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.
Years ago, I was advised to pray scripture, to speak God's words back to Him as I shared my hurts, desires, praises, and thanks. It was great advice that I have put into action before, but never have I seen it come to life as it has in the last year of my life. In January of last year I was grieving the loss of the child I'd carried for twelve weeks before miscarrying on Christmas Eve. I can't remember now if someone texted Isaiah 61 to me or if I just went to it on my own, but I definitely remember praying it fervently. I could not imagine at the time how my grief and despair could ever be turned into a "joyous blessing" or "festive praise", but I desperately wanted the Lord to ease the pain that was consuming me. When I discovered I was pregnant again in early March only to miscarry a week later, I went back to praying this verse, but I was also questioning God. "Lord, we don't seem to be headed in the right direction, AT ALL!" I remember telling my closest family and friends, that my faith was not shaken but my heart was broken. I knew all along that only God would be the answer to my sorrow, but from my very human perspective, I could not see a path out of the valley I was in. My lowest point came at the end of May when the results of numerous test came back to tell me that my chances for being able to produce a healthy egg that would result in a healthy baby were extremely low. For about a week I was wrapped up in a cocoon of despair. As I wrestled with the Lord over this diagnosis, I remember praying for Him to take away my desire to be a mother if this was going to be my reality. I knew that I was going to have to find peace, so I could continue to do the work of God that I have been called to do.
By mid-summer, the Lord had brought me back to a place of peace and contentment, and I found my joy for ministry in the exact place where He first called me to it: at camp with a bunch of high school kids. I went to camp to share God's word with the students, and it was there that God gave me back my joy and let me know I could handle whatever was or was not to be in my future. I would always have more than enough to be thankful for in my husband, my family, my friends, and ministry. My praise became festive again, and my broken heart was mended by God's love and faithfulness. My longing to be a mother was still with me, so I knew that if God had not taken it away, He had a plan to grant my desire in the future in some way. By the end of the summer, I was content to wait on His plan, His timing, and His way for that future.
One of my favorite things about God is when He acts in such a way that only He can get the credit. Too often we pray for something and then try to answer our own prayers by manipulating circumstances and taking action that God has not actually called us to take; what we actually need to do is be still and let Christ be lord of our lives. It was in a time of stillness that Jesus did exactly that in my life. One month after my husband and I decided to take no extra measures or medications to help us conceive, we found ourselves pregnant! Now, we are well into our 2nd trimester and the evidence of our blessing is beginning to show. As if the miracle of conception was not enough to let us know it was God taking action, the timing was further proof of God's love. Our due date of July 7th is in the same week of our due date last year. I spent last July 4th filled with grief for what was not happening, but I'm trusting in God's will that this July 4th week will be full of joy and celebration.
As I go back to my Isaiah verse now, I am overwhelmed with the love and faithfulness of my God. He truly has given me the crown of beauty, the joyous blessing, the festive praise in place of the ashes, mourning and despair that I was feeling just a year ago. Even as I know that other times of sorrow will come into my life, my faith in His redemptive love is stronger than it has ever been, and I am certain that any future sorrow will also be turned back into joy because God loves me that much. I share this with you all because I know that you too have sorrows in your life. I know you are mourning and grieving losses and despairs of all kinds, and I want to encourage and reassure you that our heavenly Father is faithful and will bring you out of that place of sorrow into a place of joyous light if you simply trust Him to do it.