The sky filled with dark, billowing smoke. My car sped closer as I realized the smoke rose from the direction of my house. Not again, my soul whispered.

Logic told me it was just a controlled burn, a way to manage the density of trees & shrubs and restore new growth. It was, after all, that time of year in the Midwest.

My heart, however, didn’t accept that logic. It stirred up memories from ten years ago, back to the day I came home to find my house on fire. A fire that destroyed all we owned and snatched away the life of my youngest daughter.
Tears inched their way up like an impending flood as I drove. That’s not my house. That’s not my house. The words fell into rhythm with my heartbeat. I had come so far; was all of that about to be undone?

If you’re anything like me, and I imagine you are, it’s easy to hit the replay button and begin to rehearse all the difficult things we’ve endured. It’s as if our brains have a tab entitled, “101 Ways I’ve Been Hurt” and every time we open it, we risk losing perspective on what is true.

During those moments in the car, I realized I had a choice: I could continue down the spiral of despair or I could cling to what I know to be true.

I chose truth.

Truth #1: God has done great things (in my life and yours).

“Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!” Joel 2:21, NIV

One of the greatest challenges I faced over the past ten years was to look for the good things that God was doing. It meant I needed to shift my gaze from the pain of my loss, from the barren land that stretched before me, and search for the great things God was doing.

Because He did and continues to do great things.

He heals shattered hearts. He provides resources to rebuild. He offers hope through the miracle of saved photographs. He strengthens me to live each day as my youngest dances in heaven. God moves people to care, to pray, to lift us when we’re weary. He protects the wounded. He gifts opportunities to share our story with others, to fill us with hope that this life isn’t the end. He prepares a place for us in our eternal home, one that can never be destroyed.

Truth #2: Bad things happen, but they don’t last forever.

There was a moment in the hospital that day of the fire when I realized I just entered a season of life for which I saw no end. I eventually learned that even though I couldn’t see it, that painful season would eventually come to a close. The trauma would subside. The intense sorrow would ease. Life would resume. A new normal would ensue and goodness would reign.

“Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.” Joel 2:22-24, NIV

Truth #3: God restores.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25a, NIV

This is what God does. He restores. He makes all things new. He calls the lame to walk and the blind to see. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one. He pursues us with a love that never ends. He meets us in our scorched and dry land, breathing life where there was death.

He restores our souls.

My car drew near to the source of the smoke. It was, indeed, a controlled burn. I glimpsed the scored earth as I drove past, black from smoke but preparing the land for new growth. I breathed a sigh of relief and realized how much that controlled burn resembled my life. Fire marked my soul, leaving a scar that will never disappear but no longer hurts. New growth has appeared, blossoms of faith and hope and trust, as God has restored all the fire destroyed.

For that, I will rejoice.

What are great things God has done in your life? How has He restored your soul?

(originally shared with Ask God Today Ministries)


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