Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Beauty Beyond Sackcloth and Ashes

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

~Psalm 30:11 (NRSV)

There are varying levels of depths in life, from the banal to the downright tragic. What a wonderful irony it is that we are afforded the privilege of complaining about the banal when, in fact, the real complaint is justified only in the place of aberrant rejection and loss.

Yet, there is still complaint. And none of us are foreign to it.

The well-reasoned and due-in-season complaint—one of Job-like proportions—is one where we experience such grief worthy of sackcloth and ashes; an entire self-loathing in the Presence of God, despite thought for disobedience, regarding the apparent captivation by misfortune. Life is such a thing that compels us beyond belief for what sorrowful things are endured. Only something so real as life could do this.

But sorrow is not the final word, as the millions who have been saved will attest.

The Hope Beyond the Pain

If truth were to be told I can recall just one noteworthy memory where I experienced such beauty in sackcloth and ashes—totally rejected I felt, but surreally not by God.

We know, in reality, that the experiences of sackcloth and ashes press us in and about and nothing can be conjured besides that faint, though never weak, Presence of the Lord in the languid horror of the moment.

The hope beyond the pain is a strange one; we feel the full force of such pain but we are enabled to endure it where previously it would overcome us. At our lowest ebb, with rejection biting, or a sense of loss so unprecedented and unrequited, we are being carried through. But that isn’t the best of it.

The figurative morning is still yet to come.

Rising from the Ashes

Psalm 30 speaks a lot about the pain of the night which precedes the joy of morning.

And whether this morning is the actual morning or not is of little consequence, because we can know, in faith, that not only will God deliver us, a beautiful reminiscence will be held by us, of this event, forever.

Life takes on such super-significance as we rise from the ashes of our despair; if pain clings just now, God has so much more in this for us than we can foresee just at this time.

Out of the calamity comes peace; from despair, hope. The beauty beyond sackcloth and ashes is the recognition of deliverance—the faithfulness of God to wrest us from death to life.

We are privileged to be found in the state Jesus found familiar; as our Messiah was resurrected, so will we be as we practice the Presence of God at these times.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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