries—really right-brained people—have more literal dreams. But for 95 percent of us, our dreams are usually symbolic, speaking to us in a figurative language we need to learn to understand. Symbolic language does not make the dream any less valid or true. Remember Joseph’s dream in which the sun, moon and 11 stars were bowing before him and all of his family members immediately recognized what the symbols represented (Genesis 37:9–10)? Though the meaning was veiled in figurative expressions, it was a true message to Joseph from God.

Why does God allow deceased loved ones to appear in a dreamAs I mentioned, most dreams are symbolic. Therefore every image we see in the dream—including people, living or deceased—is most likely symbolic. Hence, the first question we ask about this person is: What do they mean to us? What is the main characteristic we identify in them? We also consider the main action in the dream, as well as the main emotion. Did you feel peaceful or angry? Were you disappointed or grateful? Finally ask yourself, Where in my waking world am I experiencing this and feeling this way? Once we match up the emotions, we know what area of our waking life God is speaking to through our dream.

What if I don’t recognize anyone in the dream? Remember the principle that most dreams are symbolic and that the symbols are personal to the dreamer. The key may be in what the person in the dream looked like or their name. If you’re talking with them, how did you feel about it? Were you excited to talk with them? Were you anxious? Often it’s less about the people and more about the action going on in the dream. For example, let’s say you just got a new job in your waking life. That night, you have a dream in which you’re talking with people you don’t know yet you feel comfortable with them. God may be giving you peace about the new job you just accepted, reassuring you that you’re going to fit in just fine.

What does it mean if celebrities show up in our dreams? Even celebrities are symbolic! In fact, this helps you not rush to judgment and maybe disregard the dream as unreal. I’d recommend asking yourself these questions about that celebrity: What is the meaning of their name? What is their dominant personality trait? What are they known for? For example, one time I dreamed about Whitney Houston. I couldn’t figure out what she had to do with my life. But as I thought about it, I remembered I had been praying about whether I should go on a mission trip to Texas. Well, her last name was my answer. If I had not looked at her as a symbol, this dream would never have made sense.

Is every element or detail in a dream important to God? Some people have vivid dreams—pages of details you might be tempted to write down. Nobody wants any part of God’s revelation to fall to the ground! But often, if you try tofocus on all the details, you can become bogged down and confused and won’t be able to interpret the dream. What’s helpful is to keep summaries of our dreams, as Daniel did in the Bible. I usually write down just one or two paragraphs.

How will we know if we interpret the dream correctly? All interpretations belong to God, so ask him for guidance first. The interpretation also has to resonate in the dreamer’s heart—and then you’ll know you have the answer. Dreamwork is supposed to be fun! It shouldbe easy enough for a child to do. Ifwe want to get the right answers, we have to ask ourselves the right questions. So the right questions would be: What is the waking-world setting of the dream? That is, what were you thinking about and praying about before you fell asleep? What is the dream’s main action? What is the main emotion? When you overlay these actions and emotions upon your waking world, you are able to match up your dream with something that’s going on in your life right now. All of these secondary things—such as what a person or thing represents in the dream—will shift into focus at that point.

Does everyone dream at night? Sleep studies have proven that we all dream every night. The problem people may have is that they’re not remembering their dreams, but there are several things you can do to help with your dream recall. One thing you can do is to ask for dreams infaith before going to sleep. Just like Scripture tells us: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). You can pray, “Father God, thank you for speaking in dreams. I believe in dreams. In your Word, you promised to reveal yourself indreams and visions. Please make this a reality in my life.”

Are there any other ways we can show God that we want to remember our dreams? Yes. You can put a journal by your bed and leave it open to a blank page so that it’s ready to write in. This is a signal to our hearts that says, “When I have a dream, wake me up! I care about it. I want to remember it.” Another helpful tip is to let yourself awaken naturally. So many of us wake up to loud obnoxious alarm clocks, and that routine shatters our dream recall. But there are alternative devices we can use. For example, I have nature sounds as my alarm. They’re quiet and peaceful and the volume gradually increases, so I’m not jarred awake and I can easily remember my dreams.

Does the amount of sleep we get each night affect how well we recall our dreams? Definitely. When you fall asleep atnight and when you wake up in the morning, you’re experiencing alpha brain waves. It’s this prayerful, reflective, meditative state. You’re notreally sure if you’re awake or asleep, and the veil between the physical realm and spiritual realm is very thin.That’s also the brain wave state we’re in while we dream. Sleep studies using electrodes are able to read people’s brain waves and confirm this. When we reach REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle, science knows we are dreaming. The REM cycle happens every 90 minutes. So we will fall asleep and be in alpha, then go down to theta, which is as lower brain wave state, and then to the delta stage. Then we come back up to alpha and have a few more minutes of dream time. Every time we cycle back up to alpha, the period of dream time increases. So if you sleep for a full eight hours, that whole last hour is going to be almost all alpha-level dream-time sleep, full of revelation and messages for us from heaven.

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