Recently, I experienced something that became a prophetic picture of hope I believe many in the Church need to see and believe.
At the end of this summer, Jan and I made a trip to Montana where I officiated at a wedding and taught in a church. Afterwards, we stayed several extra days in a beautiful condominium overlooking the Swan River in Bigfork, Montana. The setting was near Flathead Lake in view of the Rocky Mountains. It was stunning. Each morning I would sit listening to the river and let God’s peace flow over me.
The condo had tall windows that extended upwards two full stories allowing us to take in the beauty of the river and the mountains with an unobstructed view. On our first day my wife pointed out a beautiful butterfly sitting on the ledge of the upper window. Somehow, it had gotten into the condo and could not find its way out. The butterfly would flap its wings and attempt to fly through the large upper window that was a fixed pane of glass.
It was sad to watch the butterfly trying to escape through the windowpane knowing it could never fly once again in the light and freedom that existed on the other side. We watched the butterfly for the next few days. It would flap it wings and then lay over on its side in exhaustion. Finally, I tried to get the butterfly off the ledge, but it was simply too high for me to safely reach.
The final morning of our stay, I arose early. I went downstairs and started a fire. I turned a chair towards the fireplace and enjoyed the flames as they flickered across the walls in the darkness. I wanted to read the Word as I normally would do each morning, but couldn’t because my bible was packed away in preparation for our early departure. Trying to retrieve it would awaken my wife. So I just sat there.
In the darkness, with the flames of the fireplace flickering before my eyes, I began to recite scripture I had in my memory. As I spoke out verse after verse, I felt the presence and peace of God fill the room. Then something very strange happened. I heard the whir of something fly past my ear, strike my leg and land on the floor in front of the fireplace. It was the butterfly. After an entire week on the window ledge he now had flown down towards the fire, hitting me in route and landing on the floor.
I reached down and cupped the butterfly in my hands and walked through the door leading to the deck outside. I placed the butterfly on a damp seat cushion. As soon as the butterfly was on the cushion he began to gently pump his wings taking in the moisture that had eluded him for the last week on the dry window ledge. The butterfly was now resting and regaining his strength.
For the rest of the day, I knew this experience with the butterfly was a prophetic image. I was now carrying a word-picture for the Church. As the morning went on, the Lord began to wrap words around the illustration of the butterfly. A word of hope and invitation began to develop.
As the event with the butterfly was taking place, I had been reading through the Book of Lamentations. Lamentations is one of the most depressing and dark books in the entire Bible. Jeremiah did not write Lamentations from a lot of joy-filled imagery. Lamentations describes the pain and devastation brought on by disobedience to God and the resulting Babylonian conquest of God’s people.
Yet, in the midst of so much pain and suffering are several verses providing hope. This is a hope found in the Person of God Himself. It is a hope in His nature that can give people enough faith to jump from the ledges of despair into the hope-filled presence of God.
Jeremiah wrote, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.” Lam. 3:19.
Jeremiah was honest about the ledge upon which he and the nation found themselves. Jeremiah said these words because everything familiar was gone. All he had left was God. All physical assurances of a future hope had vanished.
In each death and resurrection we experience, there will a moment between the death and resurrection that will feel void, empty and lifeless – a place of loss. But this is not our reality – this is only a circumstance in a moment of time. While it is healthy to grieve over loss, it can never be at the expense of hope. In those moments of loss God is calling us to step from ledges of despair with the expectation that God is about to do something new.
In the next verse, Jeremiah gives us a key to understanding what he is communicating. “Yet I will dare to hope when I remember this:” vs. 20 The word “this” is followed by a colon revealing a list of four truths about God’s nature that gave Jeremiah hope in the midst of his despair. These four descriptions of God are what give us the faith required to step from our personal ledge of despair.
GOD’S LOVE DOESN’T STOP WHEN WE EXPERIENCE LOSS OR TRADEGY
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends.” vs. 22
We have the unhealthy ability to attach the word “end” to the description of our current suffering. We use phrases like, “This is the end of our marriage - This is the end of my career. - This is the end of a dream.” Natural endings are never strong enough to stop the flow of God’s love unless we believe a lie and not allow the truth about God’s heart to transform our thinking. God’s love is a perpetual and never ending source of new beginnings. That is why we can confidently jump from a ledge of death into the loving hands of God our Father.
GOD’S MERCY NEVER ENDS
“His mercies never cease.” vs. 22
Mercy is best defined when the recipient does not deserve the mercy being extended. This means no matter how bad a situation gets – even those situations where we are the ones who caused the pain - God’s mercy is still present, unceasing and always available. God’s mercy is there for us if we will humble ourselves before Him and confess our sins and do as much as we can to restore what our words or actions may have stolen from others. Maybe our sin put us on a ledge, but it will be the knowledge of God’s mercy that will call us to jump into His merciful arms.
GOD CAN ONLY BE FAITHFUL- HE HAS NO OTHER OPTION
“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” vs. 23
This verse is where the great hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, was born.
Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided -
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
God’s faithfulness is great because each day He faithfully extends a new form of mercy toward us from His infinite supply of goodness. He has a new and fresh supply of mercy waiting for each manifestation of human brokenness. Part of the hope we are promised is that each morning we can wake up and know His mercy has been freshly brewed and waiting for us to take and drink. When God invites us to jump towards the fire of His presence we are leaping toward His nature of faithfulness and that faithfulness contains the creative newness that can make old things new and dead things live again.
BECAUSE GOD IS OUR INHERITANCE, WE ALWAYS HAVE HOPE IN TIMES OF LOSS
“The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.” Vs. 24
The reality of this statement by Jeremiah can alter the perception we have about what is waiting for us on the other side of our leap of faith from a ledge of despair. If we understand this truth we will never have to process life from a place of loss. We always have an inheritance in God and His inheritance is the only safe place to position our hope. Inheritance always awaits the children of God. We are never in a place so dark that we are without the hope that He is our inheritance.
As I began to digest all that God had processed with me about the butterfly and the words of Jeremiah, the Lord spoke these words:
You have found yourself in a place that looks like life, but it is not. You have become exhausted trying to press through to freedom. If you remain in this place you will consume all your energy trying to press through what cannot be pressed through by natural strength or wisdom. I have not called you to live on this ledge where your life and strength is being drained away. I have called you to fly towards My presence. I am about to make My fire visible to you. Fly towards the flame and live.
Today, I ask you to use the last of your strength to step towards Me. I will meet you in your flight and take you back to a place of freedom. I have created a habitat for you not found on limiting ledges of religious activity and predictability. I have called you to the freedom and beauty of My presence.
I cannot make this leap for you. You must gather your desperation and your remaining measure of faith and use it to empower your leap. I promise you - you will land in a safe place because I am waiting for you. I am the destination of your leap. Take the step. Don’t be afraid. I will be faithful to pick you up and deliver you into a safe place of life and freedom. My habitat awaits you.
In the minutes that followed my experience with the butterfly, I kept checking to see if it was still all right. The butterfly seemed to be gaining more and more strength. His stance widened. His color seemed to brighten. In this new place of rest and freedom, I knew he would be able to find his way back into the habitat God had originally created for him to live his life.
This is a time for the Church to experience a fresh encounter with God - a fresh encounter in the fire of His presence. At some point in our journey of life, we can end up on a ledge of despair. We move from these places of death to places of life by learning again the heart of the One towards whom we leap in faith.
The call of God for His Church in this time in our history is to jump with a reckless abandon towards the purifying fire of God’s presence and trust Him that He will be there to pick us up and set us free once again.