Becoming Beautiful in God’s Time: He Makes All Things New

Last week I introduced Tammi Rhoney, our new writer. You can read about that here. Below is her first devotional contribution to this blog.

Photo credit by Tammi Rhoney, taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA

Becoming Beautiful in
God’s Time:
He Makes All Things New

By Tammi Rhoney

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 Corinthians 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: the egg, larva or caterpillar, the pupa (chrysalis), and the 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 by sight and smell and 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 their eggs in many different formations: single eggs, groups of eggs and eggs stacked on top of each other.

Caterpillar Stage

In the Caterpillar Stage, these tiny creatures devour the leaves of their 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 may molt up to five times depending on its species, weather and the availability of food.

Once a caterpillar has reached maturity, it starts to look for a good place to pupate, or begin the Chrysalis Stage, 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 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 pump its wings up and down, forcing blood into the wing veins so they can expand and open to their full size.

Adult Stage

In the Adult Stage, the butterfly then begins the life cycle all over again. Its two primary goals are finding food and a mate. Depending on the type of butterfly, their 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. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says,

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as 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 get discouraged, but we must persevere. God is bringing glory to Himself and preparing us 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 renewed daily by 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 afflictions, but Paul contrasts our 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 it’s 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 and He will not forget (Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Transformation

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 (Rev. 21:4)!


Originally published at https://chronic-joy.org/becoming-beautiful-gods-time/

Prizing Prayer’s Privilege

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Prizing Prayer’s Privilege

I recently finished an unhurried, two-year exploration of Psalm 119. It was not my intention to hang out in those pages for so long. I initially came to it looking for a good Scripture memory assignment for our family. I knew Psalm 119 contained verses about Scripture memory and Bible reading, and I thought it would be great for us to learn those verses together, in context.

Other than that, my thoughts on Psalm 119 were this: It’s long. It’s repetitive. It speaks in generalities and seems to say the same things over and over.

But the Word of God is active and alive. Once our family memorized the first sixteen verses by singing them together (one of my favorite memorization tools!), I realized that Psalm 119 was so much more than repetitious and the means to an end of Bible-reading discipline. This was a private conversation I was overhearing. The Psalmist (most scholars feel that the writer was David) was engaged with God in secret prayer, and I was listening in. I wanted to milk each word for the beauty it held.

Simple Prayer

Have you ever been in earshot of someone whose public praying drew you into communion with God, too? The way they approach Him, speaking statements of faith that are shaped by the Scriptures, and even the things they thank Him for and ask Him for demonstrate that this person is on speaking terms with God. I have. It’s just one more beautiful way that God uses the Body to build up the faith of His people. I leave church reflecting on the prayer of a fellow saint as much as I do the sermon.

This experience is similar to what I discovered in Psalm 119. I see a man who knows how to be forthright about who he is without being self-righteous. He speaks of his great weakness, frailty, and life troubles without indulging in self-pity. He tells, without fear of disapproval, of his joys and sufferings. He lays every card on the table in complete honesty before God. He persistently asks for mercy for what should be the fear of every one of us—not to be left to himself. This man was keenly aware of the deceptive ways of his own heart.

I came to understand Psalm 119 as relentless, not repetitive. It is enduring and passionate in affirmations, resolutions, and simple requests to be delivered from the evil without and the evil within. The Psalmist wastes no words:

  • “I am yours; save me” (v. 94).
  • “Let your hand me ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts” (v. 173).
  • “Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!” (v. 154).
  • “Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law” (v. 153).
  • “When will you comfort me?” (v. 82).
  • “How long must your servant endure” (v. 84).

This is prayer that nourishes faith and hope and strengthens the soul. This is prayer that changes how we process life. The Psalmist has a vivid sense of how God’s good purposes work out, and he experiences hope and comfort alongside the painful realities of his life. Dozens of times he rejoices, delights, gives thanks, and sings praises. His pain drives him outward, hoping in God, rather than inward to despondency toward his circumstances.

When We Don’t Want to Pray

At times, our minds are empty, our hearts are cold, and we do not want to pray. Our Bibles become routine, and we see nothing new there. The Psalmist also spoke about this in verse 18: “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” He knew the temptation to become duty-driven only in prayer, as well as hooked on worldly distractions (v. 37). He recognizes that he is susceptible to focusing on the wrong things.

Read the rest here.