Life isn’t always beautiful is it?
Some days and seasons it seems like we look around us and find only images of pain and suffering, an ugly fallen world.
But I long for the beauty.
Whether I’m in the sweet upswing of prosperity or down in the trenches of suffering, I long for the beauty.
It’s easy to find the roses in life when life is all rosy and swell. But it’s not so easy to see them when you’re looking at the not so beautiful, but downright ugly outward circumstances causing you pain.
The lack of beauty is a problem. Isn’t it? You can feel it can’t you?
When we can’t see the beauty, our hearts and lives become as dark as our circumstances. Our souls grow downcast. We grow angry, bitter, resentful, jealous. We struggle to live out our days.
But here’s what I’ve learned:
God placed the longing for beauty within me to help me find Him.
Because He is beautiful. And He is good. And He is always there. Even in the ugly, messy, suffering, fallen world – He is all of those things. And He wants us to seek Him and find Him right where we are.
When we seek the Lord and find Him, we won’t fall down with the fallen world, we fall into His faithful arms, and He lifts our faces to His beautiful one.
Can I be bold enough to say that when life doesn’t seem beautiful, it is?
Because there is evidence of God all around us — even in the ugliest and darkest moments of our lives. And it’s in those moments that we need to seek God’s beauty and light most of all. That’s how He keeps us from falling and helps us live.
But here’s where we need to be real for a minute. This does not mean when evil or ugly exists in our lives that we have to see those things as beautiful and good. No my friend. That’s the enemy’s twisty lies trying to trip us up.
Our circumstances might not be beautiful, BUT GOD… But God is beautiful.
Our circumstances might not be good, BUT GOD… But God is good.
To find the beauty, and ultimately find God through the beauty, we have to pray for His perspective and guidance.
Years ago in a dark season, I read this quote and wrote it out with marker on a 3 x 5 index card and taped it to my fridge:
“Lord I need wisdom and vision to see my circumstances through Your perspective.” Renee Swope
We begin with this prayer and surrendered heart for His perspective.
When I go back to my darkest moments, where I longed to find the beauty in my life, I cringe at remembering the discomfort and struggle of desperately wanting to see the beauty in my life but being blinded by the pain in my circumstances.
I was falling into that trap — trying to see the ugly as beautiful.
My mind goes back to the woman’s words I shared in my prior post, “There is nothing beautiful about the death of my 5 year old.”
God slowly began to show me, partly through my reading of the bold, italicized prayer above, that there was evidence of His beauty all around in my life. Death and sickness were not beautiful, but sometimes there was beauty surrounding me in those times and sometimes it was sprinkled about.
But even then, in the darkness of my own loss, there was evidence of Him.
I had to shift my perspective to see the beauty and see God. I had to look past the pain, past what was “wrong,” and look for the beauty.
For me, I found, and still find, most beauty (and evidence of God’s presence in my life) in His creation.
This most easily shifts my perspective set on myself and my “world” view focused on my pain and problems and uplifts my gaze to Him and eternal things. It is one of the ways I can live out Colossians 3:2:
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”
It was in the midst of the dark days that left me sobbing in the shower or the floor of my closet lost in grief, I would later step out my front door and discover the most breathtaking sunset of golds, oranges, and pinks with touches of lavender shouting His name. A painting by God Himself that seemed to be a gift just for my swollen eyes. The beauty in the sunset would uplift my eyes and bring a smile to my heart and face, if just for a moment. It drew me to Him. (This is one of my recent favorites).
It was walking up my front steps of our rental home in Alabama and noticing the unexpected sight of a single, pink rose in full bloom on my first Mother’s Day without my child — with small water droplets hiding in the petals. What an image. Like tears of grief resting on such beauty. I felt like God made it bloom just for me. The perfect Mother’s Day gift for a bereaved mother. I heard God whisper, “This for you, my grieving daughter. I see how your heart misses your daughter. I see your tears. Do you see Me? You’re going to be okay.”
I noticed as I quieted and slowed down my heart to look for the beauty that I began to hear God’s voice more and more.
I found God speaking to me in the beauty.
