Beauty and Tragedy

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:13-14

When writing and publishing this post, I am on a family vacation in Hawaii. It is my first time on this island, and it is beautiful! From sunsets over the ocean, to whale watching, to rainbows and warm weather, to a Luau near the ocean, to pictures of colorful fish captured while some snorkeled, to a hike down a volcano, there is much beauty to behold. Here was one of the first pictures taken once we arrived at our rental home.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that my last two Facebook posts before this trip were a stark contrast compared to the beauty here in Hawaii. Before coming to Hawaii, I had posted about a tragic fire that destroyed nine teachers’ homes at one of the school locations the non-profit I lead helps in Uganda. Below is a picture showing some of the huts on fire due to the combination of drought and strong winds. Praise God that he provided enough resources through generous people to rebuild these nine huts immediately, though more permanent teacher homes are needed.

Before this post, I had re-shared a memory from Ukraine when we spent some time in the war-zone of East Ukraine several years ago. Ukraine is all over the news again due to tension and the threat of Russia invading. ServeNow’s work in Ukraine began though in 2014 because of Russia invading and taking Crimea. Our leaders, staff, and volunteers are mainly from Crimea and resettled elsewhere when Russia took over this long-disputed area. We serve many internally displaced families from the war-zone and vulnerable people in the war-zone still in East Ukraine. Our team diligently and compassionately helps those most in need, from pulling kids out of the conflict zone for summer camps to Christmas gifts to skill and business training. And yes, plans are to provide immediate and emergency aid should Russia attack further. You can read more here from an article we posted at ServeNow (The Looming Threat of Russia Invading Ukraine).

I share these two situations from Uganda and Ukraine (two otherwise beautiful countries and people!) because the content of those posts presents a shocking difference compared to the beauty and peace I am experiencing in Hawaii. Even after this trip, I will be with persecuted believers in an African country and then to Ethiopia, suffering from civil war and other problems. These are all reminders the world is both beautiful and broken. It is both stunning and tragic. There are places of beauty to behold and tragedy we can’t ignore.

One of the books I’ve been reading on vacation is called The Beauty of a Darker Soul. It is a book written by a former soldier who fought and was even shot in the Middle East. He writes about his journey with Post Traumatic Stress. I thought the book’s title captures the reality not only in each of our lives but our world. Both beautiful and dark. In the beauty of this world, we see God’s goodness. In the darkness of this world, we hold onto hope in God’s faithfulness and promise to make all things new again. Beauty restores our souls and hope. Darkness reminds us that the world is not as it should be. Both beauty and darkness ultimately point us to God and his promises, albeit in different ways.

On our first morning in Hawaii, we saw a rainbow right out over our balcony view. A reminder of God’s promises and faithfulness. A reminder that all that is good comes from God, and all that will be good again will be because He is a God who restores that which is broke. For now, we must face tragedy with hope and allow beauty to renew our hope. bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. -Isaiah 61:3-4

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