Beauty for Ashes

…and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness 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 61:3

A friend of mine was asked by a young couple to perform a memorial at sea for their stillborn child. The three of them planned to spread the baby’s ashes at sea. The morning they chose was overcast and glum, reflecting their feelings of loss. They huddled together on deck, praying through swollen, tear-stained eyes while they pulled away from the shore. When the time drew near to spread the ashes, the young couple did not want to remove the ashes from the small satin box, but intended to throw the box overboard. The captain explained to them that it was better to open the box and release the ashes to the waves. With reservation and tears, the couple stood at the railing, releasing their baby’s ashes over the sea. They stood together watching the ashes float away and spread across the rolling sea.

At this moment, something unexpected happened. The clouds parted enough to let a beam of sunlight shine down where the ashes drifted. For an instant, the ash began to sparkle in the sunlight. As my friend shared her story with me, she described the moment as surreal. For what she saw in that moment was beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning and praise for despair. She understood a deep truth about the Lord.

Each of us hides pain inside. Whether it is a shameful past, a break-up, losing a loved one or bad decisions, we all have “ashes” hidden in a box. We try to cover our loss with a beautiful exterior, attempting to make what resides inside less painful than it is. Yet, to experience healing, we need to let those hidden things go. God sees our deepest parts and inmost thoughts. He wants to turn our mourning to praise and give us hope, but we can prevent this healing process from taking place if we hold on too tightly to our pain.

Like the young couple on the boat, we too need to be willing to scatter our pain into the Lord’s hands so He can make beauty of our ashes.

1. Think through an area in your life that lacks healing. Why is it easier to cover up the past than release it to the Lord?

2. What are ways you can give your pain to the Lord, so He can make beauty for ashes?

Psalm 42; John 9:1-7; 1 Corinthians 4:12-19

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Kelly McFadden

Kelly McFadden is a wife and mother and is part of the HomeWord daily devotional writing team. Kelly graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2000 with a degree in journalism. Following a season of playing professional volleyball and training with the US National team, Kelly returned to school and received her Masters in Christian Education from Azusa Pacific University.

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