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BEAUTY FROM ASH -- HE HAS A PLAN


I recently heard the Bible verse read from Isaiah 61, that says “[the Lord] will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3); and I thought to myself ‘that’s what I need’. When I don’t have a plan, and I don’t know what comes next, when things I expected don’t come into fruition, I need my God who brings good from the bad, joy from mourning, and praise from despair...to make beauty from my ashes. Ours is a God, who makes something beautiful from whatever I have, whether it is great or small, whether I’m doing well or feeling lost; He has a sovereign plan for me, to bestow beauty on me when all I may have is ashes.

Lately, I have made a few changes in my life that have altered the way I see myself. Things that once defined me are no longer prevalent and I’ve grown a lot as a person. And through all this diversity, adjustment and change, I found myself trying to figure out who I am now, and what these changes mean for me. A lot of the things I knew about myself before are no longer true, my day-to-day habits changed, and the plans for my future are no longer going to play out the way I anticipated. I know God has an incredible life in store for me, but right now, the picture of it from my point of view is pretty faded, uncertain and blurry.

Being without a plan has never really been my style. I like knowing what comes next, I’m not really big on spontaneity or potentials - I like things set in stone, I like to know who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going - it’s my nature. I’ve always been this way, last year when I finished University, I had a brief (and I mean very brief, it lasted about 3 weeks) period of time where I didn’t know what I was going to do next and it terrified me - I absolutely hated it, and you would not believe the relief I felt when I had secured a job a week before graduation.

In Matthew 2:1-12 we hear about the journey of the Magi, following the star, and meeting the baby Jesus. I don’t think I ever really put much thought into what the ‘wise men’ were actually doing, the nativity is a part of the Bible that I must have heard hundreds of times in my life so far (and no doubt will hear hundreds more) - but I just accepted that the wise men followed the star and worshipped Jesus, I never considered their journey. This Sunday, it was brought to my attention, that the Magi were in essence foreigners or strangers, they travelled far and from the East, these men weren’t Jews or Christians. They didn’t know all the scriptures, they didn’t necessarily know God; and yet they followed the star cross-country in faith. They followed a light, and it brought them to where they needed to be. They didn’t know the plan, they didn’t know what was ahead of them or what they would find, but they believed in the star and they believed it was taking them where they were meant to be - to the place the Messiah would be born.

The light from the star guided them so far, and then they reached Jerusalem and became unsure of where they should go. They stopped there and asked for help, and the Bible scriptures were quoted to them, to offer them further direction and encourage them on their path. They were told “but you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least...for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6). The scripture gave them more detail, it helped them travel further, it guided them and restored them.

As we all know, having left Jerusalem, and journeying to Bethlehem, the Magi found Mary, Joseph and Jesus and were among the first to worship Christ.

I think there’s a lot to be learned from the experiences of the wise men. They followed the star, in the way that we are each called to follow God. I, like them, do not know His plan, I don’t know all the information, I don’t have every step laid out ahead of me, but I know that if I trust in Him and follow Him, He has an amazing plan for my life. And along the way, I am called to turn to the Bible and to other christian’s for guidance, to offer me encouragement and help me along the way. “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

It’s hard not knowing everything, and going from a state of complete organisation and a sense of ‘knowledge’ of what the future holds, to being unsure and the future, unknown. But our God is good! He is a God with plans to prosper us: who brings about beauty from ashes, He is a light to follow, and He has left a written word to encourage us in our day to day.

So although I’m starting this New Year feeling less certain than I did last year; and with very little in the way of a plan; and with my fair share of ash...I will pray for the confidence of the Magi, to follow His guiding light as best I can, to trust in His plan rather than trying to form my own, to turn to the Bible and other christian’s for further direction and guidance, and to have faith that He can bring beauty from ash.


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