Do you ever get discouraged with the trials of life? Do you ever feel sometimes that just when you get up from one trial, along comes another to kick you down again? Well be glad you were not born a baby giraffe. The amazing story of the birth of a giraffe brought some lessons home to me.
Did you know a baby giraffe falls 10 feet from its mother’s womb and usually lands on its back? Ouch! Within seconds it rolls over and tucks its legs under its body. From this position it considers the world for the first time and shakes off the last vestiges of the birthing fluid from its eyes and ears. Then, as if it is not enough to fall 10 feet when born, the mother giraffe rudely introduces her offspring to the reality of life.
In his book, A View From the Zoo, Gary Richmond describes how a newborn giraffe learns its first lesson. The mother giraffe lowers her head long enough to take a quick look. Then she positions herself directly over her calf. She waits for about a minute, and then she does the most unreasonable thing. She swings her long, pendulous leg outward and kicks her baby, so that it is sent sprawling head over heels.
When it doesn’t get up, the violent process is repeated over and over again. The struggle to rise is monumental. As the baby calf grows tired, the mother kicks it again to stimulate its efforts. Finally, the calf stands for the first time on its wobbly legs.
Then the mother giraffe does a remarkable thing. She kicks it off its feet again. Why? She wants it to remember how it got up. In the wild, baby giraffes must be able to get up as quickly as possible to stay with the herd, where there is safety. Lions, hyenas and leopards all enjoy eating young giraffes, and they’d get to, if the mother didn’t teach her calf to get up quickly and get with it.
So how well do we get back up when life knocks us down, as it does from time to time? We can feel like the baby giraffe, when the trials of life send us for a loop. I think of the many times that I have been knocked down and believed with my whole heart that I could never get up again. “Life is too hard,” “I’m tired,” I would think, and revert to self-pity, asking, “Why me, God?”
Struggles are good for us
Often what pulls me back up is reading the accounts of great men that God used. Such men as Joseph did not start out as great men. Indeed Joseph was knocked down time and time again by the trials of life.
Remember what Joseph went through? He was almost murdered by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused and then thrown into prison. But Joseph used his circumstances in prison to be a great example and was able to find favor in the sight of the jail keeper and those around him. He gained respect even in prison! Joseph could have become sour, bitter and filled with anger over the injustices done to him, but instead he turned them around to serve others. Like the baby giraffe, Joseph got back up. And more remarkably, he turned his terrible circumstances around to do good for others.
Joseph grew from the trials, to become a great leader and save a nation from famine. His words to his brothers, after he had become second in command in Egypt, were not words of bitterness, revenge and hate. Instead they were words of appreciation for the trials that he had gone through because he knew that God had used them for his good and for the good of a nation. “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here,” Joseph told his brothers, “for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:6 Genesis 45:6For these two years has the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be ripening nor harvest.
American King James Version×).
Joseph’s attitude had completely changed from when he was a young lad. He grew from bragging to his brothers that they would bow down to him, to the point where, years later, he had to leave the room while he wept for his brothers.
Joseph was human, though, just like you and me. In his darkest hours he must have asked God why many times. While in prison Joseph must have wondered what happened to his boyhood dreams. I am sure Joseph must have asked God why He was not helping him and saving him from his terrible trials. As he sat within the dark walls of prison, Joseph must have felt that God was punishing him or that He had abandoned him.
Can you relate to any of these thoughts? Many times we do not feel that the struggles of this life are for our good—especially while going through the trial.
But the fact was God was with Joseph all the time and never left his side. God was the one that showed him favor with the jailer and the men around him! God was the one that gave him wisdom to interpret dreams that led him first to his freedom, then to be a ruler and save a nation.
God in His great wisdom knows that trials will bring forth gold in us. He knows when to act and what to do for our growth.
God wants us to be able to fly
God also knows when not to act. Sometimes He does not respond immediately or help us in the way we’d like because He knows our struggle is necessary for our strength and growth.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of a man who found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared; he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no farther.
The man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly…
Nor could we understand and be able to reach out and help others in their afflictions as Joseph did. The apostle Peter described the value of trials: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 1 Peter 1:6-7 6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×).
So keep getting up when you are knocked down! Keep struggling through the tight, difficult spots! Remember the baby giraffe and butterfly. Their difficulties make them beautiful and strong. Remember the example of Joseph who did not give up and was used mightily by God. Trust God that He is allowing your trials and struggles for your good and for the good of others.