As I sat in the garden, the sun warming my face, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. It was beautiful. It was rare and in a place I simply didn’t expect to see it.
Amongst a prickly, jagged cactus plant, a single flower had sprouted. It was the most delicate and stunning flower I have ever seen in my life. Its petals were a soft marshmallow pink and its centre was beautifully lined with lemon pollen, like tiny ballerinas circling its core. This cactus has been in the garden for years and I have never seen it flower once. Now, I am not a huge flower enthusiast but this was pretty breathtaking.
As I looked at it, I was struck by how amazing it was that something so beautiful and delicate had grown from something so harsh, unwelcoming and plain painful looking.
This little flower spoke to my situation on such a profound and powerful level. In my mind, I was in a place were everything felt coarse, harsh and so painful. I had been consistently losing so much; the love of my life, my hopes and dreams and all of the potential I saw in our future together. It had all just been ripped away. The world seemed such a dark and cruel place at this time.
At every step, I would experience further hurt. Finding out more and more about my husband’s betrayal was searing me to the bone. Enduring the hatred of the man I had loved but now no longer recognised, compounding the hurt. I felt that which ever way I turned I was surely going to lose.
Throughout this time, despite the hopelessness I felt in my heart, I did have this innate instinct to hold firm to God. This instinct in time turned to total reliance. I would pray that beauty would come from the ashes my husband had left me in but honestly, in my heart, I couldn’t see a way that this could possibly be.
Despite my doubts I continued to cling onto Him. To trust that God still had His promises and plans for my life. This was not an easy thing to do, when the situation you are in is taking you to darker and darker places. It took total trust, which is something I didn’t realise, until then, that I was even capable of.
Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) says that the Lord wants, “to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.”
In my own personal opinion, I feel this could be one of the most awe-inspiring messages of the bible. I believe that this passage is a banner of hope that we should not underestimate or overlook. It is powerful when we place it at the centre of those difficult situations we find ourselves in. Those situations when everything looks like the end, when everything looks like it’s over and in ruins.
Grief and hurt have the power to take us to the bleakest of places. They have the power to change the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Quite frankly, they can make or break us.
What does it mean when we are left in ashes? It means we are not only dead but what remained of us has been burnt up, it’s not only final, it’s one step beyond final, it’s irretrievable. The book is closed, the credits have ended, the curtain is drawn and the lights go off.
What does it do to our spirit when we feel like our situation is irretrievable and that all hope is lost? It can slowly devour it.
The passage above explains that there will be beauty amongst the ashes. For there to be beauty, there will need to be new life. New life from death? For me, this statement blows open the book, rewinds the credits, rips open the curtains and floods the world with light again.
It won’t be instantaneous but there is a promise here, that when everything looks over, it simply isn’t. This isn’t the end for me. This isn’t the end for you. There will be new life and new beauty.
Sometimes, things are so so painful, so awful and bleak, that you can’t see how any beauty will ever come from it. But, this pain will shape you, it will mold you and change you. You will evolve in response to it, learn from it, rebuild amongst it and one day, when you least expect it, you may see the first bud of new growth and new life start to sprout from the rough terrain. Like that beautiful cactus flower.
God wants to cloak us in a garment of praise instead of despair. This suggests He will peel away the deep anguish we have been left in. That He wants us to not only be rid of it but to be cloaked in something completely new, praise. Praise is joyful, it’s freeing, it’s an act of someone who is very much full of life. Again, this swap, from death to life, endings to beginnings, loss to hope.
Finally, there will come a time when we are a display of His splendour. What more of a testament to God’s amazing love is there than to see someone who has rebuilt, who has survived, who has reclaimed? To see new life in them and new beauty. This is the power of Christ within us.
Growth is hard, it’s painful. It will require time, healing, bravery and patience but if we hold firm to God’s promise, there will be new life one day and amongst our ashes, we will have new beauty.