Monday, September 14, 2009

beauty from ashes

"...He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair."
Isaiah 61:3b (NLT)

Why does God allow us to experience pain and suffering? It's a valid question, isn't it? Especially when we are in the throws of grief and trauma.

This weekend God allowed me to see first hand what can result when we allow Him to walk us through the fires of refinement. I saw two brothers worshipping the Lord with total and complete abandon. Their hearts, clearly, were fully committed to Him, and their hearts were full of joy.

I honestly would have been moved by their passion even if I hadn't known their history—I find it truly beautiful to see men who are able to surrender their pride and lift up their hands and hearts unto the Creator of all.

Their pleasure in worshipping God brought a smile to my face—their triumph over evil brought tears of thankfulness to my eyes.

You see, about eight years ago, my own family had been shattered by the actions of a loved and trusted family member. The pain was unbearable. To say that we were devastated is beyond an understatement.

This person's choices infiltrated everything we held sacred and dear to us. For a season, they stole our sense of peace and security. For a season, it seemed as if the enemy was actually going to be able to accomplish his mission within my family—"to steal, kill and destroy."

What followed were the worst months of our lives. In many ways it felt as though we had experienced a death in our immediate family. However, rather than rejoicing in the new life found in Heaven, we found ourselves walking through Hell on Earth.

If it sounds like I'm painting a grim season, picture that, only much worse. My deepest fears had become my reality and our family was forced to deal with some of the most difficult decisions one could ever imagine.

And yet, there was hope. God was still God and He never once abandoned us. He surrounded us with an amazing support system to help us find our footing again. They loved us, cried with us, supported us and grieved with us. God used them to help us find healing and a new normal. It was a long, slow and exhausting process.

As a result of the pain we experienced, I desired to help other families to either avoid the Hell we were walking through, or be delivered from it.

As only God can do, He brought a beautiful family into our lives. In sharing our family's story with them, God began to shine His light in their own lives. They, too, found that their lives had been shattered without even realizing it.

Over the next several years, our paths of healing paralleled each others. While we both had incredible friends supporting us, very few were able to truly understand the devastating loss and pain we had experienced. We understood the dark days and difficult details of our common circumstances.

Our families have come so far over the years. Many, many blessings have been birthed through our suffering. God has been more than faithful to us.

This weekend, I was able to see with my eyes how great my God is. To watch these two amazing men praising God with sheer joy radiating from their faces was a living and breathing testimony of His amazing power, glory and majesty.

There is evil in this world we live in. I've seen it with my own eyes and faced it head on. The good news, however, is that there is a God who is so much bigger. He has already been victorious over our enemy and He will have the final victory in the end.

The suffering we face, endure and walk through is for our good, not our harm. I know it can be very, very difficult to believe at times, but I have experienced it firsthand.

With great faith, I am able to echo Joseph's words:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 15:19 (NIV)

I also love the saying, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Oh, how true it is.

The above photos were taken at our favorite beach along the Oregon Coast. There's a creek my kids love to play in that leads down into the ocean. On our last trip, we found that someone had taken several pieces of driftwood and created a fort.

The fort was so strong and sturdy that Chelsea was able to hang on it. And Liam? Well, our Little Climber quickly made his way up to the top and found himself a nice perch to hang out on. ;-)

The structure reminded me of what God has done in our family. Beautiful tall trees were uprooted and tossed about in the ocean for some time, only to be left abandoned on a beach. Someone came along and took what may have seemed useless and used it to create something strong and useful.

Isn't new life amazing? I would never have chosen to walk through the fires of Hell, but I am so thankful for the redemptive work my God has done in and through our lives.

Friend, I know that painful seasons stink. Oh, how I know that.

The good news is that God is still God in the good times and bad. He loves you. He desires to bring beauty from ashes; and, to not only restore, but redeem whatever the enemy has tried to steal from you. I pray that today you will feel His goodness, know His power and feel His great love for you.

Keep walking through the fires, for it is through them, not in spite of them, that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray that you are, too!

To God be the glory,


Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I'm not sure you realize how much of a blessing you and these posts are in my life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
~ Wendy

Jennifer said...

Praise the LORD! Thank you so much for sharing that Amy. As always, the words God gives you to share with us are so powerful and encouraging and always exactly what I need to hear!