For the LORD will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the LORD;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
Isaiah 51:3 (NKJV)
My eyes squinted into the noonday sun as I hovered my phone camera over a branch of the cherry tree. Each spring, I look forward to the white, velvety blooms from this tree to usher in fresh beginnings.
Out of the corner of my eye, something big and red jarred my peripheral vision. I glanced to my right and within ten feet of the cherry tree sat an enormous, red dumpster.
We were in the process of replacing twenty-year-old carpets, well-loved and worn by children, pets, and occasional house guests. This red eyesore sat on our front lawn as carpet and other flooring were stripped from our house.
Stepping back to take a full-length picture of my beautiful cherry tree, I carefully adjusted my camera, ensuring I didn’t capture any part of the unsightly dumpster for my like-worthy social media picture.
In that moment, the reality of my life hit me. I have been navigating the effects of an autoimmune disease. Chronic illness can be a lonely journey as most people don’t really understand the myriad of symptoms — joint pain, brain fog, extreme fatigue, and other issues. Sure, they’re sympathetic when they first learn about it, but understandably, they just don’t want to keep hearing about your ongoing ailments. So, on social media, I’ve avoided posting anything about my illness. Only pretty pictures and quotes live in my online life.
Behind closed doors, however, it’s tempting to despair when our circumstances don’t change and heart-felt prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. I certainly did my share of lamenting as I grieved over the loss of my former healthy life.
Isaiah 51:3 reminds us that God will comfort us in our grief — in our waste places. Waste places can feel like dumpsters, holding all the pain we don’t want the world to see. Maybe you’re grieving multiple miscarriages, a loveless marriage, or other broken relationships. Maybe you’re longing for a prodigal child to come home or to hear your loved one’s voice just one more time.
Friends, God promises to comfort us in our waste places and make them like “the garden of the Lord,” where joy and gladness will be found. Sometimes, the Lord plants a garden next to our waste places — like a cherry tree next to a dumpster. Our circumstances may not change, but the Lord’s presence becomes the beauty in our wasteland.
Pain and purpose can co-exist. In the midst of brokenness, there can be beauty. In the midst of misery, there can be majesty. Because the Lord is near.
Our lives can be an anthem to our great God who carries us and plants our feet in the soil of His Word. He is writing a beautiful melody even in the middle of our wasteland because His goodness is with us. There, even in our waste places, we will sing with joy and thanksgiving to the One who created us for we “will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him” (Isaiah 61:3 HCSB).
As I stepped back, I lifted up my camera and with gratitude, snapped a picture of my cherry tree with the red dumpster — the perfect juxtaposition of beauty and brokenness.
Father, my life is not what I imagined it to be. In my deepest struggles, help me to see Your fingerprints all over my life. Help me to see the splendor that You have planted in my sorrow. You are my strength, my hope, and my comfort. And I will sing my life song to You alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Ruth Mills says
The juxtaposition of dumpsters & cherry trees highlight for me the depth of grace to offset the dumpster & heighten the beauty of the cherry blossoms. Life is not either or even though it sometimes feels like it. With God it is both; highlighting His yes & Amen if we widen our focus to taken Him in.
Mei Au says
Amen, Ruth! Lifting our eyes and widening our focus on Him. It brings so much clarity to our situation.
Ariel Krienke says
My life has been full of pain. Without the Lord I would have fallen into despair. There are no friends or family and people despise me but we are fighting against evils of this world. I must follow God not men. The Lord is the joy of my life. Heaven will be worth it. Heaven is the hope I have left
Mei Au says
I’m so sorry, Ariel, you are going through so much pain. God is truly our comfort when we feel like we have no one else. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. I am praying that God will bring people into your path who will encourage and strengthen you. May He meet you where you are and pour His never ending love into your broken heart.
What beautiful words and such a comforting reminder.
Mei Au says
Thank you for your kind words, Madeline! Blessings to you!
Karen Knowles says
Thank you for this encouraging post, Mei!
Mei Au says
Thank you for stopping by, Karen! Blessings to you!
Susan Shipe says
I had no idea, Mei.
Mei Au says
God has truly been faithful in walking me through some of the hardest times. Chronic illness can be very isolating because you don’t want to be a constant burden on others. I’m actually thankful that He has drawn me deeper into His presence during all of this.
Beth Williams says
God never promised us a rose garden. He said we will have trials & tribulations down here. That said He does promise to walk with us through them. I heard this saying in a song & it rings true “you never know what someone is going through”. They may seem alright on the outside yet going through chronic pain, marriage/finance issues, etc. No matter God will create beauty out of those ashes.
I recommend connecting with Jen Roland-Jenroland.com. She also has a Face Book page. She is a Christian who also has chronic pain. Her posts talk about pain & how God is getting her through the trials daily. There are exercises & meal plans to look at. Maybe she can be an inspiration for you.