Out walking one day I saw something which immediately impressed me as one of those beautiful signs that wonderfully display a God-given reality. ……A plant growing out of a brick wall!  I took the photograph above to remind me of His help in difficult times. Unusual, different, eye-catching, and the last place you would expect to see a healthy flower growing. But there it was,  right in front of my eyes.

It seems that once a plant’s roots discover a microscopic crack in the concrete, they force their way through the cement. Slowly, imperceptibly, the root pushes through the hard surface revealing its natural beauty. Amazing, yet obviously possible. The more I thought about this display of God’s striking creation the more it began to dawn upon me that there is this same display of God’s beauty in other hard places. I have seen it, as I am sure you have as well. 

I’ll see you again one day

I saw it displayed in my mom while she was suffering from terminal cancer. The bright eyes, the smile, and the deep inner joy of knowing her future destination. In those naturally dark and difficult days, we laughed and danced together, prayed, and wept. And just before I left her to travel home, she said to me, ‘” I’ll see you again one day John.” I have often thought about that sure grasp that she had of the hope that was within her pressing through the metaphorical concrete of life towards a beauty that came only from her King – Jesus.

I have seen this “beauty in adversity” glow with life. God’s life in friends who have been in a hard place. Failure, depression, redundancy, shame, hopelessness, illness, and more. But in it, all the joy, grace, and fragrance of the life of Jesus can be seen in them as it not only touches their own lives but overflows into the lives of others as well. Much like our own character changes that take place, often through adversity of some description. 

There is grace for each wall we face

Whatever the shape of the challenge in front of us there is always grace available to face the hard wall when everything is telling you it can’t be done. Our choice to focus on Jesus in worship and to declare His Lordship over this hard place brings about change in our lives for good. It reminds me so much of Isaiah’s prophetic declaration, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion.” [1]

Beauty for Ashes

When the normal run of life is interrupted and we move into unchartered waters and life seems so uncertain it can give birth to anxiety and fear as we lose control of those circumstances around us. But Jesus has promised us that He will never allow us to go it alone. He is our Rock and the One who sustains us through challenging times. His relentless tenderness like a cloak around us provides the beauty that I saw that day displayed on an old brick wall. “To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” [2]

John Langford

[1] Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV

[2] Isaiah 61:3 NIV