Have you experienced the fire of refining? Have you ever walked through life mourning over something or someone? Perhaps you are even now downcast, bitter, despairing or heavy about events in your life?
Did you know God gives us a garland of beauty to put on instead of those ashes, which symbolises mourning and loss in the bible? Many cultures practise this symbolism in reality.
Did you know God wants us to massage and shine our head with the oil of joy instead?
He has a mantle of praise to cloak ourselves with, in order that we don't carry around despair that becomes so heavy when carrying on our own.
Isaiah 61:3 says that God wants this for us: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, To give unto them a garland for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness; (JPS Tanakh 1917)
Are you wearing a crown of ashes? Been rubbing those ashes through your hair? Have you been sitting in a pile of ashes, dropped from where your beautiful crown should be? Ashes are messy. They’re sooty, they fly away in the air because they’re so light but they settle everywhere and they’re hard to sweep up and contain. And because they’re so drying, you need oil.
The same verse says the Lord has come to give us the oil of joy instead of mourning. Let that lovely oil pour down over you to shine your hair, rub and massage it over your head and let it moisten and soak into, and fragrance your skin. Doesn’t just the thought of that give you relief?
It's appropriate to mourn over people and events that cause us pain. And that can be a long process. But there is a heaviness, or despair, that isn’t from God. It is a spirit from Satan. The bible says praise overcomes that spirit, and it is a mantle. Something to put on that comes only from God Himself. Are you choosing to wear that mantle today? The Lord has come to give you better things to put on.
Lift up your eyes to the hills, for where does your help come from? Does it come from the Lord?
Receive the wealth of the Lord. I don’t mean money. I mean the rubbing and oiling of His goodness. Peace in our troubled circumstances. Quietness in our heart instead of worry over our family members. Freedom in the way we relate and the things that stop us from sleeping well.
When we go through the refining fire, we are responsible for keeping our head up, not letting it be cast down low, looking only to what we see in front of our toes. If we look up, we see greater things, brighter things. If we keep our gaze low, our hearts will be kept low.
Isaiah 61:3 shows us God gives us these healing elements with an even deeper purpose than healing. “That they might be called terebinths of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, wherein He might glory”. (JPS Tanakh 1917)
What is a terebinth? It’s a tree in Israel, depicted in the bible numerous times. Of note, it’s tall, spreads wide and is deciduous – losing its leaves in autumn and regenerating in the spring. It’s often felled, and the reason for that is that the terebinth renews itself and grows again. Don’t you think that’s significant, that we should be called a renewing, regenerating tree of righteousness, which is the planting of the Lord?
When dancers dance, or stuntmen perform their stunts, or acrobats do their thing, they turn their heads in the direction they want their bodies to go. Their head doesn’t follow their body. Their body follows their head.
When we are walking through life, our emotions will go where we turn our head – to where our mind pays attention to. When we lift our head to the heavens and seek God, then our spirit will soar and our emotions have no choice but to follow in that direction. But it involves choice and self-control.
In my late 20’s and early 30’s after I left the church, I developed a panic disorder that would land me in hospital as my body shut down. I faced depression every day. I managed it with medication and counselling. Over the years I learned to live with it but I wasn’t overcoming it. I was living with a disability.
When I came back to the Lord, and the word of God began to transform my life and give me a new kind of hope I didn’t have to take that same medication and I realised the counselling had only been effective to a point. It was the word of God that really began to shift things in my life.
However, it was a slow process. I would still often wake up with the realisation depression was knocking on my door. It was crouching outside, waiting for me to open the door to it so it could have me. (That’s based on Genesis 4:7 where Cain is jealous of his brother Abel’s offering.) Perhaps it was Abel’s righteousness Cain was jealous of because he wanted the reward Abel got for his righteousness but he didn’t want to be righteous. That was a different context than I was dealing with, but still he was dealing with emotions that were twisting him. The Lord was warning him those emotions could have a disastrous effect if he allowed them to, and they did, because he opened that door and killed his own brother.
I did not open the door.
I kept running to the Lord. I wept before Him, first with my depressed feelings, then with the things I was struggling with, but finally with utterances of knowledge – what I believed by the word of God, and I pronounced them in faith over myself, before Him. Then He began filling me with a renewed belief in those words, a renewed faith in Him in my circumstances, and a renewed joy. It took time. It wasn't like a magical wave of a heavenly wand and, poof!, it all went away. But, as I kept receiving that oil and putting on that mantle, when I looked, depression had skulked away. I could see him outside the window still, but I wagged my finger at him and shewed him further down the driveway. He’s not allowed on my property anymore. I still have to yell at him to get lost if I sense him hovering around the boundaries. He’s that persistent. But depression creeps away when light starts to shine it’s light at him. I know, given half a chance, he’ll sneak back down that driveway and crouch outside my door again if I allow it. But if I determine within myself to keep joy and the knowledge of God’s goodness for me in my heart, I can walk out the door and depression will scuttle away because he gets blinded by the light. He likes to live in darkness.
If you have some lights turned out in your house and you know depression or anxiety or sorrow is staying in those darkened rooms, don’t let your house stay in the dark. Turn your lights on, even during the daytime. Don’t worry about the power bill – God will take care of that. He’s the source of your power, so turn on your lights because He’s already foot the bill.
1 Corinthians 3:11-17 (NIV)
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation… their work will be shown for what it is…. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
You are building a temple that belongs to the Lord. It is sacred. You are sacred to Him. Keep building, because you don’t lay one brick or hang one picture without His help. If you ask Him, He’ll help you put everything in the right place. What He uses for building His temple in you is made from precious stones, of far more value than you can find yourself. Take what He offers you to build with, so your temple will be strong, of value, and of priceless beauty.
Isaiah 54:11 (NKJ)
“O you afflicted one, Tossed with tempest, and not comforted, Behold, I will lay your stones with colourful gems, And lay your foundations with sapphires.