To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3 NLT
As unlikely as it may have seemed,
beauty from ashes came.
In 2016, massive wildfires burned 2460 structures and destroyed 17,136 acres of land in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The fire started on Chimney Tops Trail a few miles south of Gatlinburg off Highway 441. Fourteen people died from the fires, and another 190 received injuries. Damage caused by the fires was estimated at $500 million. But beauty resulted.
Residents in the area came together. Engineers constructed two attractions high on the mountaintops on either side of the main highway meandering through Gatlinburg. On one side of the highway, they built Gatlinburg Skybridge—a 680-foot suspension bridge that spans two mountains and has one glass section. On the other side of the highway rests Anakeesta Mountain. Here, builders constructed restaurants, shops, a mountain roller coaster, garden paths, and a swinging wooden bridge that takes visitors through the tree tops.
Although evidence of the fires remains, beauty has overtaken the ugliness the fires initially left. Forest fires—whether wild or controlled—benefit the ecosystem. Dead trees and decaying matter need removing, and fires accomplish this by releasing nutrients held captive by old vegetation and returning them to the soil.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God told His people their mourning would one day end. He would take the ashes of their lives and form a crown of beauty from them, much as architects did in the areas around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Ashes are a natural part of our lives. They come from financial struggles, bankruptcy, divorce, crimes, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, rebellious children, lost jobs, death, disease, illness. But God has a way of turning our ashes into beautiful things when we respond in the appropriate way.
As architects and builders had the ability to restore and renew the mountains, so God has the power to take what we perceive as devastating and make something beautiful from it. He possesses all the wisdom possible and can see the beginning, the ending, and everything in between.
Our part entails trusting God with our lives and our ashy situations. He has our best interests at heart and a plan for our lives and this world. We may never understand it entirely, but we can step aside and let Him do His work.
God won’t force Himself or His plan on us. Residents and landowners could have chosen to let the ugliness of the wildfires remain. But they decided to act. When we act by turning our lives and our situations over to God, He will bring beauty from our ashes.
Give your ashes to God and watch what He does.
Prayer: Father, thank You for taking the ashes of our lives and making something beautiful from them.
Tweetable: Do you see the beauty in your ashes?
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