The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and 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.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)
These verses have popped up in my life way too often to be a coincidence. Over the past few years, God has specifically pointed me to the verse about giving beauty for ashes (see bold lines above).
When I first read these verses, I only focused on the beauty. I truly believe God takes our ashes and turns them into something beautiful. I accepted this promise from God, and I kept waiting for the transformation.
Eventually, I realized the process is not quite as glamorous as it sounds. You see, in order to transform them, God must first make the ashes . . . by burning away those parts of us that aren’t like him.
See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10 (NIV)
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.” Zechariah 13:9 (NIV)
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)
If we’re followers of God, I believe he’s constantly refining us through fire and making ashes. I take great comfort in the certainty Elisabeth Elliot finds in this process:
Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.
Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
It never ends with ashes. If there are still ashes, God isn’t done yet. He is creating beauty along the way.
I’m finally starting to see some of the beauty, but it’s nothing like I expected. In many ways, it’s so much better. God is the Beautiful One, and he’s making me more like him.
Content Copyright 2012. Allison K. Flexer @ Anointed With Grace.
Photo: stock.xchng. Quotes and Design by Allison K. Flexer.