The Unexpected Lesson
By Mike Flom —
This time of year in midsummer, God’s creation is on display in all its glory: trees have leafed out fully, many flowers are blooming, birds, insects, and mammals are either on the wing or scurrying about, and magnificent clouds are billowing and shedding their rain. God uses His creation to display His glory, in particular His power and wisdom (Rom. 1:20, Ps. 104: 24). Sometimes, though, God uses His creation - especially His creatures - to teach us some important object lessons. For example, through His word, God inspired Solomon to point out to the lazy the foresighted initiative of the ant to prepare his food for the winter (Prov. 6: 6-8). He also inspired Jeremiah to remind the Israelites who had forgotten His laws that even birds know God’s ordained times for their migration (Jer. 8:7). Jesus Himself used the ravens and the flowers as object lessons to teach us the lesson of trusting God for our daily needs (Matt. 6: 25-34).
In a similar but unexpected way, God used a pheasant this past winter to teach me an important lesson. My sister and I used to see pheasants come up to our backyard woods every year during all seasons to look for food. Then in 2008, we saw no pheasants and we had not seen a pheasant since – until this year in the middle of January when we were surprised to see a hen pop up in our lightly snow-covered woods. She looked good but fairly small in size. We saw her one day and then she left. After that there was a severe cold snap with several days of nighttime lows hitting -25 to -30 temperatures. One night even brought with it a -57 F wind chill reading! My sister and I agreed that there was no way we would see that pheasant again after those extreme conditions and with little snow cover to protect her. Then on February 4, just after a minor ice storm, the hen pheasant appeared briefly again and left! She looked about the same as she had before, and we could not believe she had made it through both the cold and ice. February continued, and with it more snow (39 inches altogether). For sure, we thought, there was no possibility that little pheasant could survive these additional harsh winter elements as we barely could ourselves.
Then, lo and behold, on Feb. 24 the hen pheasant popped up again, no worse for the wear! As soon as I saw that bird, I remember blurting out to my sister, “If God can take care of this nondescript little pheasant through extreme cold, ice, and snow, He can certainly take care of us in our troubles.” You see, about the time I had begun seeing the pheasant again, I had also been dealing with some worries of my own. Although I don’t consider myself to be a worrier, at that time I had succumbed to concerns regarding the snow and other matters over which I had no control. So, I believe God was using this bird to teach me something about worry and anxiety. Knowing that anxiety is a sin and caused by a lack of faith (Matt. 6: 30), I asked myself how my faith was lacking. Was I not trusting God’s goodness or some particular promise? Just what was the lesson God was showing me about worry?
As I thought more about this pheasant, I came to see the lesson for me about worry was that I was not trusting in God’s providence. As we learned in our church’s adult Bible class, God’s providence may be defined as “His care for His creation, involving His preserving it in its existence and guiding it to its intended ends” (Erickson). For Christians, our intended purpose is Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29). Most of our anxieties deal with future happenings, such as what will happen with our finances or health or our family, to name a few. Moreover, if you are like me, when we worry we tend to worry about the most drastic events happening to us in these areas, or what we might call the worst-case scenarios. We often forget that God ordains everything in the universe, including the events of our lives – even what we might consider the “negative” ones. But God has promised to orchestrate all events of our lives for our good, and the good is always in alignment with His purpose of conforming us to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:28-29). So, as God’s children we cannot lose; whatever He plans for us will be for our good. We can trust in His providential plan and care for us, knowing that we will never be separated from the Father’s love for us (Rom. 8:35-38). When we worry, then, we show a lack of trust in His providence.
I can just hear Jesus say something to me like He told the disciples in Matt. 6: 25-26. “Why do you worry about future matters of which you have no control? Consider the pheasant you saw. The Father ordained that this pheasant should live through tremendously difficult conditions in a Minnesota winter, but she did not worry because she knew your heavenly Father would daily care for her and preserve her through them. Are you not of more value than this bird?”
As children of God, when we are tempted to slip into the worry mode about future matters we cannot control, we should pray about them (Phil. 4: 6) and cast “all [our] anxieties on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Pet. 5:7). Then trust in His good and wise providential plan for us. That is what God used a pheasant to teach me.