A reader of my site has requested that I post more poems and quotes pertaining to the “beauty for ashes” theme. I would be happy to do that, and I thought the following untitled poem would be a good start. After I share the poem I will also add my own comments on the meaning of “beauty for ashes”, and after I share my comments, I hope the meaning of the poem, as well as the meaning of “beauty for ashes” will then become clear to all who read this…
Strength after suffering, crown after cross.
Sweet after bitter, song after sigh,
Home after wandering, praise after cry.
Sheaves after sowing, sun after rain,
Near after distant, gleam after gloom,
By Francis Ridley Havergal
As some of you may already know, Isaiah 61:1-3 is a prophecy concerning the Christ. But the reason I named this site “Beauty For Ashes” (which was taken from that passage) is because it is my way of saying “Christianity is not for the strong… it is for the weak, but God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness” as our Lord Himself told the apostle Paul (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Notice what Paul said in verse 7: “lest I should be exalted above measure.” Once we realize how weak we are in ourselves, it is then that we are able to be strong in the Lord.
Paul further explained this point when he said “…we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of our life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead”– 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
When we have reached a point in our lives where we think that we are never able to fall, that could be when we are in the most danger of falling! For this reason Paul also wrote “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” – 1 Corinthians 10:12.
On the other hand, when we have reached the end of our rope, that is often when we come to realize that God is all we have left, and nothing else matters more than Him. As I have explained on my home page, brokenness comes before righteousness. For this reason, Solomon said “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better” – Ecclesiastes 7:3.
To help explain what I am getting at, here is a quote by a classic Christian author named R.C. Chapman (1803-1902):
“The Spirit of God never heals [except] He wounds; and if those seeking Christ have not peace, it is because there is still in them some remnant of fancied goodness....There is a counterfeit Confession of Sin; let us beware of this counterfeit. We may be sure the sorrow is not deep if the sin be not subdued....God kills to make alive. He smites men’s consciences to make them judge themselves. The first great step when a man desires to be saved is unqualified self-condemnation. Sin unconfessed is imputed; but sin confessed is blotted out by God. The sinner, coming in the name of Jesus, has a title to life; the ground of that title is the very name and justice of God.”
You see, it is through the testing of our faith that we are brought to spiritual maturity (Read 1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5 and 1 Peter 4:12-13 to see what I mean). Job came to understand this truth very well, and because of this he said “He [God] knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” – Job 23:10.
Worldly sorrow verses godly sorrow
We must understand that sorrow by itself does not make the heart better. As I explained on my page titled The Reason For This Site, there is godly sorrow, and there is worldly sorrow. Now I would like to explain that a little more.
When the apostle Paul was writing to some of the saints during his time on this earth, he wrote “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death (that is, spiritual death). For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter – 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.
One example of worldly sorrow is when Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus (see Matthew 27:1-5). According to John 6:70-71, Judas was one of the twelve whom Jesus had chosen to be an apostle (also see Luke 6:13-16). From the results, we should clearly see that Judas did not live up to his calling. We can only conclude that Judas’ suicide was an act of worldly sorrow since it was obviously not God’s will. This is why worldly sorrow is actually another form of selfish pride… because it is an unwillingness to submit to God.
Paul expressed an amazing form of godly sorrow in Romans 9:1-3, and Jesus illustrates another form of godly sorrow through the parable in Luke 18:9-14. It is through this type of sorrow that true beauty is brought to the soul: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation” – Psalm 149:4… “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” – Psalm 34:18-19… “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” – Psalm 147:3.
Rejoicing in the glory of the Lord
I hope it is now becoming clear why we suffer… it so we “may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” – Isaiah 61:3. Some may ask “what does it profit us if the Lord get’s all the glory”. Well, the truth is, “to seek one’s own glory is not [really] glory” – Proverbs 25:27. If we are all seeking our own glory, then does anyone really care about how good the other person looks? No, but if we are to seek God’s glory, then we are not only seeking what will profit us, but we are then seeking what will profit others as well.
If you understand what I am getting at, then you will understand the vanity of human pride. As humans, we all have the same desires: we all want to be loved and respected. But God’s unselfish love is the only thing that will truly profit anyone, not empty praises which we receive from one another.
The truth is that the Lord’s glory is the only true glory that any of us can really experience, and it is the only glory which can truly satisfy the human soul. David understood this very well when he said “You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head” – Psalm 3:3. We also suffer so “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” – 2 Corinthians 1:4.
God is not a self centered ego maniac. The simple truth is that God is the only One who is perfect, just, and holy. Therefore, He is the only One who is truly worthy of glory. Furthermore, we were created for Him, so He is simply essential to the permanent satisfaction of the human soul which everyone seeks. Everything else (including our own "glory") will only satisfy us temporarily...then the emptiness will get worse.
Once we come to understand God's character, and what He has done for us, we will then be satisfied in His glory, and we won’t want it any other way.
Jeremiah 17:10 says "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings"...and it is through trials, as God brings us to see our own hearts for what they truly are (That is, "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked [and therefore] who can know it?" - Jeremiah 17:9) that He brings us closer to His own heart which alone can satisfy. I will now leave you with another untitled poem by an unknown author…
And bear Thy will;
Courage to venture wholly on the
That will not harm;
The wisdom that will never let me
Out of my way;
The love that, now afflicting,
When I should rest.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward…rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” – 1 Peter 3:3-4.