There is a phrase that brings me great comfort found in Isaiah 61.
In Luke 4:18, we find Jesus standing before the religious leaders in the synagogue, echoing the words of Isaiah. Unfortunately, His words would be rejected by the very people who should have received it as good news.
Isaiah 61:1-3, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory."
I cling to these words of hope and promise. It says to all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty instead of the ashes of mourning they were experiencing.
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we New Yorkers, were all too familiar with the ashes that surrounded what once was, the Twin Towers. The clean-up seemed insurmountable for our first responders. It is difficult to describe the heartbreak.
There is another city that suffered destruction at the hands of it’s enemies in 1 Samuel 30.
King David and his men arrived home after being away on assignment and found that their enemies, the Amalekites, had made a raid; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else.
When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters and they began to talk of stoning him.
But David found strength in the Lord His God.
He sent for the ephod from Abiathar the priest which was special clothing used to pray and communicate with God. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”
The Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”
David and 600 of his men set out and they came to a certain place where 200 of the men became too exhausted to continue. So David pushed on, with 400 of his men.
They found the Amalekites spread out across fields, eating, drinking and dancing with joy because of the vast amount of plunder they had taken. David and his men rushed into the fight, battling them throughout that night and the entire next day until evening.
David’s men crushed their enemies and got back everything that was taken, as well as his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, or anything else that had been taken. David brought back everything including all their flocks and herds.
There is much to be learned from David's example. Here are 3 keys to transitioning from "ashes to beauty":
1. Remember how God has delivered you in the past.
David remembered how God protected him when he was in the wilderness as a young shepherd. God gave him the ability to kill a bear and a lion to protect his flocks.
David encouraged himself by turning away from discouragement, negativity and negative people. He remembered the goodness of the Lord in the land and the living.
David remembered that God gave Him the victory against the giant, Goliath.
Hebrews 10:32 says to think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even throughout terrible suffering, learning all God wanted to show you.
2. You cannot allow your emotions to rule you.
The enemy of your soul wants to bring discouragement but focusing on how God delivered you out of previous troubles helps to break through depression. You cannot feed off the ashes of your troubles. Feed off of the past miracles of the Lord. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by hopelessness. You can allow yourself to be led into bitterness, anger and unforgiveness. David did not sit in the sadness. He encouraged himself in the Lord.
The enemy wants to convince you that you will be dealing with ashes for the rest of your life. Remind him of God’s faithfulness to you because He’ll be faithful again.
You must set your mind on things above. Pray scriptures out loud like Psalm 118:24, “This the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Stand on promises of His faithfulness and His blessings like I Chronicles 16:11-12, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given.”
3. When you’re going through troubles, you have to go into your secret place to get instructions.
Psalm 91 says, “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
David did not sit in depression like his men did. He used the ephod. He went into the presence of the Lord and got direction from God. You cannot allow your circumstances to keep you away from the presence of God. Even when you do not feel like going, you can trade the ashes for beauty and joy as you praise Him.
Some of you reading this may have given up on some things because you are sitting in the ashes of your situation. There may be a child who is in trouble. There may be seemingly insurmountable debt. There may be a terminal diagnosis. It may look like your marriage is over.
Well let me tell you, God works His best miracles right there in the midst of the ashes of your life. The Lord speaks to you in the midst of dead situations. It was at that moment when David encouraged himself in the Lord by reminding himself of God’s past faithfulness. The Lord said to go after it, to pursue, overtake and recover all that was stolen from him.
God wants us to go after those things that are messed up and broken. We serve a God who is able to take what looks like ashes and turn it into something beautiful. God took the burned out ashes of a city that day and turned it into a victory. He wants to give you the beauty of your dreams that you’ve walked away from. He wants to grant you those promises you’ve held onto for years.
All David needed was a word from the Lord. When David asked and God answered, He went after it. When David arrived at the place where his wives and children were being held captive, He recovered ALL that the Amalekites had taken. David rescued their families. There was nothing lacking.
Know that the Spirit of the Living God rests on you and will give you instructions. The anointing of God will never leave you in a depressed place. The anointing of God will never leave you in a dry place.
Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.”
So as long as the Spirit of the Living God is upon you, you should not live in a dry place. You will experience victory and the spoils, beauty for ashes.
Get ready to see everything that God has been doing for you behind the scenes. Let this be the month of beauty instead of ashes. Prepare your hearts for receiving everything God has been preparing you to have.