"… to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified." -Isaiah 61:3-4
There is a repeating theme of loss in Christianity. We either suffer losses on earth or far worse in heaven. Scripture is full of paradoxes, for in God’s view, to suffer loss is a means to gain. Apostle Paul believed that for him to die was gain. Paul also believed that he lost everything to gain Christ. Jesus said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it (Luke 9:24 NLT)”.
The purpose and meaning of your life belong to God, not to you. You may think if you hold tightly to your desires God will fulfill them, and in doing so give you a comfy yet self-serving life. Choose instead to throw those desires into God’s consuming fire along with any lingering self-pity until all that's left are ashes.
God exchanges ashes for beauty. He gives you gladness for mourning. What have you burned that was of value to you that you might gain Christ? Have you lost friends, family, or familiar patterns of behavior to live for God? Are you still hanging on to your life because to give it up would cause you so much pain? Where are your ashes? Do you even have any?
The Lord wants your life to glorify Him. He wants to make you like an oak of righteousness. Oaks begin as a tiny acorn buried in the ground but in God’s time become great and beautiful. You can see them from miles away. They bring shade, places of rest, and protection from the rain. Only God can make a tree.