“… To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3, KJV21).
I read once that “praise magnifies God” while “despair magnifies evil.”
In Isaiah 61, we find an encouragement to exchange a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
I struggle with discouragement. I know it’s a dark place and it can consume my emotions – bringing me to frustration and impatience. I can feel it coming on me, like a blanket over my head.
As a pastor, talking to many through the years who suffer from discouragement, I’ve heard a similar refrain, “It’s like a blanket that covers me.”
Isaiah says to get rid of heaviness and exchange it for a garment of praise.
It’s an act of the will with me. I determine to rejoice, be thankful, and praise even when I don’t feel like it. It’s the only way that I can get rid of frustration and despair in my life.
Often during my dark place, I have a thankful thought, praise the majesty of God, or just hear a song – and the heaviness disappears.
Why does this happen? Emotions are ephemeral – coming and going. But when we pay attention to them, they hang around while getting darker and darker.
One time, after a bike ride, I changed my cycling clothes and placed them on the back floor of my car, forgetting about them, and went to the airport to pick up a guest speaker for the next weekend at our church.
When we got back in the car… the entire car was stinky… think sweaty, not taking a bath for two weeks, and add a tincture of skunk. That’s the smell that greeted the guest speaker as he got into my car.
The smell magnified in a very short time.
I explained about the cycling clothes, apologized, but not having a plastic bag to put them in, suggested that he just roll down the window. (Cycling clothes are expensive, no way was I going to throw them away!)
Isaiah writes that every time we praise instead of complaining or entertaining fear, joy becomes the seed from which trees of righteousness grow.
How do we learn to praise?
Seeds are the best illustration. Our brains fortify what we focus upon. If we determine to praise or put on the garment of praise – the spirit of heaviness diminishes.
This praise eventually becomes a large tree that shelters us from heaviness.
Replacing heaviness with joy is a struggle. It is often one seed at a time. Fortunately, we have hope – as all of us, no matter our despair – can begin adding seeds, even small seeds, one at a time…
…to our emotional health!
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God. For He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10, KJV21).