It may not seem like it to many people who see me on a day to day basis. But God is using a season of ashes to bring about beauty in my life right now. As I write this post, I do so from a hospital bed, posed with more questions than there are answers. Yet, some of the most beautiful seasons in our life arise from the ashes of pain and despair.
It seems counterintuitive that our darkest times, filled with confusion and doubt, could be the catalyst that propels us into higher levels of faith, joy, and peace. But, that is exactly how God works. As we move through these seasons, we become intimately and sincerely aware of our own vulnerability and weaknesses. We come face to face with our fallibility, rebelliousness, and our sin. Often, we are faced with the realization that we are at least partly culpable in the reason why we have arrived at our place of desperation.
As we arrive, we find ourselves bowed down at a place of honest self-examination, and because we have nowhere else to turn, we are open to the Lord’s guidance and truth. As we are poured out before him, we are finally willing to let go of all that has kept us separate from His great plan for us. With open hands, we hungrily receive every morsel of strength, faith, and wisdom that He will provide. As we become nourished by His Spirit, we experience new peace and new joy.
These seasons can prove most difficult because they require that we die to the self-designed dreams and goals, that exist apart from His will. But, they are also painful because letting anything that we cherish die, requires us to trust God to replace what is dying for something that is greater. Yet, because we are not God, we can not imagine what would be greater. So we watch it die, anxiously trusting Him to raise something more beautiful – a thing that we have no vision of.
The journey to our destination in Christ can at times seem unfair. In our pains and trouble, we question our affliction. In our affliction, we stand, sit, and lie confused, wondering how and why we ended up where we are. We gaze at the perceived unfairness our circumstances. We cry out in frustration as we feel repeatedly and viciously struck.
Yet to our surprise – we stand.
Through the onslaught of our affliction, we wait expectantly to find that we’ve been crushed but instead with the strength of Christ – we stand.
As questions about our future swirl about us, it is almost as if we could drown in them, and though we feel as if we are perpetually perplexed and soon to drown in despair – carried by His Spirit, we are not driven to despair, but instead escorted to greater and greater heights.
We cry out at our persecutions, terrified that we are alone, but we look up and continually find that He has not forgotten or forsaken us.
We had become exhausted from initially and frantically shielding ourselves from what seemed like an unending array of strikes against our person, and yet, safe within His arms, we are daily surprised to find that we have not been destroyed.
And through each attack, we grow stronger. Through every disappointment, we grow more assured of His love. Carried safely through each terrifying crisis, our strength is increased. And as we watch, completely surrendered to the Father’s will, finally aware of our inability to control our circumstances, our surroundings, our lives, and the lives of others who intersect with our own, we shudder silently as the old dreams die. Yet, within us hope rises, unfettered, because also within us, life is born. A new life – designed and purposed by the Almighty God, who chose us for a purpose before the creation of the world.
So we are not crushed, we are not driven to despair, we are not forsaken, we are not destroyed. We are instead temples of the Holy Spirit, carrying within us the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested within us.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10