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Some of us make repentance too easy, and others make it too hard. These people should read President Spencer W. And while forgiveness is a miracle, it is not won without penitent and strenuous effort. At the other extreme are those who feel that repentance asks more than they can possibly give.

Man's Total Depravity

Many of them believe they are fully responsible to compensate for their own sins. To be sure, repentance requires that transgressors make full restitution to the limit of their ability. But there are times when we cannot fully compensate. It is simply impossible to return stolen virtue the way one might return a stolen car. Because we lack the power to compensate fully for the effects of our transgressions, we are utterly dependent on Christ for ultimate restitution, no matter how earnest our repentance.

First, consider the concept of tasting the bitter in order to prize the good. While their choice violated the command against partaking of the fruit, that same choice was necessary to enable their obedience to the command to have children.

Thus, when the Atonement was first applied to any human act, it compensated for the harmful consequences of a choice that was more like a close judgment call than it was a true sin. Like Adam and Eve, we make many judgment-call choices that inflict pain or trouble upon others and upon ourselves.

Some of our judgments may be wise, but some are not so wise. Think of accidents caused by carelessness, such as dozing at the wheel. They can have devastating effects, as tragic as deliberate violence. Think of unkind words and forgotten promises among family members. Such incidents can lead to ugly consequences, but not all of them are the result of conscious sin. By confronting the sad or happy consequences of our choices, we can learn through our own experience, as they did, to distinguish the bitter from the sweet.

A young piano student once became very discouraged by her mistakes. Each time she learned a piece, her teacher assigned a new and more difficult piece, and the student would begin playing wrong notes all over again. Then her teacher explained that nobody ever learned to play the piano without making many, many mistakes.

The successful students are those who learn from their mistakes. We can learn to love, for example, by responding to the sour sounds of wrong notes that jangle in our emotional ears when we thoughtlessly hurt someone close to us. Life is a school, a place for us to learn and grow. These experiences may include sin, but they also include mistakes, disappointments, and the undeserved pain of adversity. The blessed news of the gospel is that the atonement of Jesus Christ can purify all the uncleanness and sweeten all the bitterness we taste.

We might think of the degree of our personal fault for the bad things that happen in our lives as a continuum ranging from sin to adversity, with the degree of our fault dropping from high at one end of the spectrum to zero at the other. The bitterness of adversity may come to us, as it did to Job in the Old Testament, regardless of our actual, conscious fault. Along this fault-level continuum, between the poles of sin and adversity, lie such intermediate points as unwise choices and hasty judgments. In these cases, it may be unclear just how much personal fault we bear for the bitter fruits we may taste or cause others to taste.

Bitterness may taste the same, whatever its source, and it can destroy our peace, break our hearts, and separate us from God. Could it be that the atonement of Jesus Christ could put back together the broken parts and give beauty to the ashes of experience such as this? I believe that it does, because tasting the bitter in all its forms is a deliberate part of the great plan of life.

Beauty from Ashes: Readings for times of loss

The Atonement can heal the effects of tasting all of this bitterness. This healing power cleanses our spirits, upon condition of repentance, when our souls are soiled with sin. I once had a sad and tender conversation with a stalwart priesthood leader who felt totally responsible for the rebellion of his wayward son. I cannot too enthusiastically recommend this book. It is an enriching consideration of a womans relentless love for her Saviour, her Bible, her friends, and most uniquely, her love for lost, suffering and desperate sinners to whom she gave her life.

Such devotion as hers seems so distant. Reading this brief history will confront and help to close that distance. Example fallback content : This browser does not support PDFs. Please use a different, updated web browser to use wtsbooks. Add to Wishlist. Please Wait Add To Lists. View All. As we shared our testimonies, some wept at the goodness of God made known in our lives and stories.

One woman said it was comforting to know that she wasn't alone, and that her mindset that bad things only happen to her and people in Romania shifted. The night was a hit with the intimate group we had and we made the best with what we were provided. I was filled up afterwards and the glow from the joy these women experienced was evident with our unplanned dance party afterwards.

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I got a better understanding of how uniquely and fearfully made we are, every single one of us. How relational we can be in asking for the love of our God. Probably one of the most rewarding things I heard after the retreat was when one young woman reached out to one of our facilitators and asked her to coffee. There, she shared that she suffered a similar traumatic experience in her life as our leader, but she never told anyone about it until the retreat. For the first time, she was seeking advice and counsel because she was ready for healing.

Now I know when I go through hard times, I am not alone. I now know that together we can defeat more evil. One of the women ended up breaking down about a memory that the Lord brought to her attention about someone she had to forgive. It was very cool to see how the Lord was able to bring about that much needed spiritual intervention to a woman who was not aware. I declare freedom from the bondage of control and I give it to the Lord. For I know His plans for me are far greater than what I could ever make up in my mind. The women were able to share their stories and what the Lord spoke to them was bold and beautiful.

One moment in particular stands out where we got done with an activity and asked if anyone felt led to share. It never fails that the women open up. It is as if they are just waiting for someone to ask for these stories that are fighting to get out. I thought I was the only one with a lot of needs and passing through a lot of problems, but I have come to realize that everyone has problems, so I am not alone.

My heart was finally released from all the baggage I was carrying. God has made me a new creature and I am not going back to Maai Maihu the same. When I had the opportunity to share, I chose to be vulnerable. I shared everything. My faults, indiscretions, and personal struggles that became an integral part of my story. We found common ground in our experiences because while the details were different, our stories were the same. I went with a simple desire - for God to help me understand the people I would speak to. I had no idea that in doing so, God would not only use me in changing their lives, but God would also use them to change mine.

I've struggled with depression for so many years now, and through it all, through my darkest times, the Lord has always been with me. He kept reminding me that He would never let me go, that His promises were true and are still true today. He is with me, I shall not wander. One girl shared a lie [the enemy had spoken over her], that she felt like she was nothing. She was abused and thought she was here on accident. But when she found Jesus, she found purpose. Her truth from God she decided to declare was that she is important and loved. Even though it sounds generic, by opening up and sharing a few of our stories it created a space for our new friends to just open up and be real because they knew we cared for them and their stories and were ready to listen.

Beauty for Ashes |

But of course this was the Lord working in our event, not us! My teammates' stories touched two of the girls deeply and they ended up sharing with us what they are currently struggling with completely unprompted, and we were able to pray over, hug, and encourage them. It was such a blessing and honor to pray with this amazing sister to be welcomed into the Kingdom. I saw a lot of seeds planted in the hearts of the women. These faces.

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These hearts. The Lord has forever marked them in my soul. The Lord refreshed us through the sweet, rich community we shared with each other. He brought me closer to Him through the meaningful conversations I shared with my friends. We prepared diamonds cut out from paper and colored to give to each woman at the end of the event as a reminder that the Lord is the One who determines their value and worth Each of the women went around sharing the pictures the Lord gave them to draw, and the last woman had drawn a diamond, without even knowing that we were going to hand them out to the women.

It was such a beautiful confirmation to her from the Lord of her value in Him.

I am still in awe of the great work the Lord started in the lives of these women. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.

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