“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory. Isaiah 61:3
Ashes have profound significance. For some, they stir memories of devastation, terror, and sorrow.
Not exactly the thought you get when you look at the picture of me above. But the reality is, life is not always “happy.”
There are times when life is a living hell. Sometimes it hurts and can leave you with a lot of pain. Sometimes it’s dark and depressing. And it leaves its mark, like ashes of grief, in the deepest parts of our souls, and God is the only one who can see what we are going through.
You can relate if you’ve ever experienced any of these ashes:
You’ve grieved the death of a loved one who you believe was gone too soon, left to pick up the pieces and to somehow fill the void that is left in your life…
You’ve set at the bedside of a dying mother, who received a diagnosis two years after marrying the man of her dreams and you could only see her life being cut short from the severe and extensive damage of cancer…
You’ve been deeply wounded, betrayed, and abused…
You’ve gone through the fire of hard situations and wondered if the pain would ever end.
I am a living testimony that life is not always happy. It’s not always a bed of roses. You feel that you have been dealt a bad hand, and you may even wonder where God is, or why didn’t He stop the situation from occurring.
I remember when my son died, a friend of mine sent me an email with the subject line, “Are you in pain?” Not exactly what you expect to get from a friend. She is a friend and remains a friend to this day. The email was a reference to the gripping and challenging book of Job.
Job was there too. A righteous man with a heavy heart struggling with grief. A man who openly and honestly voiced his doubts, aired his grievances to losing everything. Yet, he knew without God, he was nothing. “Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes.” Job 2:8
Daniel was there too. He and the people suffered under captivity. Daniel knew how to pray. As he prayed, he fasted, confessed his sins, and pleaded that God would reveal His will. He prayed with complete surrender to God and with complete openness to what God was saying to him. Daniel knew where his strength came from, “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.” Daniel 9:3
Tamar was there. She had trusted her half brother and yet was betrayed. She had been taken advantage of, raped, and left alone, without hope and a future, to pick up the broken pieces of her life. Love and lust are very different. Love is patient, lust requires immediate satisfaction. “But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying. 2 Samuel 13:19
And like many people, they may have asked the same question too…
Where was God?
Where is God when bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen to good people? These are legitimate questions to ask. And Yes, God was there. You may not understand it. And in your moment of grief and sorrow you can’t see it. But we know beyond a doubt, that He is always with us.
“To provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Isaiah 61:3
He will never leave us nor forsake us. He loves us. He demonstrated love when he sacrificed His life on the cross.
He never intends for us to remain in a broken place, stuck in grief, pain or deep sorrow. He is a healer, a God of restoration, and reconciliation. He reminds us that he knows the plans He has for us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
What does beauty for ashes really mean?
Sometimes life hurts and we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, that we will not make it through. He is there, in the midst of it all. Hold on and allow the Holy Spirit to shine out of every broken place you’ve walked through. Allow His strength in your weakness. Take your ashes of your life for the beauty of His presence. He will trade your mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from His Spirit.
Being featured in the August issue of Scars of Survival magazine shows the world, there’s beauty and greatness behind every mark and scar. There is purpose. In time ashes will fall away, they will not last forever, but God’s greatness and glory will shine through every broken place and flaw you’ve struggled through, forever.