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Look to the Birds

Look to the Birds

Written by Erika Castiglione

Are you weary? Has this long pandemic season worn you out? Do you ever worry about what the future holds?

If so, you are not alone. In the past six months, our family has faced loss, grief, unanswered questions, sleeplessness, and altered plans, and I have spoken with many others who have wrestled with various forms of trauma, doubt, and illness.

All this brokenness and need, and Jesus tells us to look to the birds and the flowers to combat worry? (Matthew 6:25-34) It seems a little naive in the face of so much suffering, and yet the audience who gathered around Jesus when he first spoke those words had their own political, spiritual, relational, and health struggles. Many had gathered around to see if this healer/teacher/prophet had the answers they were so desperately looking for, and I can imagine many were baffled by his advice.

Recently a simple poem stood out to me while reading a collection from Mary Oliver:

This Morning

This morning the redbirds’ eggs have hatched and already the chicks are chirping for food. They don’t know where it’s coming from, they just keep shouting, “More! More!” As to anything else, they haven’t had a single thought. Their eyes haven’t yet opened, they know nothing about the sky that’s waiting. Or the thousands, the millions of trees. They don’t even know they have wings.

And just like that, like a simple neighborhood event, a miracle is taking place.

The birds don’t know where their food comes from, they just take and cry, “more,” and the Lord is pleased to meet their needs. And, this same God who has been daily caring for the birds since the dawn of time, assures us that we are worth far more to him than any bird (Matthew 10:38-41), and he invites us to come and drink, come and rest, come and take.

How can we respond to these invitations and experience these promises even amid pain? How do we live well in the “already, not yet” reality in which we live? Sometimes we might need to be reminded that this world will have trouble, but it won’t always be this way, and that is why we long for Christ’s return. Yet, oftentimes, we need to be reminded that God is with us now. He is in us, and we are in him, and he is working things together for our good and his glory.

One practice that has helped me see that the same God who cares for the birds and flowers understands my needs is spending time in nature. By nature, I’m not necessarily talking about going to a National Park, or the beach, or some other place known for its beauty, although there is certainly a lot to learn about God in those places. I’m talking about when the walls seem to be closing in on me in my house and I simply take a walk around my block. Although I think Jesus was mostly speaking metaphorically, there is something that happens when we physically go outside and breathe fresh air, hear new sounds, and actually take a moment to consider the birds that are flying by or singing in trees, to look at what is growing around us.

It's also vital to be in community. Our adversary likes to pull us aside and plant seeds of doubt about God’s goodness, but it’s harder for those to take root when you are watching his faithful plans play out in a brother or sister’s life. Rarely are we all down in the same way, at the same time. Because spiritual growth tends to be a jagged line, and we are all on a journey, we can carry each other at different times, and take turns lowering each other before Jesus’ feet.

There are other disciplines that help, too, like prayer, scripture reading, singing, and simply resting. If we could do all of these in community, in nature, that might really be helpful! Theological theories aside, I don’t know why God allows so much suffering, but the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that God will not abandon us. Whenever I have had to face things that I thought would destroy me (because the fear of them almost did), I have found that God is still there.

When God tells us to look to the birds, the flowers, the moon, the stars, and all of creation, he is not making light of our needs and struggles. He is reminding us that the same God who holds all of this together, holds us, too.

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