8. Beauty for Ashes

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify him.

Isaiah 61:1-3

I am not good at holy week. I know I should be. I know I should be reflective and peaceful and waiting with hopeful anticipation of Easter morning. But what I actually feel is a looming sense of dread. Because if I’m being honest, I want the joy without the pain. I don’t want to watch Jesus, my Jesus, suffer and die. I don’t want to read the account in my bible and then hear it again at church. I don’t want to come face to face with the reality that my life came at a price. Do I want to celebrate the joy of Easter morning?? You bet I do! Do I want to admit that all the things I’ve done wrong are why we needed an Easter morning in the first place?? Uh, not so much.

Life isn’t easy. It’s not all Easter mornings with joy and celebration. It is hard and confusing and sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes it is hard to get up out of bed and face reality. You want to run and hide from it because it all seems too big for you to handle. And guess what? It is. You can’t do this, you can’t be responsible for managing the whole world, let alone your own life.

Being a follower of Jesus means we have to accept the reality that we hold both joy and sorrow in our hands. Sorrow because we live in a broken world where the people we love are sick or hurt, where our hopes aren’t met, our feelings get hurt, we are let down by the people we love and we keep failing at being “good” based on standards someone else set for us.

But those things don’t discount the joy.

The joy that only comes from knowing that when our people are sick there is a great physician who, even though he may not choose to heal them in this life, promises they will be fully healed in heaven and that this is not the end.

A father who listens to and understands our hearts deepest hopes and desires and tells us He has a great plan for us, one better than we could ask or imagine.

A saviour who tells us that we are deeply loved and needed exactly the way we are, who has made us to be this way so that he can use our unique gifts for his amazing purposes.

A brother who will never let us down because he delivers on all his promises, including protecting us and guiding us through life.

An almighty God who wants us to stop worrying about what the world tells us is right or wrong and focus instead on the freedom that comes from knowing and loving him. Knowing that we are no longer bound to do everything “right” in this life but to have the freedom to be perfectly broken and still be worth dying for.

To know and love God means that we have to accept the joy and sorrow. If we build our hopes on joy alone then when we face the hard things in life, we won’t know how to handle it. Instead, if we trust in the Lord we see that even though we walk through the dark times, we will also get to experience the greatest joys imaginable – true joy that comes from the spirit that tells is that we are known, loved, held and safe. No matter what.

Whatever you are walking through in these crazy times, I can promise you nothing will bring you peace and joy the way that God will. He is waiting for you to come to him, with his arms wide open.

Check out Graves Into Gardens by Elevation Worship ft. Brandon Lake

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