He Makes All Things New
I love God’s promise in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that He makes all things beautiful in His time. Many of us with chronic illness and pain don’t feel very beautiful, especially when we compare ourselves to younger, healthier women. As one middle-aged friend put it after attending a Bible study at her church, “I feel like a beat up old Volkswagen next to a bunch of sleek, shiny, brand new Corvettes.” Chronic illnesses take a toll on our bodies inwardly and outwardly, but God’s Word says that “our momentary light afflictions are producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond compare” and we are not to lose hope (2 Cor. 4:16-18 ESV). God has something very special planned for those of us who suffer, just as he does for the caterpillar.
From Caterpillar to Butterfly
The first week in June, my husband and I visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House in Richmond, VA. Since then, I’ve been studying the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. It’s a very amazing and interesting process! Butterflies go through four life stages: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly. Each stage is unique to the individual species. In the Egg Stage, when the female butterfly is ready to lay eggs, she begins to search for an appropriate host plant for the young caterpillars to eat. because they have big appetites. She finds the plants through sight and smell then places an egg on a leaf, stem, flower, or seedpod. The butterfly’s body produces a special substance that glues the egg in place so it won’t wash off in the rain. It’s glued on so strongly that the egg will tear apart before the leaf does. Butterflies lay eggs in many different formations: single eggs, groups of eggs, and eggs stacked on top of each other.
In the Caterpillar Stage, these tiny creatures devour the leaves of the host plant storing up enough energy for metamorphosis, the change from caterpillar to butterfly. The more a caterpillar eats, the faster it will grow, a process called molting. A caterpillar can molt up to five times depending on its species, weather, and the availability of food.
Once a caterpillar has reached maturity, it looks for a place to pupate, or begin the chrysalis phase. spinning a patch of silk as an anchor point for the chrysalis.The caterpillar continues to spin until it’s completely enclosed in an outer shell called a chrysalis, similar to a cocoon. The chrysalis dries and hardens, protecting the caterpillar from weather and small predators. The dull coloration helps it to blend in among leaves and twigs. During this stage, the caterpillar liquefies inside the chrysalis and reorganizes, almost magically transforming into a butterfly. If the weather is warm, the butterfly will emerge in about two weeks. If it’s cooler, it may wait until spring to emerge. Using its long legs, the butterfly pulls itself out of the chrysalis, letting its crumpled wings hang down. Slowly, it begins to its wings up and down, forcing blood into the wing veins so they can expand and open up to their full size.
In the Adult Stage, the butterfly begins the life cycle all over again. Its two primary goals are finding food and a mate. Depending on the type of butterfly, the life cycle can take one month to a whole year.
Just as a caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly, so too God has a purpose for our chronic illnesses and pain. II Corinthians 4:16-18 says:
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 us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things which are seen but to the things which are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient (temporal), but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)
Do Not Lose Heart
Paul instructs us, first of all, to not lose heart. Yes, living daily with chronic illness and pain is very difficult, and it’s easy to grow discouraged, but we must persevere. God is bringing glory to Himself and preparing us for to share in His glory in eternity even through our weaknesses and discouragements, just as He did through Paul’s ministry. Our outer man is decaying daily like the body of the caterpillar when it changes into a butterfly, but the good news is that our inner man is being daily renewed through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. and in this we can rejoice! In this fallen world our bodies are vulnerable to many kinds of affliction, but Paul contrasts the body’s outward decay to the unending inner vitality of the Holy Spirit. He goes on to say that our “momentary, light affliction,” even if its lifelong, cannot compare to the “eternal weight of glory” to come. Our troubles are preparing a great reward for us as believers (James 1:12). Our faith and obedience in suffering also please God. He will not forget (Rom. 8:17, 18; I Pet. 1:6,7).
So take heart, fellow Christian sufferers, and remember that like the slow transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, God is using our afflictions to conform us slowly into Christ’s image and prepare us for the glory that awaits us in our Heavenly home. For then our sanctification will be complete and we will emerge victorious in our resurrected bodies just like a beautiful butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.
Praise God, we will be free from all affliction and pain forever!
Photos by Tammi Rhoney
Tammi loves JESUS, the doctrines of Justification and Predestination, beautiful butterflies, bird watching, photography, sewing, and stenciling. Her favorite seasons are spring and fall. Because she is mostly homebound, she takes photos in her backyard, adds Scripture to them, and makes them into two cards sizes and five canvas sizes. You can view her photos on her Facebook page, “Tammi Rhoney Photography.” She also loves her very supportive and helpful husband of 23 years, Todd, and her black and tan miniature dachshund named Mini.
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