Strength from the Struggle

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.   1 Peter 5:6

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly which he brought indoors. A few days later a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had got as far as it could go. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged with ease. But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings. As he continued to watch the butterfly the man expected that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract with time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

It’s the same for us. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God protected us from struggles and removed the obstacles we would end up spineless. We would never become strong. We would never emerge from the cocoon. We would never learn to fly!

So don’t look for the easy way out. Don’t ask God to snip open the restrictions imposed by life. And don’t expect to overcome your present obstacles without a struggle. For God gives us difficulties to make us strong; problems to make us wise; dangers to make us courageous; and troubled people to make us love. In this sense the barriers of life are probably our greatest benedictions!

Countless people have learnt these lessons: Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Deny her the ability to see, hear, and speak, and you have a Helen Keller. Make him play second fiddle in an obscure South American orchestra, and you have a Toscanini. Confine him to Robin Island, and you have a Nelson Mandela. Afflict him with asthma as a child, and you have a Theodore Roosevelt. Incarcerate her in a Nazi prison camp, and you have a Corrie Ten Boom. Have him lose a leg from cancer, and you have a Terry Fox.

Don’t give up. If you’re feeling pressurized by the challenges of life, keep on keeping on. Struggle against the cocoon. Stretch your wings. Aim to fly. And then, one day, you will.

Now that’s not to say you can accomplish this in your own strength. Far from it. God forces the fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it will be ready for flight once it leaves the cocoon. It’s the same for you. You need God to strengthen your wings. You need God to prepare you for flight. You need God to give you the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual resources to reach for the sky. For it’s God who “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” Isaiah 40:29. It’s God who lifts “you up in due time” 1 Peter 5:6. It’s God’s grace that’s sufficient for you. And it’s His power that’s made perfect in your weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31.

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