Earlier this year, I began fitness walking in my neighborhood. Throughout the spring and summer, I’ve walked these same streets more than a hundred times. But over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing them differently. This morning, the weather was so chilly that my breath was visible. As I walked I looked down the tree-lined street. The sun brilliantly illuminated leaves of scarlet, chartreuse, amber, wine and bronze. The view was so lovely that I stopped to take pictures.
I recall a Bible study I attended several years ago. The speaker, addressing the story of the earth’s creation in Genesis 1, was showing stunning photos from her family’s recent travels that extended from the midwest to western United States. First, she pointed to a dazzling panoramic shot of the Grand Tetons and said, “What God did out there” (then, she pointed to her heart) “He can do in here.” As she continued through her talk on God’s creative handiwork, we saw her photos of the Badlands and Yellowstone National Park. “What God did out there,” she repeated several times, “He can do in here.”
This morning, as my feet crunched through leaves strewn about the sidewalk, I thought about the annual cycle of changes in nature. Every year, leaves’ true colors are revealed as changes in the autumn weather break down the chlorophyll. Leaves fall from the trees as new cells develop and sever the tissues supporting the leaves. Essentially, the leaves die. Yet God’s brilliant creativity is on display as He scatters vivid, splendid color over decay and destruction.
What God did out there, He can do in here. What God does in nature, He can do in my life.
…As a single adult, He drew me close to Him and comforted me when I was lonely, looking for a partner.
…As a wife, He taught me patience and brought peace when we despaired over our childless existence.
…As a severely depressed and anxious new mother, He gave me wisdom and courage to seek help so that I now can empathize with and serve others.
In the midst of our anguish, the Creator brings purpose. He takes our bleak, drab distress and adds dazzling shades and hues.
“To [his children who mourn],
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)
As we prepare for winter – taking inventory our boots, coats, and snow shovels – we also look ahead to the spring, knowing that life begins anew. Throughout our lives, we will encounter metaphorical winters. But I find inspiration in these things: The Bible begins with the story of God’s creation; it ends with a promise that Jesus will come and “make everything new.” In between, we see multiple examples of God’s ability to radically transform lives* and to bring beauty in the midst of suffering.** We also read of God’s promise to make us new and we receive encouragement to trust our Creator, who triumphs over circumstances.
The One who spoke the earth into existence can speak peace and joy into the withering leaves of our souls. What He did out there, He can do in here.
“All this pain –
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change at all?
All this earth –
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things.
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things.
You make beautiful things out of us.”
~Gungor, Beautiful Things
**The full story of Joseph can be found in Genesis chapters 37, 39-47 & 50. See also Paul’s testimony and Paul & Silas in jail. Throughout the Bible we see many other examples of God’s beauty and joy in difficult circumstances.