Thursday, February 23, 2012
Today’s Topic: Beauty from Ashes
Today’s Text: Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) “and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 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. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Drunk driver kills father of four. Family home and possessions destroyed by fire. Babysitter accused of rape. Financial markets crash. Four students die in car crash. Government overthrown: everyone taken captive.
Headlines from reality. Heartbreak is reality.
Grieving may be the most underestimated of the emotions. It may be the one we deny the most. Of course we grieve a little when we read headlines like the ones above. We would have to have awfully cold hearts to not feel some compassion for the people affected by these tragedies. But grief hurts, so in most cases we skip right over it and move on to thinking about something else – something more positive and uplifting. We deny that anything hurts us because we don’t want to appear weak. We certainly don’t want the circumstance to affect us so deeply that it causes any long-term depression. So we deny that it is there, and hope we never really have to deal with it.
There is a popular theory of grief, introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book entitled On Death and Dying that proposes five stages to the grieving process.
- Denial – “Everything’s fine…I’ll be all right…This can’t be happening to me.”
- Anger – “It’s not fair…Why is this happening to me…Who’s fault is this?”
- Bargaining – “I’ll do anything to change this.”
- Depression – “Why bother…What’s the point…Why go on?”
- Acceptance – “It’s really going to be okay.”
This is the secular view of the grieving process, and for a long time we may have believed it is the only process available. That’s just not the case. You see, there is a stage prior to the denial stage that has been omitted from the DABDA model – it is the stage of mourning. It is the very first thing that happens in all of us, but for many it is the one the pass through the quickest because it hurts the most. It is the stage of helplessness, and that is in direct contradiction to our humanistic thinking. We cannot be found helpless, so let’s skip that part and move into the self-help realm.
Yet it is in the stage of mourning that Jesus comes and offers healing. He offers the intimacy of His presence that ultimately moves us to restoration and skips all the in-between steps found in the human model. The crown of beauty is bestowed upon those who grieve, and gladness pours over the soul of the mourner. In the depths of despair the garment of praise is given.
Look at the picture of the crocus growing out of the ashes of a fire. If the humanistic model is true, this could never happen. The bargaining stage would have removed the burned log, tilled up the soil, put in some landscaping rocks, and planted roses, only to realize that roses are too hard to grow and depression would have set in. Man’s efforts to heal grief don’t work.
But God can heal any grief. Jesus Christ mourned over the death of Lazarus, and with no denial, anger, bargaining, or depression he simply resurrected him from the grave. Don’t let the world get into your head. Let God heal your heart. He who can grow crocuses out of ashes can bring joy to you in the darkest of days.