Seven years ago, a dear friend of ours, Marius, showed up at our doorstep. His wife had just given him the heart-wrenching news that she was filing for divorce with no possibility of reconciliation. He couldn’t speak for the sobbing. He was crushed, guilt-ridden, and truly a broken man. Marius had been a good husband – a faithful husband – but anyone who has been through divorce knows there are always questions that haunt you as to whether or not you could have done anything differently to change the outcome.

His tears and utter despair I understood all too well. I had been there — not knowing what tomorrow held and not really caring, to be honest. Being on the receiving end of that kind of news leaves you with an indescribable sickening pit in your stomach that nothing seems to ease.

Marius was already a part of our LifeGroup, but we also introduced him to Jim Harbin, a Christian therapist who is a dear friend of ours and who led another Bible study we were attending at the time. God has used Jim in countless ways to bring healing to people, marriages and families over the years, and Marius was no exception. Jim not only led our study, but he truly befriended Marius, taking him fishing and spending countless hours pouring God’s wisdom into Marius’ heart and mind. They remain great friends to this day.

The LifeGroup also surrounded Marius with love, support, and especially prayer. We had the privilege of seeing God work in his heart and life as He moved him through the pain. Not around it or above it, but through it. Soon Marius began to sense a calling on his life and he set aside time to seek God’s face and direction. He laid down his broken heart, his pride, all his desires and asked God to do with him whatever He chose to do.

Today, seven years later, we sat across from a different man. A healed man — spiritually and emotionally. Marius beamed from ear to ear as he shared about the amazing ministry, Cargo of Dreams, that God has entrusted to him. Brian and I were excited to hear about the many ways God is growing His ministry through Marius and his great staff/volunteers. We were also thrilled to hear that he and his fiancee, Jeanne, are getting married next month! We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her yet, but we understand she has an incredible heart for ministry and it was obvious from the joy that lit up his face that God is joining him with a woman who loves them both will all her heart.

As I drove home from our lunch with Marius, I thought of an old song I used to play over and over as a new believer, “Beauty for Ashes”, by Crystal Lewis. I’ve rarely listened to this song without tears streaming down my face, drenched in gratitude. Check out the lyrics:

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When sorrow seems to surround you
When suffering hangs heavy over your head
Know that tomorrow
brings wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When what you’ve done keeps you from moving on
When fear wants to make itself at home in your heart
Know that forgiveness brings
wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

I once was lost
but God has found me
Though I was bound
I’ve been set free
I’ve been made righteous in His sight
A display of His splendor all can see

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

Oh, the healing power of our mighty God! Only God can take a broken person, going through the most painful and gut-wrenching time in their lives, and bring forth beauty in His time… beauty from ashes. One of Jim Harbin’s favorite sayings goes something like this — everyone enjoys the experience of standing on the mountain peaks, but fruit grows only in the valleys.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11
Tiny House on the Hill

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