The Promise of Beauty ~ Isaiah Series ~ Part 5
~ Isaiah Series ~
The Promise of Beauty
“The desert and the parched land will be glad,” God says. “The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1-2).
Sometimes life is just rough, isn’t it?
Have you ever been facing what you know is inevitably going to be a season of challenge, a season of hardship, a season of testing… and, although you know it is coming, you also know that all you need to keep moving on is just a little reminder that “this too shall pass”?
I remember, during several particular seasons of heartbreak and hardship in my life, waking up every morning and thinking “I don’t know if I can keep going.” Yet I also remember, like a bloom out of season, God would drop Hope into my heart and He would remind me that although what I was going through hurt like hell, it would not last forever.
He does that, you know. He is somehow able to bring us just what we need, no matter how dark or cold or lonely a particular season might be, and He holds our hand and sustains us and encourages us through it all.
I remember when I had just broken up with my first love because I found out that he had been cheating on me. Within minutes after our breakup, I went to my bedroom with tears streaming down my face, grabbed my journal, and wrote this prayer to God: “I know this isn’t going to hurt forever, Lord. I know that the way I am feeling right now will some day not feel so bad… and I look forward to being on the other side of this pain. But for now, Lord, please help me.” And He did. He comforted me, inspired me, and gave me the ability to keep clinging to Him, even though my heart hurt in a way it hadn’t yet known.
That was hope in the midst of my winter. That was looking towards God’s promise despite the hardship I was going through.
I felt a similar way when, just a few months after that breakup I just described, my parents were divorcing and I couldn’t even see straight for the pain and confusion my heart was feeling. Even in those moments, the moments when I was sobbing uncontrollably on my bed, my entire being racked with misery, I could feel God’s tender, loving hand rubbing my back, bringing me comfort and a quiet, indescribable peace. I could hear Him whispering how much He loved me and how He would bring me safely through to the other side of even this.
And I remember, in the wake of my miscarriage several years later, while I was deeply grieving the loss of the child I would never know, God did it again: Even in the very moments when I was in the darkest depression I had ever experienced, wishing I could just wake up in heaven and be done with all of the hurt, God somehow reached into the pit I was in and showed me that light and goodness and hope still existed. Even there. It was like He brought me a big glass of water, though I felt like I lived in a parched, liquid-less desert. He brought me a beautiful bouquet of comfort and hope, despite the fact that it felt like my soul’s winter would never end.
This is what Isaiah 35:1-2 reminds me of. Because when God says that “like the crocus, [Israel] will burst into bloom,” the imagery He is using is one of hope in the midst of what seems impossible. Here is a tidbit about botany you may not have known: the crocus is one of the earliest blooming flowers. Even when there is still snow on the ground and everything still seems like winter, the crocus bursts forth and brings color and beauty to the bleak landscape. It provides winter garden color and sometimes will even lure bees out of their hives to get the pollination process kickstarted in the surrounding area. In short, the crocus declares that Spring is on its way — despite how dead and fruitless everything might presently seem.
If you zoom out just a bit and read Isaiah 35 in context, you will find that the beautiful promises recorded there actually come smack dab in the middle of one of Israel’s hardest, harshest seasons. Just before these words of promise in chapter 35, you can read (in Isaiah 34) about how God had just been warning His kids of the harsh consequences that were on their way. He said things like “the Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is on all their armies” and “God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation” (Isaiah 34:2,11).
God hadn’t even yet given the Israelites the consequence for their misbehavior— He was still only notifying them that it was on its way— yet even in that moment of warning it seems that God couldn’t help Himself: He just HAD to tell them the good news also. The good news that their punishment wouldn’t last forever. The good news that, although winter was on its way, it would, like literal winter-time, only last a season.
And the same holds true for you and I when we are standing on the brink of hardship and heartache: Winter may, in fact, be coming our way. But fear not: Spring will come, too.
Even if the hard season you and I may be facing is coming as a result of our own sin, mistakes, irresponsibility, or ignorance (like the Israelites); or even if the hard season we are facing is coming as a result of someone else’s poor choices, sin, or selfishness; and even if the hard season we are facing is coming just because that’s how life goes: No matter how bleak things may look, no matter how much devastation we see around us, no matter how hungry or exhausted or confused we may feel… God is with us, God still loves us, and God has a plan and a means to redeem it all.
He never gives up on us. Although we may feel like we are in a season of exile from time to time, and although we may feel like everything we once knew is shattered and beyond repair, we’ve simply got to remember that HOPE IS REAL. Beauty will come again. And, praise God, God is with us and will help us through it all.
Thank You, Lord, that You grow crocuses in the middle of our winters. Thank You that You are such a goooood Father, excessively gracious even in the midst of judgment. Always wanting to make sure Your kids know that You are looking out for them and that, though harsh times may be on our horizon, beauty and Hope are also, always, on their way as well. You are good, Lord. Amen.
NOTE TO READER: If this is a topic you are currently wrestling with, one resource you might want to check out is Andy Stanley’s “In the Meantime” sermon series. I found it to be a great discussion tackling the issues surrounding “Where is God when it hurts?” and/or “What can I do when I’m in a hard, valley-like season?” I hope it encourages you.
* * *
Over the next several weeks, as I continue to dive into Isaiah, and as my church studies this book in depth during our weekend services, I am going to be sharing my thoughts here on the blog. I would love if you joined me. And feel free to listen to the solid teaching happening on the weekends if you feel so inclined. (Click here to listen to the sermon series.)
I look forward to hashing out this incredible ancient book with you.
* * *
What about you?
How do you hold on to hope in the midst of the various “winters” you face? What stories in your life or in the Bible serve as helpful reminders to you of God’s faithfulness even when times are hard?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.