My wife, Lisa, has lots of little quotes and phrases she likes to use. I think I've written on this blog before about her reference to the Devil as "hairy butt Satan." That's one of my personal favorites. This morning, I found myself reading a passage of Scripture that serves as the origin of one of her others. Here it is:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor....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 61:1,3 NIV
Lisa likes to use that phrase...a lot. "Beauty from ashes," she will say as she works to encourage a friend or a woman who is going through a difficult time. Of course, what she is referring to is the Lord's ability--not to mention His willingness--to take what appears to be a lost cause and make it worthwhile. God loves to show His favor by taking the wrong and correcting it and by taking our sadness and filling us with joy.
As I was reflecting on that passage this morning, I wondered aloud to myself, "Who wouldn't want that?" Seriously, think about that. Why would anyone not desire beauty over ashes, gladness over mourning and praise over despair? I think the answer is obvious. But many days, we choose the opposite. We choose to listen to an enemy--er, hairy butt Satan--as he whispers words of defeat and despair in our ears. And, if he does it to those of us who are Christ followers, how much more must he do it to those who do not know God? Satan uses accusations and his venomous lies to keep us down and defeated.
Lift up your eyes, the Scriptures tell us. He has turned our mourning into dancing. Now, we have the incredible privilege of sharing this message of hope with those whose lives are filled with nothing but ashes. Our God is a God of joy. Don't let them live one more day without knowing it:
Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land and everlasting joy will be theirs. Isaiah 6:7 NIV