Gladness and joy will overtake them; sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35: 10
Flannel flowers are my favourite Australian flower. The celebrity gardener, Don Burke, calls them ‘the disaster flower’ because they thrive in harsh conditions, poor soil, and particularly in areas affected by bush fires.
I remember seeing a flannel flower for the first time when I was bushwalking near my home. It was more beautiful than I had imagined one would be. It was dainty and small and yet so bright and strong. Not long after that, the area was back burned; everything was black and charred. It was a bit depressing so I stopped walking down that track for a while. A few months later, at the beginning of spring, I decided to go back. What a huge surprise I received. A few metres down the track where previously it had been blackened by the fire, there were masses of white flannel flowers on both sides of the track. I couldn’t count them all. It was a glimpse of heaven.
Isaiah 35 is one of the most beautiful poems in scripture and as I read it I think of flannel flowers. They remind me of the wilderness in Isaiah 35 bursting into bloom and rejoicing, shouting for joy.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the despair in our world. Not one of us is exempt from pain, suffering or grief. In Isaiah 35 we see God’s response to a broken world. We see that God’s power extends beyond the darkest and bleakest of situations. He can bring about life, goodness and hope where there is none. He can transform a desert into an oasis. He can cause flowers to bloom in the parched wilderness. He can heal the sick. He can bring home the exiles. He can transform a human heart. He is the expert in renewal, restoration and reversal.
I think of Jesus’ friends who felt so devastated when he died. Their hopes were dashed, they were grief stricken and fearful. But God miraculously turned the situation around with the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection. We can see how Jesus’ resurrection is a powerful continuation of the theme of Isaiah 35.
Thank you Father for the hope we find in Isaiah 35 and in the resurrection of Jesus. Thank you for flannel flowers and what they confirm to us about your work of redemption and renewal. Thank you that no situation is too hard for you. Help us by your Spirit not to be disheartened by the brokenness of this world but to trust in you. Amen.