The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted, to announce liberty to captives and to open the eyes of the blind. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God's favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel he will give: Beauty for ashes; Joy instead of mourning; Praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.
And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed, reviving them though they have lain there many generations. Foreigners shall be your servants; they shall feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards. You shall be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You shall be fed with the treasures of the nations and shall glory in your riches. Isiah 61: 1-6 (TLB)
Laverne Williams is from Georgia. As their bus traveled down the highway on a recent trip to Alaska, they passed a large stretch of land with rows of burned trees. Growing directly in front of these black, scorched trees were several clumps of beautiful light pink flowers. Laverne noticed the same flowers when they hiked up a mountain trail in the damp wilderness. Later their tour guide explained that the flowers were called fireweeds and that they usually grow in places where something catastrophic has occurred, like a fire or even a moving glacier.
In a similar manner, God has a way of responding on areas of our lives where we've experienced disaster. Just like the prophet Isaiah says, God can provide beauty in places that once were ashes and cause joy in times of mourning. And as God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3), God is with us through the fires we face. As we face struggles of every kind, our human limitations may prevent us from seeing through to the other side where beauty may await us. But God sees it all, is with us through it all, and is able to comfort all who mourn.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for delivering us from our trials, in Jesus' name. Amen.