Beauty for Ashes

Ashes: the remains of something destroyed.

The fires that raged in my soul and those that surrounded me left me in ashes. With hardly an identity or form, I entered my young adult years unrecognizable to myself. With no substance or weight to keep me rooted, I was blown by the winds of each day, unable to plant my feet or feel at peace. My soul was perpetually unsettled.

I remember clearly the day that I traded the lifeless, formless ashes of myself for the beauty God desired for me. In an instant, God swept up the pile of ashes and lovingly reformed me in His image--in my true image.

The beauty had always been there, I knew. I kept grasping for it in vain, not understanding that I needed to surrender the ashes to God first.

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
— Isaiah 61:3

When God revealed Himself to me for the first time, He met me in my despair and filled my heart with praise. He planted my feet firmly in righteousness so that I could live for His glory. My ashes became the crown of beauty worn only by the sons and daughters of the gracious King.

The Beauty of Failure

Since that day, I have failed many times to uphold His righteousness and glorify Him alone. I have allowed that crown of beauty to become ashes of failure. But the amazing news is that every time I hand back those ashes, He exchanges them for beauty. Again and again.

In God's love and goodness, he gives us beauty in exchange for ashes. All those failings can be traded in for something good and righteous. But remember, it's an exchange. We must give him our ashes first, then he exchanges them for beauty.

We often hold onto our failure, even sit and wallow in it, wondering what is wrong with us, why isn't God helping, and how could any good come from our situations?

We are so ashamed of our failure, so afraid to bring it to the light, that we keep ourselves in the ugliness! Meanwhile, God already knows what we did and loves us fully and completely anyway. He is there, ready and willing to make the exchange.

If there is something in your life right now that feels dark, ugly, or lifeless, it's time to hand it over to God. Name your failure and tell God that you're ready to give it up to him. Ask him to exchange it for beauty and light and hope.

He will. He's waiting.

And if you're reading this, having never experience the gift of forgiveness, restoration, and hope that comes from Jesus Christ, I encourage you to make the life-changing decision to trade your brokenness for the fullness of living your life for God. He loves you and He wants to make you whole.