The Wonder of Dreams: Nightmares



Bad dreams can serve good purposes. Nightmares can be scary, but they can also lead you toward inspiration. You may experience wonder while having a nightmare – from wild imagery and sounds to fascinating symbols – just as you do in good dreams. What you encounter in nightmares, though, will disturb you. Through reflection and prayer, you can discover that those disturbing encounters are showing you important issues that need your attention.


I once had a recurring nightmare about the need to fix cracks in the walls of my home office. There actually were some wall cracks in my home office, but they hadn’t spread and were simply a nuisance, I thought. In my nightmare, the cracks got wider and deeper, until they ripped throughout the structure of our house. Every room had cracked walls by the time I called in a construction firm for help, and the company’s inspection revealed that the cracks had extended even to our home’s foundation. The bill was insanely expensive, the money was due upfront, and after I paid the contractors, they never showed up to do the work. I regularly woke up from that nightmare in a panic, then thanked God after realizing that hadn’t happened after all. Still, the nightmare persisted for many months, so I prayed about what it meant. God helped me understand that the house cracks symbolized unpleasant but necessary projects I had been putting off, which would only get worse if I kept procrastinating. Motivated by my negative nightmare, I took action for positive change by working on those projects. One of the projects was working with my husband to fix the actual cracks in the home office. The recurring nightmare turned out to be a blessing in disguise!


Your own nightmares may be urging you to take action on something God wants you to do – like work on a project, help someone in need, or take a risk with courage – by warning you about what could happen if you don’t do so. They may motivate you to ask for God’s help with something – such as seeking healing you need – by triggering challenging feelings, such as the emotions I describe in the “Manage Stress Well” chapter of Wake Up to Wonder. Nightmares may also sometimes draw your attention to spiritual warfare in your life, in which evil is trying to influence you through your dreams. The “mare” part of the word nightmare references an Old English word for an evil spirit who disturbs sleeping people. Even if you’re dealing with dangerous nightmares, they can ultimately accomplish a positive purpose by revealing what you need to seek God’s deliverance for in your life.


Just like good dreams do, bad dreams also feature wondrous messages that have symbolic meaning. You can ask the Holy Spirit to help you interpret the exact personal meaning of your nightmares. Here’s what common nightmares often mean, according to dream dictionaries:


Being lost: confusion or conflict that you need to address

Being trapped: feeling powerless in a situation

Dying: loss or the need for a fresh start

Experiencing damage to your home or other personal property: a valuable part of your waking life is at risk

Falling: feeling out of control in a situation

Going through a natural disaster: a problem raging out of control in your life

Having trouble with your car or other vehicle: frustration about challenges moving forward in life or reaching a goal

Going through a natural disaster: a problem raging out of control in your life

Missing a plane, train, bus, or other public transportation: missing out on something you’d like to do or losing touch with someone in a relationship

Performing poorly on a test or presentation: anxiety about a situation or feeling inadequate or insecure about yourself

Showing up in public naked or dressed inappropriately: feeling vulnerable, embarrassed or ashamed

Someone chasing or attacking you: too much stress in your life

Suffering an injury or illness: suffering loss or feeling vulnerable


Whatever kinds of nightmares you experience, don’t be afraid to explore the wondrous aspects of them and ask God to show you how to respond. Approaching your nightmares with faith, despite your fear, can help you learn something valuable and even inspirational.