I was reading books to my son the other day when I heard it. A loud thump. I knew immediately that a bird had flown into the window. I went into the kitchen to investigate. I saw feathers floating down through the air onto the deck. It had hit my writing room window upstairs. I looked out onto the deck expecting to either see nothing because it had flown away or see a dead bird.
I saw neither.
The bird was lying on the deck, with its neck twisted and wing partly out, but it was breathing. Heavily. I watched it, waiting to see it take its last breath, asking God to cause it to die quickly so it wouldn’t suffer anymore.
All of the sudden, a new neighborhood cat appeared on our deck. How in the world did the cat know that there was an injured bird on my deck within minutes of it crashing? The cat came closer, sniffing the air and flicking its tail. The bird might have been dying, but I couldn’t bear to see the cat grab it and finish it off, so I quickly opened the door and shooed the cat away.
To my surprise, I watched for 15 minutes, waiting for the bird to die, but it wouldn’t. The only sign of life was its labored breathing. Then, there was a blink of an eye and a turn of the head and the bird popped up, perched on its wobbly legs! The bird stretched its wing out a couple of times, but just continued to sit there. For over an hour, the bird did nothing but sit, breathe and occasionally move a little. I still thought it might die, but it kept holding on.
Finally, after almost two hours, the bird stood on its now strong legs and flew away. Yay!
Life can sometimes be like this bird’s experience, right?! Things are going well – you are satisfied in your career, your family life is happy, your marriage is solid, you have plenty of money in the bank – when out of nowhere, a hard window shows up that causes everything in your life to come crashing down, including yourself.
Have you ever experienced that? Life throws a curveball at you leaving you stunned? The straight road you were traveling on suddenly has a hairpin turn? Maybe you lose the job, or you find out that your child is doing drugs, or you get a cancer diagnosis, or the car breaks down and fixing it dwindles your savings, the affair happens, a parent dies, a relationship ends. Life is messy and life is hard. It may leave you shocked, twisted and breathing heavily. You may feel weaker than you ever thought possible.
Often, that is where Satan will come in and tempt you. He is sniffing the air, flicking his tail and ready to pounce. He wants to leave you worse off than when he found you.
But that is not the end.
When life comes at you hard, I challenge you to remember a few things from this bird…
First, don’t be afraid to sit in the pain for a bit. As believers, we may want to put on a happy face and tell people, “God’s got this!” This is absolutely true, God does have whatever you are walking though in His capable and able hands, but God is more concerned with your heart than your ability to put on a façade for others. If your heart is writhing in pain, tell Him. If your heart is full of anger, tell Him. If your heart has questions and doubts, tell Him. God can handle your pain. He can handle your anger. He can handle your doubts. If you let Him in on how you are truly feeling, you may be surprised by the ability He gives you to push yourself back up, even though your legs may still be wobbly.
Secondly, Satan likes to match his temptation with our weakness, so don’t be surprised by an attack from him when you are down. The bird was battered and out of it. The only way that the cat did not grab the bird was because I intervened.
When you are down, let community in. It’s easy to want to keep your burdens to yourself and put on a happy face, but let me tell you – you need people! God created us for relationship with Himself and with others. He did not intend for you to handle life’s struggles on your own, he intended for you to share the weight with Himself and with others. Community helps to safeguard you against Satan’s attacks. You might not be able to fend him off on your own, but your people will step in and keep you safe.
When life comes at you hard, lean into the people who care and love you. When we are willing to be vulnerable and willing to let others into our pain, healing begins.
Third, don’t put a timeline on your healing. We all want a storybook ending. It’s in our nature to want to stay comfortable and get out of the ick of life struggles as fast as we are able (you can read more about comfort being the enemy of progress in my blog post, The In-Between), but in the lows of life, growth happens.
As my friend, Stef from the Wallflower Diary puts it in her latest blog post, “Hoofing it through our valleys is where all the good stuff happens.”
We just don’t know how long the valley will be. Don’t rush it, embrace it. Grow from it. Learn from it.
That bird took a long time to be able to fly again, but it finally did. You will too.
And when you finally start climbing out of that valley, share your experience with others. Don’t keep it to yourself. 2 Corinthians 1:3 reminds us to share the comfort that we have experienced from God with others. Others will one day undoubtedly go through something similar to you. Don’t keep your comfort from them.
If you are one who life has just hit smack in the face, I’m so sorry. It’s ok to grieve what was. But I beg of you, let someone in. Share your story, be vulnerable, let them in on your pain and trust that they will keep loving you. And don’t be surprised when a twinkle of hope appears within you just by opening yourself up to that person.
If you are one who is in the valley with no exit in sight, keep going. Putting one foot in front of the other is the only way to find the path that leads to healing.
If you are one who has emerged from the valley, bruised but stronger from it, share your story with others. You never know who may need to borrow your faith to keep them going through their own valley.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3.
God, thank you for the comfort you give through your presence, your word and your people.
And for your listening pleasure and to get your worship on, Just Be Held by Casting Crowns.