BEAUTY FOR ASHES
Remember our talk about travelling light?
Many of us carry the baggage of grief and loss. Loved ones top the list, but there are other kinds of losses we sustain that cause us as much pain as the loss of a beloved family member or friend.
We live in a time when children are the victims of great loss. Ruthless predators violently rob them of their innocence and childhood. You may be one of them, carrying the wounds of guilt and shame deep into you adult years because you were violated in your childhood..
There are those of you who have suffered the devastating loss of your home and the security of a roof over your head through the unexpected crash of the great institutions that support our economy on unsteady legs. Your job was terminated, the money you earned which undergirded your security was suddenly gone. You have a family to support and, though you walk the streets day after day, there is no employment available because many others are out there, snapping up any possible job to earn enough money to keep food on the table.
There are many predators around who will rob you of whatever they can without a conscience. Unscrupulous thieves take your money, your possessions, invade your space, violate your homes and think nothing of the devastation they leave behind, not only because of physical loss but also through the psychological damage they inflict.
What about the loss of a good conscience because, in a moment of temptation you gave way to the demands of your flesh? A baby conceived out of wedlock will not go away. You can kill it in the womb, but it will ever remain in your heart, accusing you night and day of a terrible deed which made your loss worse than the loss of your integrity.
You may have lost a spouse to another – your husband left you for another woman; your wife betrayed you, robbing you not only of a life partner but also of your children. Your life has been thrown into turmoil and all you have left is anger, frustration, bitterness and…memories.
Your losses may be co-incidental, the outcome of living in a sinful world or the self-inflicted loss of a good conscience. How you wish you could turn the clock back and make your failures disappear! However, whatever form your losses take, you have been left with the hopelessness and helplessness of grief and mourning.
I have good news for you. God never asks why? He has a better solution to offer than a meaningless question to which you have no answer. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the pain of your loss and transform it into something much better than grief and mourning.
…To provide for those who grieve in Zion – 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. (Isa. 61:3)
“Beauty instead of ashes…” what does that mean? There is nothing beautiful about wearing ashes. It was part of the grieving process in Hebrew culture. Wearing a garment made of rough material and sprinkling ashes on one’s head told everyone that they had suffered great loss. It was a sign of hopeless and deep emotional pain.
What is beauty? Our eyes have the capacity to register pictures by the light that they allow in which is sent as signals to the brain. Our brains have the marvellous ability to turn the light signals into pictures which we “see” and interpret as beautiful. A friend gave me a moth orchid which is perfect in its beauty. I cannot get enough of its exquisite perfection and I stop and gaze for a few moments every time I go in and out of my front door.
However, there is another kind of “beauty” which is not visible to the naked eye but is equally captivating. Peter, writing to believers in his first letter, encouraged wives who were married to unbelieving husbands to win their husbands, not by adorning their bodies but by living lives of purity and reverence.
You beauty should not come from outer adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)
Whatever the cause of your grief, Jesus invites you to give it to Him. He will take your turbulent emotions with their heaviness and despair and replace them with the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, with joy and praise because He is the source of hope. Whatever your loss, it is never the end. If you trust Him, He will bring good out of your suffering and strengthen your confidence in His perfect love.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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