I awoke this morning to a picture in grays and whites, mists of desolation in the distance, a lone, beautiful man standing in the forefront, in photographic high definition. Jesus. The scene could be post-apocalyptic, but it's not. The sense is not one of finality and doom. Instead this is a picture of hope; our Hero has not just escaped harm, but instead is here to reign and rule, as life and purpose, hope and a future are restored.
Texts came in last night. They were composed of words of discouragement, fatigue and disappointment. Tests had been failed, diagnoses had been leveled, and words like “divorce” and “failure” were used, right there, in black text sans serif, in yellow rectangles with teary emojis and pleas for prayers.
Jesus stands tall and relentlessly capable.
Jesus stands and the ashes cake on His bare feet. He has walked through the fire with us. He is not like the Wizard of Oz, where black and white is changed to technicolor during a commercial break. He stands, his arms ready to receive us, having felt the same devastation that we have, and that of the world, all at once. As He holds us, He knows the plans that He has for us, and all that will ensue as He works everything for our good. It will not happen during a commercial break, but it will happen, with intention and certainty.
Jesus stands because He overcame death, so that we might have life. He doesn’t stand resigned to loss, or impotent to help. He rises with indignation and righteousness and determines that all we have loss with be restored. Even as He stands, a tiny brilliant green leaf appears behind a charred piece of wood. It’s the first sign of regrowth. It’s hope. It’s the beginning of the new work that He is doing when the former things have been lost. (See Isaiah 43:19-21)
Jesus rises with indignation and righteousness and determines that all we have loss with be restored.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.”
–Isaiah 61:1-4, 11
It's a season for perspective. While some of us are surrounded by devastation, others are not. Our struggles take various forms, all causing distress to some degree. All of our troubles, regardless of their severity, matter to God. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Beauty for ashes? Joy for mourning? Eternal glory for light and momentary troubles? This is the grace and mercy bestowed on God’s children. This is the word we live in. This is our Father’s economy for His richly adored people.
Beauty for ashes? Joy for mourning? Eternal glory for light and momentary troubles?This is our Father’s economy for His richly adored people.
“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” This is where Jesus, Himself, is, right now. He is before you, He is with you. He loves you. This is what Christmas is about, His coming to be with us. This is the prayer I pray for you; that you know His presence and His love, and trust in His goodness and faithfulness. May His penetrating, boundless love bless you and your family this Holiday season.