There is one family Christmas card photo that is forever etched in my memory because was so unusual. It was a photo of a family seated in front of a very large fireplace with a beautiful wreath hanging on it—but there was no house, just a family, a fireplace and a wreath. The message in the card said, “Everyone is here, we are all OK. We will rise from the ashes of the fire.” Their home was one of the many gorgeous mansions that had been destroyed by the California wildfires. The smiles on their beautiful faces and their expression of hope and thanksgiving deeply impacted me.
Throughout the course of our lives we can experience devastating circumstances that leave us feeling permanently immobilized or utterly destroyed by ‘the fire’. I have never experienced the physical effects of an actual fire, but like most people, I have come through the fire of life. I have experienced heartache, loss and devastation. I know what it feels like to think, “I can’t rise up from these ashes.”
God gives us a beautiful promise in Isaiah 61:3. It says, “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (NKJV)
Ashes signify the remnants of a fire. Only God can bring beauty out of ashes.
I grew up learning lessons from Smokey the Bear, who taught us the importance of preventing forest fires by taking responsibility to make sure that our campfires were completely out. No embers were to be left behind, only ashes. Embers were potentially dangerous as they had the ability to flare up again and cause more damage.
This continues to serve as such an important lesson in my own life—that true beauty comes from the ashes. I must let it go and allow the embers to die completely. Too often I want to fan the embers of loss, of hurt and betrayal, which will inevitably lead to more personal loss. I have to choose to give it all to God because He alone is able to redeem, restore and transform what has been lost in my life.
How can we find beauty in ashes after loss and devastation?
RELEASE: We release and let go even though there is still pain in the process, surrendering our broken hearts to God, trusting that God will cause healing to begin.
RELINQUISH: We forgive those who have hurt us, religuishing bitterness and judgement and the demand to see retribution. We trust God to be just and faithful and accept that the outcome is not up to us.
REFUSE: We refuse to allow self-pity to rule keeping us bound as a victim of our circumstances.
RULE: We allow the comfort and the peace of God to rule in our hearts and minds rather than fear or anxiousness
RISE: We begin to dream again with hope for the future and we begin to bravely take steps into new beginnings.
As I write, I am so keenly aware that there are some losses that are indescribably painful. I would never ever want to minimize or compare my losses to any one else’s. My prayer for you is that somehow in the midst of brokenness and pain you would find comfort in knowing that our magnificent God in Heaven sees you and that cares so deeply and completely for you. I pray that through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, you find strength to rise up from the circumstances that have held you captive and you find hope and the will to go on and bravely take a step forward. God makes all things beautiful in God’s time.