Lately I’ve been contemplating the passage in Isaiah 61 where God describes bringing beauty out of ashes. Not sure how I got started reading that chapter, or what prompted the memory, but as I contemplate those precious words, God is helping me recognize how He is at work, fulfilling that promise, all around me.
The first example is my dad. He served in Vietnam in the 60s, before meeting my mother. His tour of duty included convoy escorts, MP duty, and sitting behind a machine gun on a helicopter. He saw hundreds of buddies die during his months in country, and came home with a ticking time bomb in his mind. Almost twenty years later, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reared its ugly head. At the time, few people (including my father) understood what was going on. Over the next several years, he suffered the loss of a very successful job, my childhood home, most of his friends, and almost all of his self esteem. It was only by the grace of God that my dad didn’t end his life, an option he contemplated on multiple occasions.
Fast forward many years, to 2010, when my father attended a Bridges-to-Healing conference in Washington State. Not only did he hear about a biblical response to PTSD, but his survival and defiance of the odds was celebrated by the Cru Military staff sponsoring the event. That experience changed my father’s life. And, when the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to our city, my father not only visited (with all of us in tow), but he was able to do so in peace.
My father’s healing is complete, and God is bringing beauty out of the ashes of his suffering by giving him the opportunity to invest in the lives of other combat veterans who are still suffering the affects of their service to our country. He is actually a member of the Men’s Ministry team at his church, where they are launching a Bridges-to-Healing movement in November, just before Veteran’s Day.
God is also bringing beauty out of the ashes of my mother’s heartache. Not only has she stayed married to a combat veteran suffering with PTSD, but she has suffered the loss of a child; my sister died from complications related to Diabetes ten years ago. This spring, a woman who lost her daughter to pneumonia sought my mother out, for comfort and help in dealing with such a devastating loss. They’ve been meeting regularly to process the agony only a grieving parent can feel. God is bringing beauty out of ashes. Another mother may be joining them in coming weeks; her daughter was tragically killed in a car accident. She was only 15.
My eighteen year old daughter is struggling to trust God will bring beauty out of the ashes of her dashed hopes and dreams. Since childhood, my daughter has dreamed of entering the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Thanks to some very generous gifts, we were able to book two flights to Washington D.C. We got home the day before the House caved in on the budget and debt ceiling. My daughter spent a week in the nation’s capitol while everything was shut down (we bought non-refundable tickets, and didn’t get insurance) and missed seeing the Library of Congress by one day. It was heartbreaking; she spent part of one whole day fighting tears. I was sick to my stomach.
Sometimes we don’t know what God will do with the ashes of our hopes and dreams. We can’t see how He will bring beauty out of something so ugly and broken. Yet, in His own way, He always does. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. But we often forget to include Romans 8:29. That verse says that those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (italics added). Ultimately, no matter what else happens, followers of Jesus can count on God bringing beauty out of ashes, and whatever happens being used to make us more like Jesus. That, all by itself, is beautiful.
One thought on “Bringing Beauty Out of Ashes”
Your ability to see this in spite of the pain and suffering at so many levels is truly beautiful–for your parents, your daughter, and those you minister to. So often we think life should work–and that it should look like we plan. And when it doesn’t, the pain or disappointment is huge. But you’ve seen God bring beauty out of the pain, out of the challenges, out of the disappointments–and that ministers to many hearts. Particularly mine. Thanks, March.