READ: Ezra 1-3

THINK: After only a few art lessons, 10-year-old Joel decided to try his hand at painting a flower. By looking at a color photograph of a Rose of Sharon, Joel was able to paint a beautiful mixture of blue, purple, red, green, and white. This made the flower, which had been photographed on the day Joel’s aunt died, seem to come to life. To the family, his painting symbolized a bittersweet mixture of feelings. While it provided a lasting reminder of the loss they had suffered, it also carried a celebration of Joel’s newly discovered artistic gift. The painting gave joy in the midst of grief.

When the people of Judah returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, they too had a bittersweet experience. As they began rebuilding Solomon’s temple, many in the crowd sang songs of praise. At the same time, some older people, who had seen the beauty of the original temple that had been destroyed by war, wept aloud. We are told that “the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping” (Ezra 3:13).

Grieving can be like that. While there is sadness in looking back, it also includes a promise of joy in trusting God for the future. Even in a devastating loss, we have this hope: The Lord provides joy in the midst of grief. Even in the bleakest times, Christians have the brightest hope.

PRAY: The holiday season can be rough – Thanksgiving through Christmas – when life isn’t the way we want it to be. Lift all of your cares and concerns to God today. Whatever they may be, give them to God and trust that he will give you hope.

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