To all who mourn in Israel he will give: Beauty for ashes; Joy instead of mourning; Praise instead of heaviness. Isaiah 61:3

I saw these verses in living color recently.

Like everyone locally, we had been concerned about the Bridger Foothills fire. As we prepared to leave town for our Labor Day camping trip, it looked small, even innocent—a single plume of smoke rising straight up into the summer sky. But when the last of our group arrived at the campsite, they showed us horrifying pictures of a wall of smoke and flame roaring across the mountain front. As the evening progressed, we heard news of evacuation orders. Some pondered going home to protect their houses.

So we all rejoiced at Monday morning’s rain. The fire smoldered on, but its raging fury was over. We could breathe a sigh of relief.

But next came the question of what was left. Would we find only a blackened shell of the country we had hiked, skied and ridden horses in for years?

When my husband heard the canyon road was open, we dropped what we were doing to drive up and see.

It wasn’t as bad as we had feared. True, there were huge swaths of blackened grass and trees, sad foundations of burned houses, cars reduced to grey shells, piles of rubble. But other homes had somehow survived—though burned to their doorsteps.

Then, the most surprising sight of all. As we drove by the newly-burned pastures, we became aware of a slight green haze. Tiny blades of grass were sprouting in the ashes. Only ten days after the fire, the land had started to heal. It felt like a tiny miracle…and a sign of hope.

Perhaps, I thought, if the plants and pastures can come back after a horrible assault like that, we can, too. And I remembered this ancient promise from Isaiah.

For we, too, have suffered assault—to our lives, our health, our peace of mind. We’ve become well acquainted with “mourning and heaviness.” Just when we think it couldn’t get worse, it does. We find it hard to breathe, much less relax.

Then the Old Snake slinks in, hissing that things will never get better, tempting us to, as Job’s wife said, “…curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) But let’s remember: Jesus called him “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

God has promised comfort for our grief, joy for our sorrow, “beauty for ashes.” In His time. What He restores will be better than what we lost.

If we trust Him and don’t give up.

FATHER GOD: Thank You for that little sign of hope. Keep them coming; we need every one. Amen.

Published in Bozeman “Daily Chronicle”, October 11, 2020.