A few years ago Bob and I went to see the "Butterflies are Blooming" exhibit at Meijer Gardens, but unfortunately it turned out to be a big disappointment (at least as far as butterflies were concerned.) Since our visit took place in late April we were only able to see the butterfly (singular), so this year we thought maybe if we made our visit earlier we'd have a better chance of seeing butterflies (plural). Bob had a dentist appointment in that area this past Thursday, so we decided to swing by and see if we fared any better.
This time, we were not disappointed. The butterflies were in full bloom and could be spotted in all shapes, sizes and stages of life. One that particularly caught my attention was in the process of exiting its cocoon.
The topic of struggles had come up during Bible study that morning, and here was an example of struggling right before my eyes.
It brought to mind a story I read a while back about a man who thought he'd help a struggling butterfly out by clipping off the remainder of its cocoon.
But it really didn't help.
Yes, the butterfly was free, but its abdomen was swollen and its wings were shriveled. Without the struggle to get out of the cocoon, the fluid from its body was never pushed into its wings. In its distorted state, the butterfly was never able to fly. The man's intention was to help, but in reality he hindered.
If butterflies struggle for a reason, then surely there's a reason for the struggles we experience. Here are some I came up with:
Struggles develop perseverance.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." ~ James 1:2-4
Struggles perfect our faith.
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said." Acts 14:22
Struggles prepare us for battle with the enemy.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” ~ Luke 22:31-32
Struggles deepen our trust in God.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." ~ Philippians 4:6
Struggles draw us into a closer and deeper relationship with God.
"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." Job 36:15
Struggles remind us it is God who is in control.
“all things were created by him and for him.” ~ Colossians 1:16
Struggles give us the opportunity to experience victory!
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." ~ Romans 8:37
Struggles come in all shapes and sizes. This quote from Oswald Chambers spoke to the struggles I'm facing today.
“God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. EVERY God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision.
~ My Utmost for His Highest Oswald Chambers, 6 July
Lord, You know that given the choice, I'd skip the struggles every single time. Thank you for not allowing me to have my own way and take the easy way out. Because of the difficulties I've faced I've grown closer to you and come to trust you more, and I wouldn't trade that for anything! As I stand in uncertainty, help me remember that You know the way; my job is just to trust and follow You.