Did you know that if you help a butterfly out of its chrysalis, it will probably not be able to fly and might die? There’s something in the process of breaking out of the chrysalis that exercises and strengthens wings and gets fluids where they need to be.
Similarly, a baby chick pecks its own way out of a shell. It can sometimes be aided if it’s stuck, but it’s risky. A baby joey climbs from its mother’s uterus to her pouch even though it can’t see yet.
Even a human baby’s struggle to crawl and then walk comes about with many fits and starts until he or she develops the strength to progress.
I’m not sure why so much of life involves struggle. Maybe struggle is one result of the fall of man into sin in Genesis 3. But God uses struggle in our lives for good.
Yet, we don’t like struggle. We do everything to escape it if we can. Labor-saving devices created more time but took the natural exercise out of our lives. I’m not ready to go back to toting my water from a creek or beating my laundry with rocks. But I’d probably be more fit if I did.
Trials act in the same way spiritually. We try to reduce them or get out of them as soon as possible. But if we don’t exercise our faith, it won’t grow strong.
Not only that, but 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. (Romans 5:3-5)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Just like any other struggle, our “faith muscles” may grow weary. But God has promised to be with us, strengthen us, and help us. And people see that the grace and strength to endure come not from us, but from God.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Trials test the genuineness of our faith plus result in praise to God.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
God watches over our trials in love. He won’t let them last any longer than necessary.
Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:32-33)
Meanwhile, just as Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” so we keep our eyes on the future ahead of us.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
A man in one of our former churches had an awful disease called Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome which caused multiple tumors to grow throughout his body. He said once that he could endure it if he knew God had a purpose in it.
Our suffering and trials may be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial, or something else. It’s normal and acceptable to pray for quick relief. We may not know all the reasons why God allows our particular suffering. But we know He is using it in our lives and that of others. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says sorrow teaches our hearts things that could not be learned by feasting and laughter. God is producing something in us that wouldn’t come about any other way. Without those trials, we might end up as weak and helpless as a flightless butterfly.
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Thank you for this lovely, helpful and inspiring post! Have a great week.
Oh, how I love those verses from Romans (you might expect that from a runner!) I love the thought of struggles strengthening our “faith muscles”. Just like physical struggles strengthen our flesh and blood muscles. Wonderful analogy! Sorrow does open our eyes and gives us more empathy for others, something that is sorely needed in this world. God is with us in our struggles.
Thank you, Laurie. I tend to want to get out from under a struggle as quickly as possible. But I have to remind myself that God is doing something through the struggle itself besides answering prayer for deliverance.
I love that about the guy feeling that he could endure as long as there was purpose in his suffering. And you’re so right about our “faith muscle” seeming to need exercise — more often than we would like. Thank you for these encouraging thoughts for the new week!
Thanks, Susan. I’m afraid I don’t love exercise–physically or spiritually. But I know both are profitable.
This pairs nicely with James 1:2-3, which I read this morning. Who would have ever thought we should rejoice when trouble comes? It’s not easy, but it is the outpouring of faith.
That’s one of the hardest things. I can rest in the fact that God uses everything He allows in our lives. But to actually rejoice in the midst of trouble and pain–that takes grace I need from Him.
I love this scripture: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” – I wish I weren’t so hard-headed or hard-hearted I couldn’t just see I need Jesus – and just love Him without needing the challenges to make room for growth!
There’s a song on my playlist that asks God to do “whatever it takes” to make us more like Him. I often stop there are pray, “Well, yes, but I hope it won’t take anything really hard.” 🙂
what a needed reminder. life is so hard, even when things are “good”, but wow, how tough it can be in the trials. thank you for the reminder of how faithful He is to use all things for the good of those who love Him. He is so faithful.
Knowing His faithfulness and love for us helps us through what He allows.
Yes, His strength is greatest in our weakness, troubles & challenges.
Yes it is in suffering and the wilderness times of trial and difficulties that we learn to depend on God, like no other, and our faith is strengthened! Such good teaching, thank you Barbara!
Thanks, Sharon. So often I have heard people say, “I would not have chosen this path, but I thank God for what I learned through it.”
Beautiful words of truth that are at times so hard to hear. I love your examples of the butterfly & chicks! Thanks for this post. Visiting from insta encouragement!
Thank you, Mary!
I needed this good dose of scripture in the midst of the struggle. Oh the lessons we can learn from nature around us. We forget that persevering through the struggle builds character which ultimately is displayed as hope. I will be meditating on these scriptures today – I printed and put your post by my coffee maker since it’s officially “coffee appreciation day.”
We do forget–I tend to want out of the difficulty as soon as possible and need to remind myself God has a purpose for allowing it.
I can definitely see when I look back that times of struggle have been times of growth. It is harder to see when you’re in the midst of it, but remembering how God has worked in difficult times in the past can help give us hope.
That’s so true–right in the midst of trouble, we usually can’t see any good. I love the psalms that talk about remembering in the middle of the night the way that God has led and helped in the past, and the reassurance that gives that he will continue to lead and help.
Yes, the struggle is very real…but so important and not to skipped over or circumvented. I need to remember that today – even as I watch a loved one struggle. I could make it easier – but I should not.
I think that’s even harder, when it’s a loved one struggling. It’s hard to know sometimes when to step in and when not to. We so need God’s wisdom.
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Thank you for this reminder that God does indeed have a plan and purpose even for our trials. Very well said!
Thank you, Jed!
Thank you for your words of encouragement. They penetrated my heart exactly where I needed them and exactly at the right time. Although, it most likely wasn’t exactly in the way the article was intended. God works in remarkable ways.
It was right from the start when you talked about the butterfly. I needed to be reminded the struggle has a purpose in the lives of others too. I tend to jump in to help eleviate the struggle. It seems kind and loving and yet in the long run maybe not so or at least in all circumstances.
It is so important to listen for God’s direction.
Thank you my friend for speaking words I needed today, to carry me through the next few days.
That’s one of the hardest things–trying to discern when to help others and when helping would be more harmful than helpful. May God give us wisdom.
I am featuring your post this week on Grace & Truth Link-Up at Embracing the Unexpected. Thank you for being a part of our group.
Thanks so much, Maree. I am honored.
So helpful to think of trials and struggles this way. Praise God there is a purpose! Thanks for all verses and encouragement in this post.
What a lovely post. For quite a long time now I’ve believed that suffering is a necessary part of life. Therefore I welcome it, and appreciate the opportunity to suffer (I know that sounds strange). I then appreciate even more the times when life is kinder.
I love the butterfly analogy especially because a friend of mine has been tracking the progress of five caterpillars who have made their way into monarch butterflies. The idea of struggling is not one many of us enjoy. I have learned firsthand that I am stronger for having gone through my own struggles.
I SO want to bypass struggle and skip straight to the victorious happy ending, so I need this kind of bracing truth before my eyes.
Barbara, it is so true. There is a preciousness which is gained in the midst of the pain that I would not trade. His light truly does shine ever so brightly in those dark and hard times. Beautiful encouragement!
If we don’t exercise our faith, it won’t grow. In a world where we do everything possible to make ourselves more comfortable, this is something we need to give more thought to.
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Thank you Barbara, such good thoughts here. I find I am impatient in the struggle often! Remembering the struggle has purpose is so encouraging! I appreciate the way you used scripture to encourage and focus on the truth of why we face struggles. Great job!
” We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” I loved this post and that scripture. The struggle IS real, but through our struggles, Christ grows us. I host the #FaithAndWorshipChristianWeekend link up and would love to have you join us.
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