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Beauty for Ashes

By |2023-10-26T02:33:16-04:00October 26th, 2023|

In the aftermath of the Marshall Fire, the most destructive fire in Colorado history, one ministry offered to help families search through the ashes for valuable items. Family members mentioned precious objects they hoped were still preserved. Very little was. One man spoke tenderly of his wedding ring. He’d placed it on his dresser in the upstairs bedroom. The house now gone, its contents had charred or melted into a single layer of debris at the basement level. Searchers looked for the ring in that same corner where the bedroom had been—without success.

The prophet Isaiah wrote mournfully of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, which would be leveled. Likewise, there are times we feel the life we’ve built has been reduced to ashes. We feel we have nothing left, emotionally and spiritually. But Isaiah offers hope: “He [God] has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1–2). God converts our tragedy into glory: “[He will] bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (v. 3). He promises to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” (v. 4).

At that Marshall Fire site, one woman searched the ashes on the opposite side. There, still in its case, she unearthed the husband’s wedding ring. Coincidence? Think again. In your despair, God reaches into your ashes and pulls out the one truly precious thing. You.

A Choice

By |2023-10-07T02:33:07-04:00October 7th, 2023|

A few weeks after the death of a dear friend, I spoke with her mom. I was hesitant to ask how she was doing because I thought it was an inappropriate question; she was grieving. But I pushed aside my reluctance and simply asked how she was holding up. Her reply: “Listen, I choose joy.”


Her words ministered to me that day as I struggled to push beyond some unpleasant circumstances in my own life. And her words also reminded me of Moses’ edict to the Israelites at the end of Deuteronomy. Just before Moses’ death and the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land, God wanted them to know that they had a choice. Moses said, “I have set before you life and death. . . . Now choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). They could follow God’s laws and live well, or they could turn away from Him and live with the consequences of “death and destruction” (v. 15).


We must choose how to live too. We can choose joy by believing and trusting in God’s promises for our lives. Or we can choose to focus on the negative and difficult parts of our journeys, allowing them to rob us of joy. It will take practice and relying on the Holy Spirit for help, but we can choose joy too—knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Every Grief

By |2023-07-25T02:33:31-04:00July 25th, 2023|

“I measure every Grief I meet,” the nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “With narrow, probing, eyes – / I wonder if It weighs like Mine – / Or has an Easier size.” The poem is a moving reflection on how people carry the unique ways they’ve been wounded throughout their lives. Dickinson concludes, almost hesitantly, with her only solace: the “piercing Comfort” of seeing at Calvary her own wounds reflected in the Savior’s: “Still fascinated to presume / That Some – are like my own –.”

The book of Revelation describes Jesus, our Savior, as a “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (5:6; see v. 12), His wounds still visible. Wounds earned through taking upon Himself the sin and despair of His people (1 Peter 2:24–25), so that they might have new life and hope.

And Revelation describes a future day when the Savior will “wipe every tear” from each of His children’s eyes (21:4). Jesus won’t minimize their pain, but truly see and care for each person’s unique grief—while inviting them into the new, healing realities of life in His kingdom, where there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (v. 4). Where healing water will flow “without cost from the spring of the water of life” (v. 6; see 22:2).

Because our Savior has carried our every grief, we can find rest and healing in His kingdom.

Sorrow and Joy

By |2023-05-31T02:33:11-04:00May 31st, 2023|

Angela’s family reeled with sorrow as they experienced three bereavements in just four weeks. In one, after the sudden death of her nephew, Angela and her two sisters gathered around the kitchen table for three days, only leaving to buy an urn, get takeout, and attend the funeral. As they wept over the death of Mason, they also rejoiced over the ultrasound photos of the new life growing within their youngest sister.

In time, Angela found comfort and hope from the Old Testament book of Ezra. It describes God’s people returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonians destroyed the temple and deported them from their beloved city (see Ezra 1). As Ezra watched the temple being rebuilt, he heard joyful praises to God (3:10–11). But he also listened to the weeping of those who remembered life before exile (v. 12).

One verse especially consoled Angela: “No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise” (v. 13). She realized that even if she was drenched in deep sorrow, joy could still appear.

We too might grieve the death of a loved one or mourn a different loss. If so, we can express our cries of pain along with our moments of rejoicing to God, knowing that He hears us and gathers us in His arms.

The God Who Restores

By |2023-05-30T02:33:19-04:00May 30th, 2023|

On November 4, 1966, a disastrous flood swept through Florence, Italy, submerging Giorgio Vasari’s renowned work of art The Last Supper under a pool of mud, water, and heating oil for over twelve hours. With its paint softened and its wooden frame significantly damaged, many believed that the piece was beyond repair. However, after a tedious fifty-year conservation effort, experts and volunteers were able to overcome monumental obstacles and restore the valuable painting.

When the Babylonians conquered Israel, the people felt hopeless—surrounded by death and destruction and in need of restoration (Lamentations 1). During this period of turmoil, God took the prophet Ezekiel to a valley and gave him a vision where he was surrounded by dry bones. “Can these bones live?” He asked. Ezekiel responded, “Lord, you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3). God then told him to prophesy over the bones so they might live again. “As I was prophesying,” Ezekiel recounted, “there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together” (v. 7). Through this vision, God revealed to Ezekiel that Israel’s restoration could only come through Him.

When we feel as if things in life have been broken and are beyond repair, God assures us He can rebuild our shattered pieces. He’ll give us new breath and new life.

Hope That Holds

By |2023-05-29T02:33:19-04:00May 29th, 2023|

I know Daddy’s coming home because he sent me flowers.” Those were my seven-year-old sister’s words to our mother when Dad was missing in action during wartime. Before Dad left for his mission, he preordered flowers for my sister’s birthday, and they arrived while he was missing. But she was right: Dad did come home—after a harrowing combat situation. And decades later she still keeps the vase that held the flowers as a reminder to always hold on to hope.

Sometimes holding on to hope isn’t easy in a broken, sinful world. Daddies don’t always come home, and children’s wishes sometimes go unfulfilled. But God gives hope in the most difficult circumstances. In another time of war, the prophet Habakkuk predicted the Babylonian invasion of Judah (Habakkuk 1:6; see 2 Kings 24) but still affirmed that God is always good (vv. 12–13). Remembering God’s kindness to His people in the past, Habakkuk proclaimed: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17–18).  

Some commentators believe Habakkuk’s name means “to cling.” We can cling to God as our ultimate hope and joy even in trials because He holds on to us and will never let go.

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