When my soul weighed heavy within me, whether from grief years ago or other pains and trials, I would go walk or run if the weather allowed. I would spend time in His creation. And I would seek the beauty and hear His voice. His truth would quiet the lies troubling my heart, robbing me of gratitude and joy. He would shift my perspective.
Of course, some days, the weather is dark and cold, and it matches the emotions in our hearts and it begs us to give into our troubles, and stepping out to find the beauty in God’s creation proves to be difficult.
On those stormy, cold days, and even on some “sunny” ones, finding the beauty in my life was hard. I had to hunt for it. Because if I didn’t. I would focus on the pain, the problem, the hurt, and collapse backwards into the darkness.
I’ve recently, but slowly, adopted the term “beauty hunter” for myself.
That doesn’t have the best ring to it, especially to my ears because I do not hunt and in fact I harbor some strong emotions against hunting (just being honest), but the term seems to fit here so I’m going with it.
Some times it takes an awful lot of work to find the beauty around us. It requires more intention. It requires more action. It requires slowing down. It requires patience. And then it’s seeing that beauty and claiming it as mine. It’s like hunting (as I imagine anyway).
We can find beauty in any season, any circumstance, but it requires action on our parts.
We cannot sit idly by living passive lives, especially in the dark times, or we will never find the sweet in the bitter.
But we can emerge from the darkness and the hopelessness, by taking action.
We have to look up.
Search (hunt) for beauty, and find it.
Find beauty, and discover God’s presence.
Discover God’s presence, and listen to His voice speaking healing and uplifting truth.
Seek beauty, seek God, and cultivate gratitude.
Cultivate gratitude, and choose joy.
Take action. Look. Search. Hunt. Find. Discover. Listen. Seek. Cultivate. Choose.
I learned to find beauty in other ways besides stepping out into God’s creation and finding Him there.
It was through keeping a gratitude journal. Finding reasons to be thankful. And seeing the beauty in each of those things I was thankful for.
It was the home cooked meal delivered by a friend or neighbor. My littlest one reaching to hold my hand. Beautiful words spoken or read at the right moment. The warm smile of a stranger or friend. The taste of my favorite ice cream.
Years ago, before Instagram, it was through participating in a 365 photo challenge. I found beauty and photographed it daily in my life. For the creative in me, who has always loved images, this worked for me.
And today, I continue to hunt for beauty. When I find it, I capture it. Some times I record it in a journal, but most of the time I capture it with the camera on my iPhone. I take a photo and photo document the moments on Instagram. This also works for me. Helping transform my perspective by noticing and giving thanks for the beauty in my life.
However, beware the comparison trap in social media.
This wouldn’t always have worked for me. Years ago, fresh in my grief, I fell into the enemy’s traps with social media. Social media was painful. I consumed it and viewed it in the midst of my pain. I saw what others had that I didn’t. I grew jealous of the beauty and good they found in their lives.
God needed to speak to my heart to guard it from the traps the enemy was setting for me there.
I needed to be aware of the trap and let God speak truth over the lies. If we’re able to find beauty and God in our own lives, then we can come to a place of growth that allows us to appreciate the beauty in the lives of others. Not just long for their beauty and be jealous of it, but truly rejoice with them for the beauty they found.
Now I can celebrate the prosperity and beauty in the lives of others. Because I’m seeing it in my own life because God has been growing my confidence in Him and He has spoken truth over me.
When I’m seeking Him, finding Him, and confident in Him, I can enjoy the blessings of others that I see through social media. I can rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15a).
I find joy in documenting and sharing the beauty I find via Instagram. Instagram is my jam. It may not be yours and that’s okay, but it is mine.
I like to record the beauty I find in my life.
It helps remind me of and helps me remember the beauty. And forgetful me needs all the help I can get. I also want to share the beauty I find. I don’t want to keep it to myself. Just like I don’t want to keep the Good News to myself.
While the majority of images are the beauty I find in my life, I don’t share with a boastful or proud heart, but a transparent one that shares my struggles and heart in my captions. I want to be authentic and real. I never want to paint an inaccurate version of my life or put out a persona that seems to fake fine and act like everything is always beautiful all the time. Because so much is not fine (see the first part of this post).
