We are all familiar with the amazing transformation that happens in the life of a butterfly as it goes through the different phases of its life. The greatest part of the journey is when a caterpillar goes into the cocoon and emerges a butterfly. As we go through our stages of spiritual growth, we are always in danger of becoming stuck at different points if we refuse to endure the pain necessary to complete any part of our spiritual journey.
The cocoon is a time before the butterfly is revealed in all of its splendor where it is protected from the world. But inside the cocoon there is a struggle that happens as the butterfly has to make its way out. It is the struggle that gives strength to the butterfly so that when it emerges from the cocoon it has the ability to fly.
I am not suggesting that mine and your spiritual journeys are easily illustrated as some simple divine formula. I don’t think we struggle a bit and then pop out a butterfly and have a radiant existence for the rest of our lives. I think it is more like we go in and out of cocoons and pop out to fly for a bit and then go through another cocoon phase. But I do see analogies that make sense to me for my own life, and what I read in scripture as well as what I observe from fellow Christians.
I have experienced myself and watched others get stuck in varying cocoon stages of spiritual development. All of us are susceptible to getting stuck in the struggle. Why is God doing this to me? Life isn’t fair. My life should work like others who don’t struggle. Why do unbelievers have it easier than me? I am a rotten Christian and that is why all of this pain and suffering has come my way. It is in the cocoon that we sort our theology out, develop our strength of dependency on God, while God protects and provides. But inside the cocoon we don’t see it that way. We think God has abandoned us to the wolves.
The Bible describes the cocoon process in a variety of ways. In John, God is the vinedresser that cuts away the useless parts of our life. In Hebrews, God disciplines and skins alive with the whip all whom He calls His own. In 2 Corinthians, it is the momentary light affliction that produces eternal glory in us. In Romans, it is tribulation that brings about perseverance, proven character, and hope. One of my favorites is in the book of Job.
Job 23:10 “But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
We are always in danger, in the cocoon, of giving up the struggle. It is a delicate phase because that is part of what God is after but not in the way we want to give up. God wants us to see Him as our only strength and to keep pressing forward under His power, not our own. We want to give up in the sense of throwing in the towel, which requires no faith at all. That attitude will never give us the spiritual wings to fly when we emerge from the difficulty.
God doesn’t waste anything in our lives and He has one main purpose for us and those we influence and that is to conform us into the image of His son, the most amazing spiritual butterfly of all.
Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
But the butterfly of Romans 8:29 is only possible because the cocoon of Romans 8:28 comes right before it.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.