Beauty for Ashes

By David Berg

We used to sing a little song:

He gives me joy in place of sorrow
He gives me love that casts out fears
He gives me sunshine for my shadow
And beauty for ashes dear.[1]

In order to bring forth the sweetness, there has to be some suffering. To bring about the beauty of the flame, there must be ashes. Something must go to ashes!

Blessings come from suffering--beauty for ashes--as is borne out so well in Hebrews 12. Verse 11 says, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

Praise is the voice of faith.

Like a giant hand taking the honeycomb and squeezing it, and out comes the honey. Like Moses smiting the rock--it hurt the rock, but out came the water. Like a beautiful flower pressed and crushed, but out comes the perfume. Like the beautiful music that comes from the throat of the bird--almost as though in pain, yet it comes forth with song. The whole Creation groaneth, waiting to be delivered (Romans 8:22). Even though the bird's song is sad, it's so sweet. The groans are not murmurs, but songs of praise and thanksgiving to God--a sad, sweet song. As Shelley wrote, "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts."[2] The heart of stone had to be broken before the water could flow out to refresh the people. (See Exodus 17:6.)

Lord, help us not to fight Thy crushing, Thy bruising, Thy smiting, which causes the water to gush forth. Help us not to quench that beautiful song, even if it's sad--to thank Thee in spite of the sorrow. Help us to be willing to be smitten and crushed, to be squeezed and to be bruised, to be in agony, that we may give forth Thy sweetness, Thy fragrance, Thy beauty, Thy song, Thy refreshing waters. Out of what seems like defeat come some of Thy greatest victories.

You could never appreciate the light unless you've been in darkness. You can't appreciate health unless you've been sick. You'll never appreciate joy until you've known sorrow. You can't appreciate God's mercy until you've known the Devil's justice.

"Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).

  1. "Beauty for Ashes" by J. G. Crabbe, 1889.
  2. From To a Skylark, by Percy Shelley, 1792-1822.