After the death of our child our world has been completely shattered and we desperately need strength and stability. In our heads, we know that comes from God, but in our hearts many of His promises can now seem very distant.
Isaiah 61:3 is a familiar verse to many of us, which tells us that God will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But did you know there is more to the verse?
It goes on to say, “… that they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (ESV)
I broke this verse down into four parts on a recent episode of the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast, on how I see this applying to us as pareavors.
- Being called oaks
- Of righteousness
- Being planted by the Lord
- God being glorified (and our struggles with that within child loss)
I am just going to share my thoughts on one of those here, which is the first one; how we will be called oaks of righteousness. Some versions simply say trees, but it is not just any tree. So, why an oak tree? Let’s look at some of its characteristics.
- It starts with such a small beginning, a tiny acorn, but it grows to become one of the largest and strongest trees.
- The growth of an oak tree is very gradual. It can be so slow that you don’t notice it year-to-year. Then suddenly you realize how big it has gotten and how much it has grown.
- Oak trees go through seasons. In the spring they bud with new growth; in the summer they are full of green leaves; autumn causes the leaves to change color, eventually falling to the ground and leaving a dead-looking tree through the winter.
- It endures storms, great winds, ice and snow. It also absorbs the sun and the rain. All of this is needed to bring an oak tree to its place of full maturity.
This is an amazing picture of us. We truly can go from our place of deep grief, despondency, despair, hopelessness, and even feeling like we have died ourselves, to being like a fully mature tree, producing fruit.
It starts out so small, and that little acorn has to be buried in the ground. Breaking out of the shell and popping to the surface takes so long that we think it has died. We think we have died along with our child, and they just forgot to bury us. Plus, it can take so long to feel joy and meaning again that it confirms the darkness of our thoughts that we will never get back out into light and life again.
The growth can be so slow that we don’t think anything is even happening.
Even though there is no apparent life in us, we are just dormant for our season of deep grief.
You and I eventually become stronger through the storms, as we continue to soak up any nourishment provided. In that place of maturity, an oak tree buds and blossoms, producing fruit, and so will we, even becoming a place where others can come to for shelter.
Here is something interesting about oak trees that I did not share in the podcast episode. You can find oak trees around the globe growing in all kinds of different soil types, rainfall levels, temperatures, and elevations.
That tells me that no matter the situation of our child’s death (including losing more than one child or your only child, through murder, drug overdose or suicide, a long illness, or completely unexpected) we can get to a place of growing and flourishing again. We can still have a life of meaning and purpose, not in spite of our child’s death, but because of his or her life.
As I said, I shared some personal insights on all four parts of this section of scripture. If you would like to know the rest, listen to episode 184 of the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast on the GPS Hope website, or find it on your favorite listening app. You can also listen on the GPS Hope YouTube channel here.
If you would like to hear what I shared about the beginning of Isaiah 61:3 just click the links below.
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Expressions of Hope is provided by Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). The founders, Dave and Laura Diehl, travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, and bringing intimate weekend retreats to bereaved parents. Laura is also a singer/songwriter and the author of multiple award-winning books.
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