Amy Carmichael, renowned missionary to India, wrote:
“In the mountain forests to the west of Dohnavur (India) our children find the cocoon of the atlas moth. It hangs from a twig, like a small brown bag tied up, left there and forgotten—a mere two inches of papery bag. And however often we see it, we are never prepared for the miracle that emerges. For miracle it is: a large, almost bird-like creature, struggles through the very narrow neck of the bag. It has wings of crimson and pink and blended green of various soft tones, shading off into terra-cotta, brown, old-gold. Each wing has a window made of a clear substance like a delicate flake of talc, and on the edge of each is a pattern of wavy lines or dots, or some other dainty device. From wing-tip to wing-tip, nine, sometimes ten inches of beauty, one of God’s lovely wonders—that is what comes out of the brown paper bag. Nothing preserved in a glass case can show it, for the colors fade; but fresh from the hands of the Creator, it is like something seen in a dream.”
The struggle that it takes for a butterfly to emerge from its cocoon reminds me of the trials, pains, and struggles that the Christian goes through. The Christian is not meant to be preserved in a glass case; he is meant to live life in the world but not of it. He is to face trial applying the Word of God to his various situations, including trials. Sometimes these things that we are called to endure with Christian charity and faith are physical, other times emotional, financial, governmental persecution, etc. Yet, as we remain faithful, through it all, to Him who has brought us to these trials for our own benefit and to His glory, we emerge stronger and more beautiful as we more reflect the image of Christ. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:2-5)
Did you know that if you help a caterpillar get out of its chrysalis (cocoon) it won’t have had the opportunity to build up the muscles in its wings and it will never be able to fly? When they are working to get out of their chrysalis, a chemical is released that strengthens their wings. Their movements inside the chrysalis pumps fluid into their wings, which help the wings to expand. We, too, have trials that help us to build our spiritual muscles, that strengthens our “wings,” all by the grace of God. In similar fashion, as the butterfly makes its way out of its chrysalis, we need to be patient during our trials as our spiritual muscles are built, so we can fly.
During those trying times there are some who feel as though God has left them; but He hasn’t. He attends to us and watches over us like a mom who stands by and watches her little one learning to walk or crawl. She doesn’t pick them up because she knows they have to do it in order to learn. Our God is so gracious and kind to give us opportunity to grow, helping us and protecting us.
Miss Carmichael continues, “What if our life within these detaining months or years be like the life within the dull brown bag of the cocoon? One day something will emerge to the glory of His grace. Can we not, then, sustained by the Bread of heaven and the good Wine, continue in this hidden labor and spiritual fight till the sunset colors kindle and the stars appear?” As John reminds us in his first epistle, “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (3:2)
The butterfly struggles because God put within it an innate realization that struggle it must; then it will fly. Similarly, God has promised in His Word that “ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Puritan Thomas Watson sums it up nicely with these words: “DO not mistake me, I do not say that of their own nature the worst things are good, for they are a fruit of the curse; but though they are naturally evil, yet the wise over-ruling hand of God disposing and sanctifying them, they are morally good. … Or as in a watch, the wheels seem to move contrary one to another, but all carry on the motions of the watch; so things that seem to move cross to the godly, yet by the wonderful providence of God work for their good.”
Christian, the struggle is real; but it is not unexpected. It is hard; but we do not fight nor stand firm in our own strength. Praise God, it is temporary; for, one day we will stand in the presence of our Savior and our God as overcomers, if we will but faithfully fight the good fight of faith. Press on!