Two Sundays ago at GCR, we gave our pains and sufferings to God. It was a congregational exercise halfway through our “Everything New” sermon series from the book of Ruth. We wrote down the names of the people and things we’ve lost. We wrote down the trials and the heartaches. All the junk, all the stuff that’s cluttering up our hearts and souls. Things that have happened to us. Things we’ve done. The burdens that keep us awake at night and hang over us all day. We wrote it all down on note cards, sealed it up in envelopes, and walked down to the front and gave it to God.

The next morning, all our ministers and church staff prayed over those envelopes. And then we really gave them all to God. We put all those sealed envelopes into the fire. One at a time. It took a while. One by one. All the pain and suffering. All the loss. All the burdens. We gave it to our God–a literal burnt offering. All the stuff our people are dealing with right now. All the pain of their current circumstances. All the suffering they’ve been forced to endure. We gave it to the Lord.

The loneliness. Sickness. Depression. Tough situations. We prayed as the envelopes were literally lifted up to God.

Father, we release our pain and our loss to you. We won’t let these things define us or paralyze us or keep us from what you want to do in our lives. We release the pain and the loss of our situations to you. Take these, Father, and use them to move us into your “everything new,”

Later that afternoon, we collected the ashes from the fire. Then our sister in Christ, Cassie Bundy took them. And did something beautiful and new.

When we give our circumstances to the Lord, when we give him our sorrows and pain and suffering, they don’t always go away. Most of the time, they become a part of who you are. They don’t just disappear. But it’s in those things and through those things that God creates something new. He doesn’t destroy it; he walks in it and through it with you.

Our God walks through your darkness to bring forth his light, he walks through death to give us life, he walks in the pain and the tears to bring you fullness and joy. He works in the soil and ashes of your circumstances to do something beautiful and eternal and new.

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you!” Ruth 4:14