Driving home from Crail a week or so ago, we noticed long sections of the hedgerow draped with what looked like spiders’ webs. From a visit to the Cornalees Centre in the hills above Greenock many years ago, when we saw a whole tree covered in a similar way, we knew that this wasn’t the work of spiders. The webs protect the caterpillars of one of the species of the Ermine Moth. The webs enable the caterpillars to feed to their hearts content on the leaves of the hedge or tree, safe from predators. They will strip every leaf from the host before departing.
The ranger at Cornalees, from whom we received all this information, also told us something that has stuck with me all this time. The caterpillars pupate, and when the moth finally begins to break out from the chrysalis, it has a tremendous struggle. Seeing this, well-meaning people sometimes try to help the moth escape by breaking off bits of the chrysalis. This is a disaster! It’s the effort the moth goes through to break out that gives its wings the strength to fly. Without that struggle it will never have the ability to take to the air. Far from helping, the people who do this are condemning the moth to an earthbound existence, making it easy prey for birds and other predators.
That set me thinking. It’s natural for us to try to help and protect those we love. We want to keep them from harm, and to make life as easy as possible for them. So we have a tendency to think that if God allows problems or suffering to enter our lives, He doesn’t love us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Speaking of the trials that afflict us all, the apostle Peter writes: ‘These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ (1 Peter 1:7) God is accomplishing something precious in us as we continue to trust Him in our difficulties. Our faith is shown to be the thing of beauty that it’s meant to be.
James says something similar about the strength given to our faith through the struggles we have to endure. ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ (James 1:2-4) Far from harming us, the struggles through which our loving heavenly Father brings us, enable faith to take wing and soar, helping us to arrive at the glorious destiny He purposes for us.