Beauty for Ashes – How God Made Our Burning Van Beautiful

Life is full of surprises. Last weekend, our surprise was our van burning to a charred shell on the side of the road while we watched. It looked like loss. Like a tragedy. But it wasn’t.

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I just have to tell you what God has done. He already showed us such grace and goodness even while I stood there with my arms around my young children. If you missed that, you can read the story of what happened here: Lessons from a Burning Van

Over the past week, however, our family has seen the love of God in tangible ways that I have to give Him glory for. For starters, the day after the van burned, our church took up an offering for us to help us replace it. Other friends and family sent money to help. Even strangers we’d never met gave. All of this from God’s people. We are grateful and awed and humbled by every single gift. We do not deserve them. But what a beautiful testimony for our kids to see (and us!). Thanks to God’s people, we would be able to get a better vehicle than the one lost, a more reliable one (i.e. shouldn’t burst into flames on the side of the road!), and one we wouldn’t have been able to afford in the first place. Only God!

And then it got even better.

One of my biggest prayers through all of this was for my husband, Brian, who had spent weeks looking on Craigslist and doing research on vans and trying to find this great deal for our family. He dreaded starting that all over again. I prayed God would show Brian He didn’t leave him stranded on the side of the road.

God did exceedingly abundantly above all I could ask or think.

The day after the van burned, a van showed up for sale on the side of the road less than a mile from our house. It wasn’t from around here, but a man bought it and brought it back to re-sale it. It is the make Brian would have chosen had he had his pick. More reliable and better quality. It had less miles. It had the special seating we had hoped for to help on trips with my knee and hip pain. It even had lumbar support for Brian’s back while he’s driving.

When the seller found out about our situation, he offered the van to Brian for several hundred dollars less than he had quoted to other people who were interested. We prayed and considered, and decided to get it. As Brian was at the man’s house signing the papers, another guy called and said he wanted it. When the man said he sold it, the other guy got angry and offered over $500 more than we paid if he would sell it to him. But that van was ours from God.

Brian brought it home and when I saw it in the driveway, I thought, We look like rich people!

And we are. In so many ways. We will be driving around in tangible treasure in heaven. When I see that van, I’m going to remember how God loves and provides for us, how God’s people love and give when there’s a need, and how God protects us even when we don’t know we need protecting.

I’m not saying that God keeps all bad things from happening. I live with daily pain and disease, so I certainly know that. God comforts and helps us through the terrible times, but this time, for us, He saw our need and sent a solution in less than a week in ways we never could have imagined. We are so blessed. Our children (and we too) will never forget the sight of that van with fire billowing out it, but when we remember, we will remember what God did for us.

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And all week since, God has reminded me over and over again that I need to deal with my fear. I am a fearful person. I worry about my children, about my symptoms, about the future, and about the money. This week has been a huge lesson to me on every one of those:

  1. Only God can protect my children. I can’t prevent every bad thing from happening to them. I need to put them in God’s hands and trust my Father, who loves them even more than I do.
  2. God knows the needs of my body. Even as the van burned, with my pill case and medication in it, I had taken extra meds earlier and would not need any more until after we got down the mountain.
  3. God can be trusted with the future. None of us know how long our lives will be. Worrying certainly doesn’t change that, but it does make the time we have miserable instead of joyful. I’d much rather live my life well, with joy and peace and hope, than living it in fear and worry, which doesn’t fix anything anyway. I want my funeral to be a celebration, not a “poor girl, well, she can finally stop worrying now.”
  4. God has all the riches in heaven and earth. He just gave us a bunch of it! If God can shower down money at a time like this, then if we don’t have money at other times, there’s a reason for it. Likely, it is for us to trust Him with what we need, to ask for it from Him, and then wait in peace until He provides.

To every single person who has given to us this week, words are not sufficient, but I say thank you with all my heart. You did so much more than give money. You gave us a lifelong, beautiful lesson on the goodness and love of God’s people. You were Jesus in action, and we ask God to reward you to overflowing out of His riches in Christ Jesus.

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My Bible reading soon after the fire just “happened” to be in Ephesians. Here’s what I read:

that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:15-19

To know the love of Christ, past knowledge, is what we experienced this week. We don’t just mentally know the love of Christ; we have some of it sitting in our driveway now!

The end of that passage sums up everything I wanted to say:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

To God be the glory, and to Him, and you, we give thanks. God gave us beauty for ashes, literally (Isaiah 61:3). He has done great things, for which we are glad (Psalm 126:3).

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