Date: October 15th – 17th, 2021
Verses: “… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” – Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV)
This past year has been a whirlwind of change and, while praying about the theme for this weekend, I knew God was leading me to a theme that was both personal and universal.
Through many different people in my life, I was constantly reminded that what God wants from us more than anything is to have a relationship with Him. He wants us to let go of the weight this world can put on us and truly focus on Him. Through this relationship with our Heavenly Father, all of our struggles – sin, temptation, identity, vulnerability, authenticity, self-centeredness, loneliness, self-worth – are replaced with mercy, grace, and love. Which leads to the theme for Young Women’s VNTB #34: Beauty for Ashes.
At one time or another, most Christians have experienced what it feels like to follow their own path rather than pursue God. Many experienced this before they were saved, but there are also those who have turned away from following God after being saved or do not feel like they have a close relationship with Him. Regardless of what the cause may be, is there something in your life keeping you from truly following Him? Are you going through the motions, indifferent to His call? Maybe you have something on your mind right now that you know causes you to take your focus off of Him. Maybe it’s something emotional like anger or grief. Maybe you have something in your life that takes your time away from seeking Him. Maybe guilt and shame about past or current sins make you feel unworthy of His love and presence. Maybe life events beyond your control have knocked you down to the point where you don’t even feel like God cares about you anymore. These are the ashes in our lives, causing us to feel like there is separation between us and God. Maybe you haven’t even been able to figure out the cause of this distant feeling, you just know it’s there. These ashes can seem too deep for us to climb out of. They may seem never ending and overpowering, surrounding us everywhere we look.
But there is a heavenly promise in Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV), where God says He will take these ashes from us and replace them with a crown of beauty. This is a divine and holy trade, something perfectly illustrated by God sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross, taking all of our sins upon Himself, and giving us the gift of salvation.
This trade was never something we could earn or work hard enough to reach. But God’s infinite love and grace made this trade on our behalf. However, to truly understand and enact this trade, we must first call on Him and ask Him to take these ashes from our lives. As Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV) says, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
We must surrender these ashes to Him, allowing Him to take every trace of them from us and then we can freely and without hesitation receive the beauty He is ready to bestow upon us.
That is what this VN weekend is all about: embracing this trade offered to us. Are you willing to let go and surrender the ashes holding you captive and accept God’s gracious gift?
I am so excited to go on this journey with you all and watch God work in our lives through this process!
Stephanie Hand VNTB #7 Butterfly VNTB #34 Director