March has arrived and Spring is just around the corner. With Spring comes a change of wardrobe. That dark colored, heavy clothing will soon be replaced with colorful, lightweight fabric. Boots will be replaced with sandals, and coats and winter scarves will be no more! (Not that we really needed those coats and scarves much in Texas this winter!)
Our spiritual lives can also have "seasons". Regretfully, for the past few years, I've found myself "slipping" into winter. Various events and situations over these years have brought a sense of sadness to my heart. I've struggled with the pain of rejection, with insecurity, even with feelings of hopelessness at times. I've experienced uncertainty about my eyesight and had three eye surgeries. I've watched my mom begin to loose her memory and hear the struggles my dad has coping with that. I've witnessed pain and hurt in my extended family. I've seen the poverty of India - twice. And to top it off, I've experienced the "joys" of hot flashes and hormonal imbalances which go along with this stage of my life. To make matters worse, I'm a pastor's wife, who in the eyes of most, think I have (or should have) it all together.
Now, not every part of the last five years has been painful or sad. I've had happy times. Times when the "Son" would shine and life would be good, but overall, underneath, there was still a sense of sadness. I didn't actually realize what had been happening until this past week while listening online to Beth Moore on a livestream via her Living Proof Blog. When she quoted a portion of Isaiah 61:3, something resonated in my heart.
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD,
that he might be glorified."
A garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness! That's what hit me. The Lord showed me that what I had been doing, without even realizing it, was slowly adding one more layer of heavy clothing to my already weighed down spirit. Each disappointment, each situation that brought pain, each fear I had, created a heavier spirit. Oh, I'd put on a smile, but I'd also add one more layer of heavy clothing. (And when you have hot flashes, that is the LAST thing you need to do!) I'd adjust the load and go on with "life".
As I was listening to Beth, I realized what I really needed was a change of wardrobe!! I needed to take off that heavy winter garment and exchange it for a garment of praise. Just the word "praise" seems lighter, more colorful, doesn't it? The rest of the verse also offered me beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. I had a decision to make. And right there in the privacy of my living room, with tears in my eyes, (Ok, there were many tears that escaped down my cheeks), I took off that spirit of heaviness and put on the garment of praise. Was it easy? No! Did I feel lighter? YES! I was amazed that physically I felt a weight actually lift from my spirit.
Will life from now on be completely perfect? Will the sadness be gone forever? Will praising protect me from the pain of this broken world? Absolutely NOT! But I do have a choice! The problem is that sometimes "old clothes" are comfortable. Even though they are ugly, unstylish, and worn out, somehow I find comfort in them. When those "cold winds" blow through my life, my first inclination will be to put those heavy clothes on again. But I need to remember that the Son shines in and through a garment of praise, and His Spirit will bring the warmth to my soul that is needed. Each morning I must decide which garment I will wear that day. I know some days may even require frequent wardrobe "exchanges". One thing I do know though - praising God will lighten the heaviness of my spirit.
My heart's desire is that I would become that tree of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, so that He would be glorified. Will you join me in getting ready for Spring? -- 'cause Summer will be here before we know it!