Beauty From Ashes: Mike E.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll.” Psalm 40:7
America has been emotionally traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic, as has the rest of the world. Some might argue also from the political turmoil of the last several years. Traumatic stress is now woven throughout our society. Many will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a hellish mental disorder, and will require medical care.
What used to be a problem mostly believed to affect military combat veterans, we now know through extensive scientific research, can affect any person who experiences heavy emotional trauma. Domestic violence victims, child abuse victims, victims of sexual assault, (both adults and children), the spiritually abused, persons suffering terrible loss through natural disasters such as hurricanes and fires, and those affected by the unexpected or violent death of loved ones.
Might this be a new epidemic? A result of the ongoing traumatization of nearly the entire world through the pandemic and ongoing strife, war and division?
Think of medical personnel, many who daily must deal with the tragic consequences of working beyond hope to save a life, only to watch that person pass into eternity alone, family not present. The emotional toll is unimaginable.
Is there anything that is able to bring healing to things this horrible? Anything that can shine light into the darkness of a childhood sexual abuse victim’s murky shadows? Or a rape victim’s? Or an emotionally shattered nurse in a COVID unit?
While psychiatric disorders can be successfully treated medically, how does one bring healing to the deep scars and wounds of the soul?
Only One can do this. The prophets of old prophesied of One to come, several hundreds of years before a man appeared in Israel known as Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the book of the prophet Isaiah is believed to have been written some 700 years before Jesus lived. These Bible verses are a prophecy of Christ through the prophet Isaiah.
In the gospel of Luke, we read Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read this passage: Isaiah 63:1-2a “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them,“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”” (Luke 4:18-20).
That’s so glorious in itself, but the Isaiah passage goes on, “and the day of vengeance of our God. (Justice!) To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to 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. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
I find that passage so incredibly sublimely beautiful. And that’s exactly what Messiah does for those who will believe. Beauty from ashes. At the time Isaiah wrote this prophecy in ancient Israel, people would put ashes on their heads as a visible sign of grief and mourning. So the prophet is saying the Messiah can take even the worst grief, the most horrible of sadnesses, and bring beauty from them, and thus bring glory to God.
What does this mean for victims of childhood sexual abuse and other types of emotional trauma? It means He’s always there. No matter what. And if one will reach out and accept His free gift of grace, there’s no doubt He takes what the evil one meant for destruction and turns it into something beautiful.
It’s important to note it’s not the abuse or other trauma He turns into beauty. The abuse and trauma will always be ugly, twisted and gnarly. And the damage from the trauma remains for many. He doesn’t always take it completely away. There are biological and physiological changes that take place in a traumatized person’s brain and central nervous system, and sometimes God chooses not to heal this.
But it is the soul of the traumatized person He turns into something beautiful. Something that will show God’s glory.
An oak tree is one of the strongest trees that exist. And the prophet says the person who trusts in Christ will be called an “oak of righteousness” planted by God Himself to show His glory.
I believe it will be invaluable for the Church of Christ to understand these truths in the months and years ahead. Both the scientific truth of the effects of trauma, but also the truth of Messiah’s redeeming spiritual power, in order to effectively minister to these wounded souls.
One thing to add. What I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying, “come to Christ and all your pain and suffering will cease.” A very cursory look at Scripture will show following Him involves suffering. Sometimes quite intense suffering. The suffering of the excruciating pain of death on a cross. It isn’t all kittens (sorry Cat Whisperer 😉 ) and roses. As a former pastor of mine once said, (probably quoting someone else–just sayin’..) “Life is hard. But God is good.” Beauty from ashes, indeed.