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.  Isaiah 61:3

     I read not long ago that any creative person can make something beautiful out of something ugly, but only God can make something beautiful out of ashes. Just like He did when He created the world, making breathtaking wonder out of formless void, He can do the impossible with the ashes of our lives.

How does that happen? It’s an exchange. Let’s look at the verse: we have ashes, mourning, and despair. That’s a lot of heaviness. We become weighed down with burdens too hard to bear, because the heaviness seems overwhelming.

     When we feel like that, we lose strength. Heaviness is draining the life out of us spiritually mentally, and physically. It’s like dragging around a very heavy suitcase—it’s just that ours is filled with worries, fears, and cares. How do we regain our joy?

     We exchange our load for His. Just like the verse says: beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for the spirit of heaviness. “He tells you to bring Him your ashes—situations that look too far gone—and He will bring new life and beauty into those hopeless conditions; bring Him your mourning—every hurt and pain that you are carrying around in your heart—and He will give you healing and a new-found joy; bring Him your heaviness—the unbearable weight of your trials—and He will give you a reason to praise.” (Carmen McLean, Learning to Live Above)

     So how do we unpack our suitcase? We begin by telling God every concern, every struggle, and the emotions that press upon us. Then we begin to praise Him. At first we may not feel like it, but as we declare our faith out loud, God gives us His joy which turns to strength.

     He sees the burdens that you have been carrying and He longs to lift those weights from your shoulders. Will you come and exchange what you have for what He so lavishly wants to give you? Your ashes for His overwhelming beauty, your void for His new creation in your life.

*What is the biggest burden you are carrying today? Will you lay it down and receive what God wants to give you?

Burden-Bearer, I come to you with my loss, my mourning, my despair. I give you this heaviness and ask that I can receive instead the life that only You can provide. Show me Your miraculous power. In Your matchless name I pray, Amen.

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