For example, this past Easter weekend I shared an image that I found beauty in, one of the brightly colored Easter eggs that my boys and I dyed together (you can see the IG image with caption here). I took the picture and shared the image because I found beauty in those colorful eggs (and it would help me hold the warm memory of a fun time with my boys), but in the caption I shared about how my heart and my home are pretty ugly and unholy that day.
I also share beauty I find on my Instagram because it’s my hope that you or someone will be able to connect with me and find encouragement through the images and words I share, just like with what I share here.
We need connection. We need people and things that point our gazes to Him.
For me, finding and focusing on the beauty in the midst of the ugly helps ground me and give me perspective.
At the end of this month I’ll be in Italy celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband. (Yay! Yay! Yay!) This is another one of those dreams I quit allowing myself to dream years ago, but that God brought back to me this year. My heart overflows with gratitude for this opportunity to explore another part of the world, to find beauty in new places, and to celebrate and continue to invest in my marriage.
I have a feeling it won’t be so difficult to hunt for or find beauty in Italy. But I am aware that when we return home from our vacation, the hunt may be more challenging.
Something my friend said to me last summer comes to my mind here. Her and her husband went on a vacation to the Bahamas a few years ago and after they returned home and went back to the daily grind (of jobs, responsibilities, cooking, cleaning, crying babies, every day hassles, and so on), she was struggling through a bad mood one day. Her husband came home from work and asked her what was the matter, and she simply answered, “This just isn’t the Bahamas.”
Nothing was necessarily wrong, it just wasn’t the Bahamas.
Vacations are not our real world. And this reminds me that this world is not our home.
What’s wrong most days? “This just isn’t Heaven.”
This just isn’t how things were created to be. We all have this longing for Heaven built into us, we have this innate sense that this world is just not as it should be. And that challenges us.
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Do you sense that?
But here’s what God’s shown me. There is evidence of Him all over our fallen world, because our world is His creation, it is His handiwork, and He is present here.
The world might not be as it should be because of the fall and entrance of sin into the world and our lives. There might be bad and evil and ugly. But there’s still beauty. Because there’s still God.
Sometimes it’s more of a challenge to find, but it’s there if we choose to seek it, and even hunt for it at times.
When we search for beauty, we will find it. When we find beauty, we’ll find God’s presence.
The reward for finding the beauty is great and finding God in our lives surpasses great. It’s experiencing the pathway to an abundant life with Him (John 10:10).
Expect to find the beauty around you and find God in the beauty, even in the darkest of moments.
This post was long so here’s a handy little number list for finding beauty & God right were we are:
1. Pray for God to give us His eyes and His perspective to see our circumstances.
2. Understand that not everything is beautiful, but God is, and He leaves evidence of His beauty and presence all around like gifts scattered for us to find.
3. Actively seek to find the beauty in our lives (sometimes hunting for it).
4. When we seek and find the beauty in our lives, we will find God.
5. Seeking beauty and seeking the Lord can help us cultivate gratitude.
6. Cultivating gratitude, for the presence and goodness and beauty of the Lord in our lives, can help us choose joy in the midst of our circumstances.
7. Can I add an extra?? A sort of dare or challenge that I didn’t have time to get into this post? What about creating beauty or intentionally adding it to your own life?**
**Our ability and gifting to create, can create beauty in our lives and connect us with God. Can you create something beautiful? Maybe with your words? A poem? Can you create beauty with your hands? A painting? Constructing a piece of furniture? What if you’re not a creative type, what about creating beauty by purposefully adding what you find beautiful to your life? Find beauty in flowers? What about buying a fresh bouquet from the store every week? Can’t sing or play an instrument but find beauty in music? What about playing a song that you find beautiful to start your day? The ideas are endless.
What practical steps can you stake to find beauty in your life today? What action steps can you take to enjoy your life where you are?
Do you need hunt for beauty and hold yourself accountable by participating in a 30 or 365 day photo challenge?
Do you need to keep a gratitude journal, recording what you’re thankful for each day before you go to sleep?
Do you need to begin by keeping a consistent daily time in God’s Word and prayer to fill yourself with His truths and gain His perspective?
Do you need to start scheduling walks in your day or week to notice the beauty and spend time with God?
What else might this look like for you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave me a comment.