Early in the year, my husband and I were out walking and noticed a big old tree that had been hit so hard by the winter storms that the thick trunk had snapped in half like a twig. The top half of the tree lay dead and decaying on the ground, and there was no sign of life at all left in the remaining stump. What a shame! we thought … until a few months later when we were walking along the same path again and saw that, through the spring months, a very long slender branch has sprouted from the stump, adorned with hundreds of bright green buds and spring leaves, all waving like flags in the breeze.
It was so unexpected, and thankfulness to the Lord bubbled up in me for all the encouragement He has woven into the natural world. For there are times in our lives when tragedy strikes and it can seem as if all is lost, and yet, as God’s creation witnesses to us, if we trust Him through those times, giving Him our pain and losses, He really does hold fast to His promises and give back His ‘beauty for our ashes … ‘the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of despair’ (Isaiah 61:3).
After seeing the tree, we happened to be watching a nature programme and learnt about South African fire lilies that lie seemingly dead and non-existent, until a raging bushfire strikes, and the whole environment is burnt flat. Then, within days, these beautiful little lilies burst forth in swathes, adorning the black charred landscape with their vibrant red blooms. What an incredible sight! It seemed to me that this miracle of God’s creation spoke at an even deeper level than the new life we had seen springing from the tree stump. For these little plants weren’t just broken, they were gone, as if they were nothing.
For God to do His best work in us, there is more we need to give to Him than our pain and losses, as costly as that often is. We need to also relinquish our carnal responses to those losses and injustices in our lives – things like, unforgiveness, bitterness, that voice in us that cries out for something to somehow balance out the injustice, the ‘it’s not fair’, ‘I want it fixed’ and ‘I want it fixed my way!’ In a sense, that means relinquishing ourselves to the Lord. And that’s so much harder, because there is something in us that rises up, demanding our rights, especially when we have suffered injustice and loss.
But dying to self is a scriptural principle. As our verse for today declares, and God’s creation bears witness, as the whole plant dies, God brings forth His new life, He bestows beauty for ashes.
Don’t we all want God’s absolute best to be manifest in our lives? Is He calling you to allow Him to shine His light of truth to reveal any hidden responses you may be holding on to? Is there anything He wants to help you to release to Him? Humbling yourself before Him is costly, but what He gives back is even more valuable. As we let go, He does His best work, His creative miracle, in the hidden place, and we emerge from the darkness of our own carnal responses like those beautiful red flowers bursting forth from the charred ground, free and open to welcome the redemption He will surely bring and give glory back to Him.
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