When I was nine years old I went to Camp Joy, but it was not a joy. I was afraid, homesick and looked forward only to the day when my parents would come and take me home. Finally that day arrived; however, when all the other children had gone, my parents were nowhere in sight.
I sat on the steps above the parking lot watching the driveway, and mentally going through the anxious “what ifs” of a child. Then suddenly I remembered a camp devotional where we were told we could ask our heavenly Father for anything. So, with the complete trust of the very young, I said, “God I need a nickel.” I decided that with five cents I could buy a blue Popsicle from the still open camp store, and my wait would be more tolerable.
Seconds later I looked down on the step below me, and there it was, the “God nickel!” I’ll (obviously) never forget the feeling of amazement––that the God who made everything would care enough to send this little girl such a small but comforting gift. Shortly thereafter, while contentedly licking my blue treat, I saw our green station wagon coming up the road, and my joy was complete.
Many times over the years, God has used seemingly small things to prove to Doubting Dianna that He was right there with me.
Another story bears telling. Early in my public policy career, I worked on child welfare legislation at the national level. As part of related research, I was invited to visit the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania. The school, funded by the Hershey chocolate fortune, was an excellent model of group home-based child care. I knew this would be a valuable learning experience—little did I know how valuable.
My visit to the school was during a time of deep personal distress. As I walked toward the administrator’s office, I prayed for strength to get through the rest of the day. However, I also reminded myself this was strictly business, and not a place where there would be time for self-reflection. Still, I prayed God would provide insight and encouragement when the busy day was over.
The school director met me with an apology, saying the rest of the staff had been delayed. He suggested I wait in their movie theater and watch a brief history of the Hershey School. The story centered on how small, vulnerable creations (like children), under the right circumstances, can blossom into things of beauty. This fact was illustrated by how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
In an extraordinary video, the narrator explained that this metamorphosis was a great struggle, but a necessary one. One day, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig or leaf and spins itself a silky cocoon or molts into a shiny chrysalis. Within its protective casing, the caterpillar radically transforms its body, eventually emerging as a butterfly or moth.
But the timing must be just right for its exit. In fact, helping it open would mean the butterfly or moth would be deformed or die. I watched in amazement as the cocoon began to slowly break apart; then triumphantly, a butterfly emerged and opened its wings! Suddenly, it seemed as though God had smiled at me and said, “Of course, I can encourage you—anytime, anywhere I choose.” I knew this “butterfly” message was for me.
I’ve been reading about the miracles of Exodus, and how in the wilderness, the children of Israel went back and forth between thankful awe, then grumbling and accusing God of abandoning them. Yet He was faithful. Isn’t that so like us? Too much of our time is spent complaining instead of praising God. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” Psalms 107:1.
Spiritually we know He inhabits our praises, and that trust is quiet confidence. But humanly, we wonder again and again if He will “come through” this time. We forget His goodness, and in doing so, can miss miracles in our daily lives; and those miracles are there if we just pay attention. When was the last time you were completely quiet for ten minutes? There is a miracle in simply being able to hear the God of creation speak to you—because He does if we will only listen.
Over the years there have been other “nickel days and butterfly revelations” in my life. Many times I’ve arrived at a dead end, realizing there was no human way out of my wilderness. And yet without fail, He always came through. Most often it was not with a lightning bolt, but with a soft whisper. Just when I’d exhausted all I knew to do, I would hear Him say, “I’m here child; I’ve never failed you yet.” And He hasn’t.
It’s often true that only after the storm do we realize how we were trying to do God’s job for Him. We call friends, agonize over ways to “make it work,” even do our best to manipulate the situation. But for a child of God, the clearest answers are the result of simple trust, just letting go and believing in His grace and mercy.
I’m not suggesting every challenge has a “nickel find” ending. But in God’s time and in His way, even the most difficult circumstances will be worked out to our benefit. Even the darkest times will provide opportunities for growth if we just trust Him. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.
In a world gone mad…and I mean that literally, it’s far more common to hear lamenting and “what do we do now,” than words of praise. Many people seem to have lost their moral, spiritual and physical compasses. On too many days, in too many ways we resemble a city of frantic residents fleeing an erupting volcano––and maybe we are.
Our society is erupting, with anti-Christian sentiments, upside down morality, and even churches more interested in being “seeker-friendly,” than Gospel-friendly. Sometimes our inclination is to flee. But to where? "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." Psalms 139: 7-10
In John Phillips’ commentary, Exploring Revelation (DrJohnPhillips.com), he describes what will happen in the last days of our “gasping planet.” There will be wars, rumors of wars and planetary disturbances. Right will become wrong, and wrong will become right. We are already experiencing many of these things, and possibly witnessing the “birth pangs” that signal the end is near.
Yet, no matter what happens here on Earth, we can still go forward each day with confidence, knowing we are securely tethered to our Father, our Protector, Defender and the One who promised: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye.” Psalms 32:8
"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Deuteronomy 31:6