Beauty for Ashes: deformity, unexpected words, fuel for hope


“You have beautiful hands.”

I didn't know what to say. No one had ever told me that. Yet, here this seasoned shopkeeper in a tiny Colorado mountain town was telling me I had beautiful hands.

In my more confident moments, I can imagine God saying those words. After all, God sees beyond my gnarly fingers and rheumatoid nodules that disfigure my hands after nearly 50 years of rheumatoid arthritis.

But who would see—and a stranger at that—beyond the abnormalities to the life God has birthed through my years of suffering?

Not many.

Sometimes I sense strangers casting second, third, and even fourth glances at my hands. Probably analyzing what horrific event or brutal disease caused the disfigurement.

But no one had ever told me my hands are beautiful.

“I've had rheumatoid arthritis for almost 50 years,” I explained in a quavering voice. "God has used it to do a beautiful work in my life. He has done something beautiful in my heart because of this.”

She, too, had tears in her eyes as she handed me my purchase. We exchanged a quick hug.

My husband and I hurried to catch our was-late-but-now-arrived train to return to civilization.

As the miles clicked by, I sensed a greater assurance that God had done something beautiful in my life through the years of suffering and disfigurement. More importantly, the shopkeeper’s kind words fueled a hope that the loss of declining vision that I now face will result in something beautiful, eternal, and glorifying to God.

When we look for meaning in that which is temporal, we find ashes; when we look for meaning in that which is eternal, we find true beauty and life.

“. . . to give to them beauty for ashes . . . that He might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 MKJV

What “ashes” in your life has God turned to beauty or is currently in the process of turning to beauty?

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