Where your soul will grow beautiful

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




Where your soul will grow beautiful

Where your soul will grow beautiful

Where your soul will grow beautiful

As women, we really don’t ask for much.

We’d just like to be healthy. Financially secure. Marry a great guy. See our children grow up into amazing adults. Be successful at work. Get stuff “right” along the way.

We want people to love us and respect us and treat us well.

Oh, and it would be great if we were beautiful to boot.

(Are you snickering yet?)

I think we’d all readily admit that our womanly list of wants is a wee bit comical—and real life looks a lot more like Les Miserables than Cinderella. It feels more like summiting Mt. Everest than taking a walk in the park.

Christina Rosetti poignantly expresses this reality in her poem Up-Hill:

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.
Sure footing for the heights

True, there are seasons when God will tuck us away into reprieve—to renew our strength for the up-hill climb. We rest our weary feet, He tends to our wounds, we eat and laugh and breathe deeply.

But we rest in order to climb again.

I’m so thankful for hiding places along the steep mountain path. But after such reprieves my Abba takes my hand and leads me back out onto the precipice. The Old Me looks at the heights and the cost and wants none of it. “Don’t make me walk this, Lord,” I desperately whisper. I want to run back to that safe resting place. But the New Me says, “If this is where You are going, that’s where I want to go too.”

Because a resting place without Him is no rest at all.

So I ask Him for His peace and joy—the sure footing I need for new rocky heights. My heart “pours out like water in the presence of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19).

And as I seek Him, I find Him. He is there with me.

The hardest thing

Lilias Trotter once wrote,

“Take the very hardest thing in your life—the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot.  Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”

What is the very hardest thing in your life right now, dear one? 

What are the circumstances that make your life feel “up-hill all the way”? 

That is right where you will go deeper with Jesus. That is where the unsaved will be compelled by your great God. That is where your soul will grow beautiful.

But here’s our common problem—the thing that keeps us from those up-hill blessings: We expect life to give us a break at some point. We expend energy asking, “Why me?!” We act shocked when the pressures and the sorrows don’t let up. Despite the apostle Peter’s admonition to not be surprised by “the fiery trial” at hand, we continue to be. Again and again.

What do we expect?

I recently read Natasha Vins’ captivating autobiography, Children of the Storm. It is the story of the multigenerational persecution of Christians in Soviet Russia—specifically of Natasha’s own family. For their belief in Jesus and for preaching the gospel in a communist land,

Grandfather Peter was shot to death in prison;

Grandmother Lydia was imprisoned and almost died;

Peter and Lydia’s only son Georgi was persecuted and imprisoned;

Georgi’s children were publicly ridiculed, beaten, ostracized, and eventually excommunicated.

For Soviet believers, persecution was a rite of faith, a way of life, and no one expected anything less.

They were not surprised by their fiery trials.

They didn’t squirm under the weight of Matthew 10:39 as I so often have:

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”



Open your white-knuckled hands.

To those of us who choose to follow Messiah, we are promised nothing less than daily death. He took up His cross, and tells us to do the same.

But the way of the cross is the way to life.

Let’s be honest: this life can be tough-as-nails, but we have been rescued from the worst fate imaginable: forever death. God loves us and is with us, so each step up-hill brings more life—a growing capacity for joy, peace, hope, endurance, courage, and love.

As Paul put it:

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Name your hardest thing today, dear one, and then watch for God to show up in it. This climb is worth it—the next scary, uncertain step is worth it—for

You make known to me the path of life;
    in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


P.S. – Do you have a safe, life-giving friend to whom you can confide your “hardest thing”? Ask them to help you look for Jesus in it. Traveling the heights alone is no good. We experience the presence of God in greater ways when we are with His people!

Scriptures referenced: 1 Peter 4:12; Romans 5:3-5; Psalm 18:33; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Psalm 16:11