Chaplain's corner: Beauty from ashes

Even when our interior landscape is charred, spring will come

By Chaplain Brian L. La Spada

There are times in life when everything seems to fall apart. Life never happens as planned. And sometimes it feels like we lose meaning and purpose. We're left confused and hurt. Why?

It may be due to our own hasty decisions, simple mistakes…yes, we’ve all made them. But there are times in everyone’s life when events are simply not in our control. Accidents. Illness. Finances. The unexpected may cause us to cry out: “Why, God?”

Although difficult to discern at times, God always lifts beauty out of the ashes.
Although difficult to discern at times, God always lifts beauty out of the ashes. (Pixabay)

For example, as a pastor and relatively new law enforcement chaplain, I encountered what no one could have predicted: The Borderline Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks, which tragically took 12 innocent lives including that of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus. Then, all of a sudden, a massive wildfire was ablaze. Our community was threatened by a two-front assault. In addition to ministering to those grieving and traumatized by the shooting came a wave of woe experienced by those afflicted by the fire.

As I drove through the canyons, amidst surreal, almost lunar landscapes of destruction, I witnessed firsthand the heroic efforts of rescue crews and law enforcement. But I’d seen this before. I’ve lived in “fire country” for decades. Some of my earliest memories are of my father hosing down our roof to kill live sparks blown from burning trees. This was the first of many awful brush fires in my lifetime.

Even after the flames are extinguished, their impact continues. Thinking the worst is behind, heavy rains often threatened mudslides and road closures. 

But then there is spring! Reflecting our community’s recovery – a miraculous display of new life from the bleakest of circumstances. Hillsides burst with magnificent emerald green grass. Spectacular yellow sunflowers, purple and white wildflowers out of nowhere. Finally, a brilliant display of orange California poppies completes the tableau – praising a masterful artist for His handiwork.  

Frankly, I was not surprised. I’d seen this pattern often before. It’s even dare I say, predictable!

Although difficult to discern at times, God always lifts beauty out of the ashes. I believe God always gifts us, yes, even joy in our mourning, hope out of despair. If we can step back and patiently watch, if we allow it and say, “Yes!” He’s certain to impress us with fresh life and color and a bigger, better perspective on our problems.

All of us are human. We all struggle with unfortunate, unexpected difficulties or tragedy. When you do, I hope you can try to trust that God will bring you through. Even when our interior landscape is charred, spring will come. New and vibrant colors will emerge.

If we can embrace the process as best we can, in my experience, eventually and in God's equally unpredictable time – out of mourning and despair comes joy and praise.

Even though never an easy or smooth transition, God promises to bring beauty from ashes.

Published courtesy of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) Star News “Chaplain’s Notebook”

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