Words of Hope: Garment of Praise

Sorrow can feel like a heavy shroud. I sometimes feel suffocated by it if I allow my mind to think of no more time with Dad, no more calls, no more chats by the fire, or surprise trips. I have been meditating on the phrase, “The Lord gives, and Lord takes away, blessed be the Lord.” I am very blessed. I am blessed to have had such an incredibly loving dad. I know it is rare for many people. I am blessed to have had many years together. I think of my dear friend who lost both her mom and dad at a young age. They died a few weeks apart. I think of her sorrow and pray for comfort. I think of my dear friend who lost her fiancé before their wedding and my dear friend who lost a child. Grief can feel stifling. One of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen, wrote, “Joy is life-giving, but sadness brings death. A sad heart is a heart in which something is dying. A joyful heart is a heart in which something new is reborn.” I picture sadness like a thick garment, heavy and oppressive.

I know that my dad would not want me to live under the garment of despair. I know that my friend’s fiancé and my other friend’s parents would not want them to be incapacitated by grief. Isaiah writes, “For God has given you the garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.” I love the image of God removing the garment of despair from around my shoulders and instead giving to me the garment of praise. I cannot accept the garment unless I choose to allow God to clothe me. I choose joy in obedience; I extend my hand in hope and confidence that the garment of praise will come as a gift. Joy is not a mood; it is not a flippant disregard of suffering. Joy is a space to allow the God of all comfort to clothe me in a garment of praise so that as I say thank you to the Lord–a space where my heart becomes the soil for God’s new work to grow.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on 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 comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—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.” “For God has given you the garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

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