Photo by: Priscilla Du-Preez
Written by: Georgetta Head live in a fallen world that quite often brings hurt, pain and death into our lives. When this happens many of us do not know what to do or how to recover from “mourning” or how to rebound from such devastating news. Just recently, I learned from a student that mourning is not limited to the loss of a loved one! We can mourn over the loss of any sudden change in our lifestyle such as: the loss of a job, a sudden illness that leaves us unable to function as before the illness; the loss of a friendship; the loss of a limb; the loss of a home, this list could be numerous, but I think you get the idea. During these difficult times we need to be reminded we have a “Living Loving God” who wants to help us through our times of mourning. Isaiah 61:2-3 gives us great assure that Jesus can and will comfort those that mourn. Let’s read verse 3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah lists three ways in which Jesus rescues those that mourn. He is going to: 1) give them beauty for ashes; 2) give them the oil of joy for mourning; and 3) the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. The result in our lives – we will be called the trees of righteousness and God will be glorified!
For today’s inspiration we are going to focus on the first item from the above list: “God says He will give us beauty for ashes.” The definition for ashes is: “a deathlike grayness; extreme pallor suggestive of death; ruins of something destroyed.” In Biblical days it was customary for Jewish people to sit in ashes and to cover their heads in ashes to express mourning over death or difficult life situations. Ashes were therefore associated with pain, loss and suffering, or grief associated with repentance from one’s own sin. What is Isaiah saying? God is promising His people that He would deliver them from their misery, pain, and losses. He will give them beauty for ashes and He will be glorified.
I am a living example of having the ashes (ruins) of my life turned into beauty. Many years ago, I suffered through a bad divorce, loss of income, loss of home, injury to my body due to a fall, and the loss of a dear friendship. I thought my life was totally ruined and went into deep depression. Through these mourning seasons of my life, I found myself on my knees often crying out to Father God for help and understanding. Father God walked along side me and taught me, through His word, the importance of “surrendering” these hurts, pains and losses to Him. In other words I had to “trust” Him through the act of “surrender.” I will be honest, I didn’t want to let go of my misery, I wanted to get even with those who hurt me, but I learned a valuable lesson in surrendering. As I trusted Father God with my ashes, I begin to experience healing and understanding from each loss. My relationship with Father God grew experentially, and what I thought were losses became a testimony of Father God’s love and deliverance in my life. He took the ashes of my life and exchanged them for His beauty. My life now is much better than what I had mourned over as great losses in my life. And I glorify Father God for His healing every time I testify of His goodness in my life.
What are the ashes (ruins) of your life? Drug addiction, loss of a job, loss of a home, rebellious children, loss relationships, loss of income, etc.? Allow Jesus to take the ashes of your life and turn them into “beauty.” He can help you survive those ashes through His presence of comfort and healing and turn your pain into a testimony. I had come to realize that before the ashes became ashes, there were real people, real situations, and real hopes and promises in my life. I thought these were gifts and blessings from God. When taken away through loss I starting thinking the worst! But as I have learned, the Lord did not promise us worldly things. He promises us a hope and future with His Son, which is far greater than what this world can offer.
As a pastor once said “Our beauty comes from surviving the ashes of life and emerging with rejoicing full of praise. Like the great oak tree, we are mighty and respectful and the Lord takes pleasure in seeing His glory in us. It is honorable to be a better and stronger person for having beauty for ashes.”
Just as the words of comfort we find in Isaiah 61:3 gave the Jewish people hope in the midst of their dire circumstances. Jesus will give us the same hope and comfort. Surrender your ashes and trust God to give you beauty for your ashes!