In a radio interview last week, I was asked about the meaning of my website name: From Ashes to Beauty. The title is based on Isaiah 61:3: “To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness 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.” I appreciate the fact that God’s specialty is rearranging the ashes of our disappointments, despair, and dismay into something beautiful. He takes our mess and changes it into His message.
The best historical illustration of this spiritual truth occurred in 1988 in the Yellowstone National Monument. This most devastating wildfire in the history of the national park system burned uncontrollably for six months—from early June through the first snow in November. In early June, flames wiped out 1.2 million acres about 36% of the park’s more than 2 million acres. The fire was finally put out in November. As the damage was tallied, the losses financially could not be recovered. Yet God was up to something.
In the same way, all of us have experienced ashes of loss:
- Denial: “I wish I could believe God but I just can’t.”
- Depression: “I can’t get up.”
- Destruction: “I’ve lost everything.”
- Despair: “I don’t know why I am here.”
- Divorce: “He left me.” “I left him.”
- Death: “I miss my mom/dad/child.”
- Domestic Violence: “I was afraid”
- Discouragement: “I can’t see out of this hole.”
- Disease: “I am going to die anyway, why not give up now?”
Ever wondered how God might restore a relationship that’s been consumed by the fire of jealousy? Or worried about how God will redeem your life, since the life you had planned isn’t what is happening now? God is a God who always restores, rebuilds, regenerates—that’s His character.
God can use our story for His glory, but we must trust Him to restore and rebuild in His time. After the fires, the forest is more open and more light reaches the forest floor. In the areas where the fire burned hottest, the mineral earth is exposed. Much of the dead wood, including stumps and logs, is almost completely burned.
Where the fire had been hottest is an ideal seedbed for the young giant sequoia seedlings. The heat of the fire causes giant sequoia cones to open and thousands of seeds are released and fall to the soil. A few years after the wildfire wiped everything out, these plants increased in productivity. What had been considered to be a natural catastrophe has been restored and regenerated into a lush forest, which has come back thicker and healthier than before it was burned. In the first few years following such a fire, often the area is covered with young giant sequoia trees. In the Yellowstone National Park, lodgepole pines now fill about 80% of the park’s extensive forests. Most of these crowd each other out, but those that survive will become the forest of future giants.
God has a plan for the ashes of your losses. He will restore, rebuild, regenerate your life. Isaiah 61:3 reminds us, “To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness 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.”
The sequoia seed reminds us God has planted us here for a season. He wants you to be grounded, rooted deep in His Word, a woman of prayer, a daughter of destiny. Make the time you are here a time of sitting at his feet, learning from Him, and listening to His will for your life. Remember, like the sequoia, those who survive will become a future godly giant! Won’t you let God rebuild, restore, and renew your life in His timing?