Dreams and Nightmares

A mother visited her daughter on the mission field and became sick with malaria. Her body temperature rose to more than 105 degrees, and she started to hallucinate. Back in the States she attended a Discipleship Counseling conference and asked if her hallucinations were demonic. “What were you hallucinating?” she was asked? The woman replied, “Donald Duck, Pluto and Mickey Mouse.” She had spent two days at Disney Land before her trip to Asia.

What this woman experienced was a natural process similar to dreams. When we go to sleep at night, our brain continues to operate and has access to stored information. The normal dreams we experience while sleeping typically consist of people we know and places we have been. The story can be rather creative, but the players and places have already been stored in our memory banks. If a child watches a horror movie in the afternoon and has a nightmare that night, chances are the nightmare will include the characters in the movie. If we put garbage in, then garbage comes out.

On the other hand, terrifying dreams with grotesque images and demonic figures that we have never seen in the natural realm can’t be coming from stored memory. It is also highly unlikely that our brains spontaneously create such images against our will. When inquirers report such night terrors, they need to be led through the Steps to Freedom in Christ. The night-time terrors end when they submit to God through genuine repentance and resist the devil (see James 4:7).

The spiritual source of dreams can also be God, as it was for Nebuchadnezzar. However, in such cases the dreams will always be true and lead to a healthy fear of the Lord, not a debilitating fear that excludes faith in God. So, before you put too much stock in the content of dreams, consider the words of Jeremiah: “Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” (23:28).

Dr. Neil

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